Should You Buy A Home In Northern California?


Redwood forests, access to a beautiful western coastline, and hillside vineyards are just a few reasons Northern California attracts homebuyers. It’s important to mention that Northern California is not a formal designation, but a reference to an area.

Communities in Northern California Include:

Sacramento has roots back to the Gold Rush era. Northern California also puts you within throwing distance of Lake Tahoe and Folsom Lake. The Folsom reservoir has an area of over 17 square miles and is lined with beaches and greenery.

Northern California also has access to Yosemite National Park, the Golden Gate Bridge, Mendocino Headlands State Park, and many more outdoor attractions.

Homes in San Jose usually take a few weeks before new owners take them off the market. While San Jose does have a higher cost of living than some US states, it makes up for it with higher-than-average salaries.

Welcome to Wine Country!

Most of us have to drive for hours and hours to make it to a winery, but you’ll be close to several hundred in Northern California.

Napa Valley has over 400 wineries and more than 90 tasting rooms; enough for a lifetime of memorable weekends and many tasty glasses. There’s even a train that crisscrosses the stunning landscape, stopping at award-winning wineries along your trip. Napa Valley is one of the best places to live in the US, though the cost of living is considerably higher than other areas like Central San Jose. Homes can start around half a million dollars and rise into the tens of millions.

Sonoma County is another area with no shortage of beauty and fruity notes. They surpass Napa Valley with 425 wineries and 18 distinct regions of winemaking. It consistently ranks high for career opportunities, and a new report boasts Sonoma as one of the top 100 areas within the US to live in.

Just imagine living among all that beauty (and all of those glasses of wine).

A Gorgeous view of Northern California

A gorgeous view of Northern California via Creative Commons

Mendocino County: Coastal Living for Outdoor Enthusiasts

Living on the coast is exactly what you think it’s like. Marine life like whales, dolphins, sea lions, and schools of fish will be just a short drive and several wet steps away. If you have ever dreamt of barbecues on the beach while the sun sets across the water, coastal Mendocino is made for you. The area is treasured by outdoor enthusiasts, but Mendocino itself doesn’t have a very large population.

Another place with natural surroundings and the chance for fishing is Shasta County, also located in Northern California. Be ready for warm weather, barbecues, and outdoor activities. Shasta has a lower cost of living than other parts of California, which makes it a good alternative to the pricier Mendocino County. The city of Redding in Shasta is ideal, with every aspect of northwestern lifestyle present. There’s even rafting after you’re finished with the mountain bike trails and the Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Employment in San Jose and Northern California

San Jose ranked No. 9 out of 182 US cities in a study on job market strength, according to WalletHub’s research. Starting salaries in the San Jose area are some of the highest in the world and among US states. Many of the cities in Northern California are experiencing lots of new employment opportunities. These new careers and better salaries might give single and double-income homeowners more buying power.

Wages in California remain among the highest in the US, with a median gross income of $78,672 in 2020 (according to the US Census Bureau). That doesn’t include benefits like insurance or vacation from employment. The figure is for single-earner and single-income homes.

The gross mean Californian’s income before taxes (the average) is $111,622, according to the same US Census Bureau data.

Affordability Among Pockets of Affluence

Housing prices were down 14.2% in February 2023 (according to public records). California’s home values experienced the same surge that many other states did, but not quite as much as areas like Nevada (+63% over five years) or Washington (+57%).

The median price (based on MLS and/or public records) for a home in Central San Jose was $910,000 in Feb 2023. Keep in mind that doesn’t mean the average price; it means the midpoint. It’s common to find homes far below and above that price range, depending on the usual factors. For a downtown business district that Google, Amazon, and Adobe have set up in, Central San Jose stays relatively affordable.

A typical sunny day in Central San Jose

A typical sunny day in Central San Jose

West San Jose has a slightly higher median house value, just above $1.3 million. Remember, that’s just the median price and there is obviously a range of houses above and below. The area is known for attractions like the Winchester Mystery House, over 20 movie theaters, and fantastic shopping. The upscale housing mixes with commercial real estate and great educational institutions.

Fremont is another Northern California city with a small population, access to nature, and home to Tesla HQ. Our median housing price for this area is $949,000, but that doesn’t reflect the plethora of single-floor small homes with sub $500,000 prices. Let’s also mention, the Fremont area has a large number of empty plots with forest surroundings.