So, we’re moving to Southern California, and we have some obvious questions we want answered:
- What neighborhoods should we be looking in?
- What neighborhoods can we afford?
Here’s what we do know:
- I’m going to work at location 30700 Russell Ranch Rd, Westlake Village, CA.
- We can afford a home in the $500 to $600K range.
- I’m willing to commute a fair distance (up to 40 minutes) if the home was a great deal, but I’d really rather be within bicycling distance to work.
- The employees of Move that I talked with recommended Thousand Oaks (10 minutes), Santa Barbara (45 minutes) and Santa Monica (45 minutes).
- If we can’t afford something in our price range that is acceptable, I’d consider renting a place, especially if it was close to the beach.
Anna and I spent some time on the internet playing around. We tried what I thought would be the most promising options: Realtor.com, Trulia and Zillow. I know that none of these sites is geared toward finding appropriate neighborhoods, but I thought I might be able to “trick” them into helping us out:
- Realtor.com. I began by doing a search of [3 bedroom homes in Westlake Village, CA]… Surprise, surprise, the only home listed under $600K are mobile homes (and yes, there is a mobile home listed for $599K). I didn’t really expect to find a home in Westlake Village, but I was hoping that I might be able to do a large-area search using this tool, so that I might be able to get an idea where a concentration of appropriate homes are located, but there was no (obvious) way to widen my search using the available tools. Next I turned to their beta map search. This was more helpful in that it gave me homes nearby Westlake village, but it was not entirely clear to me how it determined it should widen my search. And scrolling around the map doesn’t refresh it with new properties as one would hope. Because we don’t even know the cities/zip codes we want to look in, I couldn’t keep Anna interested in searching around the beta site and we moved on after a few minutes.
- Zillow was a bit better because I could zoom in and see a price next to each City’s name. Presumably, this is the average price for the City, but I’m not 100% sure of this. However, smaller cities (and/or huge neighborhoods in the case of Los Angeles) don’t show up. Until I zoomed into each individual property, there was not an easy way to tell if I could afford the area. Overall, we gave up on Zillow after a few minutes as I couldn’t “trick” it into telling me about appropriate neighborhoods.
- Trulia was definitely the best of the three… I could give it a very detail search entry [3+ beds, $550K to 600K, Westlake Village], and then scroll around the map to see what neighborhoods might work for us. It also had the bonus of showing us “average home prices” depending on where you center the map. (i.e. if I’m over Thousand Oaks, I see the average 1, 2, 3 and 4+ bedroom price!).
Here is what I learned from Trulia from my search:
- There’s no chance we’re going to buy a home along the coast of Santa Monica or Malibu (I didn’t really expect that this would be an option, but now it is confirmed).
- If we want to buy a place within biking distance, we may be able to afford something in Thousand Oaks. My brief foray into Realtor.com hinted that a place in Thousand Oaks would likely be a townhome.
- There are a lot more options either north (Simi Valley) or west (Camerillo, Oxnard, or Ventura), but the dream of owning in Santa Barbara is definitely out of the picture.
- It looks like there might be something available for us in “the valley”, but both Anna and I want to go in the other direction if possible.
We’re thinking of making a trip to LA relatively soon to check out neighborhoods and tour some homes. Is it enough for us to check out the Ventura and the Simi Valley/Thousand Oaks area, or should we add a few different neighborhoods/cities to our radar?
Of course, the home search process definitely makes me wonder if the LA market has topped off and if it might make a whole lot more sense for us to rent (could we be near the beach?). If I do decide to look further into renting, I’ll definitely post an review of my online search.
Interesting side note: Despite my proclaimed confidence in “context” tools like blogging, I haven’t yet turned to blog posts and/or forums for any answers about neighborhoods (nor have I felt compelled to click on any ads).