Top 10 California Counties With the Lowest Home Prices in 2024

Published:
April 30, 2024
Last updated:
April 30, 2024
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We often hear about California having some of the highest home prices in the nation, and there’s plenty of truth to that.

Less coverage is given to the more affordable housing markets in California, where home prices are in line with the national average. So today, we’ll take a look at the 10 California counties with the lowest home prices.

California Home Prices Keep on Climbing

The California Association of REALTORS (CAR) recently published a housing market report with data for all 58 counties across the state. Among other things, it showed that home values in the Golden State continue to inch upward in 2024.

To quote the April 2024 CAR report:

“The statewide median price recorded a strong year-over-year gain in March, climbing 7.7 percent from $793,260 in March 2023 to $854,490 in March 2024. California’s median home price was 6.0 percent higher than February’s $806,490.”

But when you drill down and look at individual counties, you’ll find there’s actually a very broad spectrum when it comes to California real estate prices.

At the bottom of that spectrum, Lassen County in the northeastern part of the state had a median sale price of just $247,000 in spring 2024. At the upper end of the range, we have San Mateo County, with a median home selling price of more than $2 million.

10 Counties With the Lowest Home Prices

We exported CAR’s housing market data into a spreadsheet and sorted it to identify the 10 counties with the lowest home prices in the state. Specifically, this analysis used the median sale price for existing single-family homes during the month of March 2024.

Out of state’s 58 counties, the following had the lowest home prices in California 2024:

  1. Lassen: $247,000
  2. Tehama: $286,250
  3. Lake: $315,000
  4. Glenn: $340,000
  5. Kings: $345,000
  6. Imperial: $349,000
  7. Siskiyou: $350,000
  8. Trinity: $360,000
  9. Shasta: $364,000
  10. Tulare: $374,990

Most of these counties are located either in the Central Valley or the “Far North” regions of the state. The one exception is Imperial County, which is located in Southern California.

Notably, you won’t see any Bay Area counties on the list. According to CAR, the median sale price for the San Francisco Bay Area was nearly $1.4 million last month.

Cheapest Markets for Each Region

The April 2024 housing market report also grouped California’s 58 counties by region. These five major regions include Central Coast, Central Valley, Far North, San Francisco Bay Area, and Southern California.

Here are the counties with the lowest home prices (rounded) in each region:

  • Central Coast: San Luis Obispo County, $850,000
  • Central Valley: Glenn County, $340,000
  • Far North: Lassen County, $247,000
  • San Francisco Bay Area: Solano County, $585,000
  • Southern California: Imperial County, $350,000

Solano County, in particular, stands out as having a lower median home price when compared to its broader metro area. Home prices in Solano County are significantly lower than other parts of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Why Is California Real Estate So Expensive?

California has some of the highest home prices of any state in the country, more than double the national average.

As of March 2024, the statewide median home price in California was around $784,000. In contrast, the national median home price was closer to $354,000, during that same month.

So, what are the reasons for expensive California real estate prices?

1. Limited Supply and High Demand

California has a limited amount of land available for development, especially in highly desirable areas like coastal cities. Scarcity of land increases demand for available properties, leading to higher prices. Meanwhile, the state’s population has increased steadily over the past 10 years, increasing demand for housing.

2. Strict Land-Use Regulations

Many parts of California have stringent land-use regulations and zoning laws. This makes it harder to build new housing developments, even when there’s a serious need for them. These regulations are designed to protect the environment and preserve open spaces. But they can also limit housing supply, exacerbating the affordability crisis.

3. High Construction Costs

Construction costs in California are among the highest in the nation due to factors such as stricter building codes, high labor costs, and expensive land. These costs are passed on to home buyers, contributing to the overall high cost of real estate.

4. Strict Building Codes

Many California cities have relatively strict building codes. This can increase both the cost of construction and the time it takes to build new residential properties. While these codes help ensure safety and sustainability, they can also deter developers from building new units.

5. Geographic Constraints

California’s geography, including its mountain ranges, coastlines, and natural reserves, limits the amount of available land for development. This further intensifies competition for housing in desirable areas, driving prices higher.

6. NIMBY (Not In My Backyard)

Many California communities have strong NIMBY sentiments. Some residents resist new developments due to concerns about traffic, density, or character of the neighborhood. This makes it difficult and slow to build new housing in some areas.

How to Make a Home Purchase More Affordable

Even though California has some of the highest home values in the nation, there are strategies for affordable homeownership in California.

For example, many home buyers in California choose mortgage loans with a longer repayment term, to reduce the size of their monthly payments. A 30-year mortgage loan will have a lower monthly payment than a 15-year loan (though you’ll pay more interest overall).

Down payment assistance programs can also reduce some of the obstacles associated with a home purchase. These programs help first-time buyers cover their down payments and closing costs. Some are offered at the state level, while others are offered locally.

Additionally, certain types of mortgage loans allow for a relatively low down payment. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) home loan program allows borrowers to make a down payment of just 3.5%. Some conventional loans only require 3% down, if borrowers pay for mortgage insurance.

California military members and veterans can often qualify for a VA loan, which eliminates the need for a down payment altogether.

Lastly, try to expand your search zone as much as possible when house hunting. We talked about the broad spectrum of home prices across the state of California. But even within individual metro areas, prices can vary widely from one city or community to the next.

Looking for California counties with the lowest home prices is certainly a great way to keep your costs down when buying a home. But there are other tactics you can use to make your home purchase as affordable as possible.

Have mortgage questions? Are you thinking of buying a home in California? Sammamish Mortgage offers competitive interest rates and waives some of the fees that other lenders charge. We offer a range of flexible home loan options, which could make homeownership more affordable for you. Please contact our staff with any questions you have.

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