Is leaving Sacramento and California for a lower cost home enough?

Anyone who lives on the West Coast knows there is a high cost for living here.  From Washington to California’s Mexican Border, the West Coast is pricey, this is also true of Canada. The medium price of a home in Vancouver, British Columbia ($1,360 million)  is considerably higher than Toronto, Ontario ($806,000) Canada’s largest city.


The Cost of buying a Home


Seattle Washington ($690,000) vs New York City ($570,000)

Portland, Oregon ($470,000) vs Miami ( $366.000)

Oakland, California ($752.000) vs Chicago ($390,000)

Denver, Colorado ($500,000) vs Houston ($190,000)

San Francisco ($1.3 million) vs Boston ( $634,000)

Los Angeles ($590,000) vs Charlotte, North Carolina ( $245.00)

San Diego ($600,000) vs Atlanta ( $288,000)

Sacramento ( $345,000) vs Austin ($407,000)

Las Vegas ($283,000) vs San Antonio ($184.000)


In most of state, the closer you live to the ocean, the more expensive it is.

The alternative is inland, the Moreno Valley, Riverside, San Bernardino and Sacramento.

Sacramento is currently the fastest growing large city in the Golden State.  The majority of people relocating to Sacramento are from the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles.

I moved from San Francisco in the mid nineties, part of the last wave of refugees in search of an affordable home.   In the mid nineties. it was possible to buy a new home in Sacramento for eighty grand.  In San Francisco, a half a million would get you a small fixer upper.  Little has changed in 25 years . A couple earning $200K may find home ownership challenging in the San Francisco Bay Area where 1.3 million dollars could be a fixer upper.   What has changed is many people can now work from home.

The Dream of Buying a home 

New Homes in San Jose, CA - Contemporary A: 6Plex

1973SF   2 bedrooms  3.5baths $973K  San Jose, Ca 

Amberwood at Natomas Meadows

1836SF 3 bedrooms 2 baths $407K  Sacramento, Ca 

Design 1650W-E30 2855 HIGH CASTLE

1650Sf  3 bedrooms 2 baths  $249K  San Antonio Texas 

Nearly 40 Million people live in the Golden State. Texas is the next largest state has a population nearly 29 million.

High prices are just a fact of life when you live  on the West Coast. You stay here or moved here for a lifestyle.  If your a baby boomer who owns a home and close to retirement, selling your home and relocating to a state that has a lower cost of living is very attractive proposition.

Economics is the primary factor for young families. Those families earning less than $100K are leaving the Golden State for southern Nevada, Arizona and Texas.  Many retirees and families earning more than $150K are moving to Utah, Idaho and Colorado.

Leaving Sacramento, A National Tou

Home and rent prices were rapidly increasing in Sacramento during the last great recession. Divorced with grown children,  I considered leaving Sacramento for areas where my dollar would go further.

Using Money Magazine (the best places to live) as a guide,  I traveled all over the country looking for a community.  This time the criteria was more than just price. Employment, near a University, cultural diversity. I wanted more urban than suburban.   In three years I visited cities in 14 states.

The Atlanta area had a lot of potential, it is the home of many successful black professionals. Today, you can buy a home within the city limits for under $200K   With homes in the burbs then selling for less than 100 grand. However, I found the racial divide too wide for my liking. There were many hostile suburbs beyond Fulton County line  This wasn’t true of all Atlanta, there were large pockets of blended communities near the university, unfortunately out of my price range.

In some of the cities, my skin color was a liability after dark.  In one city, I left my hotel in the downtown area to take a brief walk .   Within fifteen minutes I was stopped and held by two police officers.  ” I was told there were suspicious people in the area.”  I  attempted to tell the officers I was a visitor and was staying at “The Courtyard” three blocks away.. They seem to focus their attention on my California Driver’s License .   Finally, after they checked my ID. One of the officer’s seemed a little nervous as when asked ” If I worked at the University.”  I said no, just checking out the town.  No apology was offered.

After an hour was ushered out of a restaurant in suburban Milwaukee by friends who were embarrassed and concerned about my safety.

The Suburbs vs the Central City “Racism in 300 words or less”

The chief attraction to large cities are jobs.  The cities attracts people of every educational, financial ,cultures,religion to one area.  In the larger cities it isn’t uncommon these culture, ethnicity  to live side by side.  In many cities  there is division, lines deeply drawn, and not everyone gets along, but many simply coexist. 

Some people moved to the suburbs to buy their first home or a larger home.  Others to escape the congestion.  Then there are some who leave the city for a community that represents them and their values.   While they travel into the city for work they often have limited encounters with people of different, economic backgrounds, cultures and hues.   They return to a community where everyone looks like them. 

Unlike residents in the Central City who are exposed to many backgrounds, and culture on a daily basis. Some suburbanites are fearful of someone who doesn’t look like them, dress like than or sound like them (especially if you are brown-ish?)  There are many communities are hostile to change and there is not one city or town in the United States exempt from this ignorance.   One shouldn’t immediately assume its racism.  I said one shouldn’t immediately assume, however sometimes it is.  The difference between ignorance and racism is tone.  No hue or culture is exempt.  Ask the white couple, who settles into a gentrified neighborhood or the first Sikh family who moves to a suburb. 

