What are the top 10 most affordable places to buy in San Diego? This is a question many buyers may have, particularly because the conversation surrounding housing affordability in the United States and in particular California, is so pervasive. On a recent list of the least affordable places in America to buy a home, San Diego came in at number 21.
Even with higher prices than what’s seen nationally, buyers do still want to find homes within their budget in San Diego and surrounding suburbs.
San Diego comes with a high cost of living but a lot of benefits as well. For example, San Diego County employment is up from 2018. If you’re looking for a deal on affordable housing, the following are some of the top 10 most affordable places to buy in San Diego.
Lemon Grove is a suburb of San Diego, located in San Diego County. Lemon Grove has a population of around 27,000, and the public schools are above average in terms of the quality of education. There is a lot of diversity and also active nightlife in Lemon Grove. This suburb is only 12 miles from San Diego’s downtown and the airport.
Located in southwest San Diego County, this residential community offers events like the Community Bonfire each year at the Civic Center Park at Olive and Church Street.
The median home value in Lemon Grove is $367,700, and the median rent is $1,201, which is only slightly higher than the national average of $949. The vast majority of homes in Lemon Grove are single-family, but there are also apartments and a few townhomes. Most of the single-family homes are two- and three-bedrooms.
Currently, there are around 60 homes for sale in Lemon Grove.
Otay Mesa West
Otay Mesa West is a neighborhood in Southern San Diego with Ocean View Hills to the east and Palm City to the West. Chula Vista is to the north. As one of the top 10 most affordable places to buy in San Diego, Otay Mesa West has a lot to offer if you’re looking for a deal.
There are single-family homes, and the community is 10 miles from downtown San Diego. Otay Mesa West is on the edge of the San Diego Bay and is home to the Las Americas Premium Outlets and the expansive Otay Valley Regional Park. The park offers horse trails, biking and hiking with views of the Coronado Bay Bridge and the Pacific.
The median home value in Otay Mesa West is estimated at $464,000, which is significantly lower than San Diego as a whole. Even though this is one of the top 10 most affordable places to buy in San Diego, the home values are appreciating, and they’re predicted to rise modestly over the coming year. The median list price per square foot in this neighborhood is around $311, compared to the average for San Diego, which is $471.
There are around 68 homes currently listed for sale in the Otay Mesa West area of San Diego.
Rancho San Diego
Rancho San Diego is in San Diego County, and the residents have a higher income than more than 60% of the neighborhoods in the country. Nearly 30% of the working population in Rancho San Diego works in professional and management occupations.
Rancho San Diego is quiet and offers a variety of housing options. Many of the homes were built between 1970 and 1999.
The cost of living is comparatively low in Rancho San Diego, making it one of the top 10 most affordable places to buy a house in San Diego. The median listing price for homes in this community is around $500,000, with the median sales price for three-bedroom homes at $495,000.
Santee is described by residents as having a small town feel, and it’s a suburb that ranks regarding the cost of living. The cost of living in Santee is around 4% lower than the rest of California, and the median household income is 40% higher than the national average. The home values in Santee are 11% lower than the rest of California, and the median home value in this suburb of San Diego is $363,000.
The unemployment rate in Santee is also only 3.1%, with an average commute time of fewer than 30 minutes for residents.
Gaslamp Quarter is a bit different from some of the other neighborhoods and communities on this ranking of the most affordable places to buy a home in San Diego. Gaslamp Quarter is less suburban and is closer to downtown San Diego and the Pacific Ocean. It’s also very walkable and has a modern, urban feel. Depending on what you’re looking for, and particularly if you want a condo, Gaslamp Quarter can be surprisingly affordable, however.
Gaslamp Quarter is a historic neighborhood, and it’s on the National Register of Historic Places.
Currently, there are only statistics for the sale of homes that have either one or two-bedrooms. The median sales price for a one-bedroom in Gaslamp Quarter is $415,000, and for a two-bedroom, it’s $525,000. For all properties, the median sales price is $500,000.
There are around 30 properties for sale in the neighborhood right now.
Nestor is in southern San Diego and is close to Otay Mesa. Nestor is neighbored by Palm City and Otay Mesa West to the east. To the north is Egger Highlands, and San Ysidro is to the south. Notable sites in Nestor include South Bay Salt Works, and the South Bay Drive-In Theater on Coronado Avenue.
The median home value in Nestor is around $467,000, and that’s expected to rise around 1.9% in the next year.
The majority of homes for sale in Nestor are single-family three-bedroom properties, as well as townhouses.
Imperial Beach is part of San Diego County’s South Bay area. Imperial Beach is around 14 miles from downtown San Diego, and it’s the most southwestern-located city in the continental United States. Playas de Tijuana and Coronado California border it.
Imperial Beach has convenient shopping, and residents describe it as feeling very working class. At the south end of Seacoast Drive, you can walk your dog along the beach, and some of the most high-end real estate in Imperial Beach is near the pier. Despite rising prices of homes near the beach, there are still deals to be found in Imperial Beach.
Around 80 homes are for sale in Imperial Beach currently. The median home value in Imperial Beach is around $600,000, but the further inland you go, the lower the prices.
Chula Vista is an area of San Diego divided into two sections—west of the 805 and east of 805. If you’re searching for new construction homes, you might be more interested in moving to the east of 805 area of Chula Vista. That part of Chula Vista features well-kept neighborhoods and many HOAs. West of the 805 is older homes, many of which were built anywhere from the 50s to the 70s.
Chula Vista has very nice weather thanks to the proximity to the bay and beach, and there are deals on homes to buy in Chula Vista because it’s to the south of San Diego City, yet you can still reach the city in around a 15-minute drive.
The median sales price for a two-bedroom home in Chula Vista is $374,000, and for a three-bedroom, it’s $487,000.
Palm City is in southern San Diego. This community is neighbored by Otay Mesa West, Egger Highlands, Nestor, and Chula Vista. Palm City is where California State Route 75 comes together with Interstate 5 as well, so it is a link to Imperial Beach and Coronado.
Palm City was originally established in 1914, named for the palms running along Palm Avenue. There is a San Diego Trolley blue line station within Palm City as well. The median real estate price for property in Palm City is $352,8111. This is less expensive than 75% of neighborhoods in California.
Most of the properties in Palm City include three-and four-bedroom single-family homes, many of which were built between the 1970s and 1999.
National City is in southwestern San Diego County, and it’s in the South Bay part of the San Diego metro. National City is home to many points of interest. For example, there is a port area located on the San Diego Bay, which is part of Naval Base San Diego. There is the National City Depot which was built in 1882 and was the first station on the Pacific Coast that was part of the Santa Fe Railway system.
The median sales price for homes in National City with three bedrooms is $455,000. For four bedrooms, the median sales price is around $500,000.
The Cost of Living in San Diego
When you’re exploring the top 10 most affordable places to buy in San Diego, you may already have an understanding that this is an expensive place to live. The weather is beautiful, it’s on the Pacific Ocean, and San Diego and the surrounding suburbs have a lot to offer, meaning real estate for buyers and renters comes at a premium.
From 2000 to 2018, based on data from NeighborhoodScout, there was an annual appreciation rate of 4.85% for real estate. The median prices in many parts of San Diego are high even based on standards for California. According to a report from last year by the National Association of Realtors, the median sales price for homes in San Diego was $626,000. That’s higher than the 2018 median price for Los Angeles, which was $576,100.
To provide a little more comparison, the median price for a single-family home in New York was $403,900, and $243,300 in Chicago. The only city of the top five on the National Association of Realtors’ list that was higher than San Diego was San Francisco, with the median price of a single-family home coming in at $952,400.
For people who aren’t ready or able to buy, rent prices are fairly high as well. As of March 2019, the average rent on a studio in San Diego was $1,413. For a three-bedroom that goes up to $2,923.
Along with buying or renting a home in San Diego, if you’re planning a move to the area, you’ll have to think about other factors affecting the cost of living as well. For example, people in San Diego spend around 12.5% of their total household budget on food.
Popular San Diego Neighborhoods
Many of the communities on our list of the top 10 most affordable places to buy in San Diego are actually suburbs because these are the places that offer the best prices on housing. Other neighborhoods in San Diego that are less affordable, but very popular and desirable right now include:
Carlsbad is a very expensive part of San Diego which is around 35 miles north of downtown. There are beautiful beaches, and it’s a walkable community often described as a village. The schools are great, and there’s a laid back and relaxed atmosphere, making Carlsbad popular with surfers and people who like the outdoors. The median listing price for homes in Carlsbad is $925,000. Many of the homes are single-family properties, including a lot of ranch-style homes, with three or four bedrooms.
Encinitas is another area close to San Diego known for high-priced real estate. Around 25 miles north of San Diego’s downtown, Encinitas is also a beach community. The most popular beaches include Swami and Moonlight. It’s considered a chic but also bohemian community.
Little Italy is an increasingly popular neighborhood in San Diego among residents and visitors alike. Little Italy was once the hub of the San Diego fishing industry, but now you’ll find galleries, shops, restaurants, and Amici Park. Little Italy is known as one of the key areas in the San Diego culinary scene as well.
There are hundreds of new apartments recently made available in Little Italy. The residential development in the community represents a significant portion of San Diego’s overall housing supply.
Another urban neighborhood popular among residents is the East Village. The Easy Village is walkable, and it represents the largest neighborhood in downtown San Diego. East Village is east of the Gaslamp Quarter and southeast of the Core District. The East Village is around 130 blocks of the city, located between Seventh Ave. and 17th St. Around 30,000 residents call this culturally rich and vibrant neighborhood home.
Point Loma is an area that includes five separate smaller neighborhoods. These include Harbor Island, Liberty Station, Loma Heights, Midway District, and Point Loma. Point Loma is known primarily for luxury and high-end real-estate as well as multi-family properties. Point Loma is seaside and is on a peninsula bordered by the San Diego Bay and the Pacific Ocean.
Boating and marine life are integral parts of Point Loma, and there are subdivisions like Fleetridge, with beautiful mansions.
Coronado is a resort city that connects to San Diego via the San Diego-Coronado Bridge. This is another upscale part of the city, and it’s home to the Hotel del Coronado Resort, as well as the biggest West Coast naval base.
North Park is bordered by University Heights, Hillcrest and Balboa Park. It includes smaller sub-neighborhoods like Burlingame and Morley Field. North Park features homes and architecture from diverse periods. For example, there are bungalows from the turn of the century, and more modern architecture as well. Forbes named North Park as one of the best hipster neighborhoods in the country.
Del Mar is a seaside community, and it’s home to the Del Mar racetrack. Del Mar real estate is considered very high-end, with some of the homes being in the tens of millions of dollars. The median price of a home in Del Mar is $2,628,600.
Del Mar is around 20 miles north of the Mexican border, and 120 miles south of L.A. The cost of living in Del Mar is more than 408% higher than the average across the U.S.
Summing Up—Top 10 Most Affordable Places to Buy in San Diego
San Diego has a lot to offer residents including beautiful weather, beaches, year-round access to outdoor activities, restaurants and culture. Of course, the prices of homes represent all that the southern California city has to offer. However, by going south of San Diego’s downtown, or inland to some of the suburbs, it is possible to find more affordable homes to buy in San Diego.