If you are a person of color or a different culture with children. It is strongly recommend that you research the racial makeup and history of the community before purchasing a house.

Leaving California 

In 2018, according to the U.S. Census, about 190,000 more people left the Golden State than moved there. It was the second year in a row of the negative trend. However, the population is still rising due to the birth rate. California added 141,300 residents between July 2018 and July 2019, bringing its population to an estimated 39.96 million people, according to the California Department of Finance.

The majority of people leaving ,reported an annual income of less than $100,000, while the state has seen an influx of those making $100,000 from other states.

A report from the state legislative analyst’s office in February, found those families with children and those with only a high school education predominate among those moving from California.

Still Golden

California, is an expensive place to live.  Large inland valley cities like Fresno, Sacramento, Riverside and Bakersfield are more expensive than many large cities in the United States.  California  is still attracting newcomers from other states  According to American Communities Survey  Last year, California gained, on net, residents from about a third of U.S. states., led by Illinois (11,071), followed by New York, Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Most of the states newcomers are well educated.  For college graduates, California’s high-tech economy is a powerful draw.  Immigrants from China, India and other Asian nations are moving to California in greater numbers. Between 2012 and 2016, 58% of new California immigrants came from Asia, according to the Public Policy Institute of California, while just 28% came from Latin America..

Staying in Sacramento 

The primary reason my family relocated to Sacramento was to own a home.   While my family loved Sacramento, I hated it.  It was too hot, it seemed too conservative (keep in mind I’m from San Francisco/New York) and wasn’t enough city.  There was one thing I liked about the town was the people.  Most people who live here, have no idea how special the people and this city is.  Sometimes you have to spend time away from home to appreciate home.

In most of the country, Baby Boomers own their homes.  With retirement looming ,many of my friends in San Francisco and New York have sold their homes and relocated to   Sacramento and other cities out of state.  With the surplus ,several have opted for early retirement.

When the home Isn’t Enough

Every town, community has a flavor.  Most people move because of economics. Some move because of a lifestyle.  After settling into a new home , the next challenge is to adjusting to the new community .

One couple, avid golfers sold their apartment in the Bronx (NYC) and bought a large condo in Florida in a community with several golf courses nearby.    After a year they regretted their decision.  The culture in the city was much different in what they were used to in New York.  Some experts say it take three years to adjust to new community.  However the move to Florida, had a negative affect on his wife. Depression, high blood pressure and other health issues led them sell their Florida condo and return to New York.  Today, they are back in the Bronx, in a much smaller home, but content, her  health improved after a few months.   Most people who relocate from a expensive region cannot afford to return.  

In my search  I liked Norman Oklahoma, Denver, Nashville and loved Austin, Texas. Like San Francisco and Portland, Austin embraces its quirkiness, its Bold, and Liberal. With many friends from California living  in the city, it was an easy choice. After diving around the area for a few days, I realized I wasn’t in California.

 There weren’t many options outside of Austin  AND that where California in unique.  There were no mountains, there were few bodies of water.     When I’ve had enough of the heat and congestion of Sacramento, I have many options.  The Pacific Ocean or San Francisco is 90 miles to the west.  Lake Tahoe is 90 miles to the east.  90 miles to the Napa Wine Country . Less than an hour from Sacramento are the foothills and old gold mining towns  Each place is unique.  Today in California, one can ski or surf.  In one section of the state there is snow a few hundred miles south there is desert.  In between, there are lakes, major parks like Yosemite, and Sequoia National Parks . California is a tough act to follow and if you have lived here for some time, its difficult to give up.

The food can be cheaper and fresher here.  Nearly everything is grown here and exported all over the world from the Sacramento Valley.  We are the Farm to Fork Capital of America.

Image result for trees in sacramento

Sacramento, is under appreciated by its long term residents.  It’s not San Francisco or Los Angeles.  But those two cities aren’t Sacramento., with its Canopy of trees and the two rivers that flow through it   You can walk though parts of downtown and midtown and find Orange and Grapefruit trees.  On a hot day, you can cool down in one of our rivers and at night the waters from the rivers and the delta cools the city down.

I love walking around downtown and midtown at night to watch large groups of people riding their bikes amongst the crowds at the bars and restaurants.  Sacramento has a large Theater scene, many museums, a large LGBTQ community, many options for people who has an active lifestyle, a Ballet and more…….

But, my favorite thing about Sacramento, is its diversity. People seem to get along here.

The city isn’t perfect, it still finding its place.  Like some of its citizens, its leaders have an inferiority complex. It  looks for its success by duplicating  what other cities have .instead of building on its own attributes.   The Police in and around Sacramento continue to struggle with people of color.

I love this city.  A couple of years ago Sacramento was the third most popular destination in the nation for Millennials after Seattle and Portland.   You can see the influx of new young faces in the many new restaurants in midtown.

There are moments when New York tugs at my heart. But it all goes away as I’m walking in my neighborhood and a stranger smiles and says,’Good Morning”