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Buying a House in California? Here’s What You Need to Know

Modern house in Palm Springs

Pros and Cons | Rent vs. Buy in California | Biggest Challenges of Buying a House in California | California Homebuyer Requirements | The Best Time to Buy | How to Get the Best Deal

With year-round warm weather and a booming job market, it’s no surprise that so many people want to live in California. It’s also no surprise, in such a high-demand state, that the housing market is one of the most competitive in the U.S.

From rampant bidding wars to unique state regulations, the home buying process in California can be complicated and frustrating – not to mention expensive.

Read on for everything you need to know about how to buy a house in California, including renting vs. buying in California, average rent in California, and more.

And if you’re certain your dream home is in California, our friends at Clever Real Estate can help your homeownership goals become a reality.

Clever is a free service that personally matches home buyers with top-rated real estate agents in California (and nationwide). Instead of sifting through dozens of online profiles on your own, Clever’s licensed concierge team can introduce you to carefully vetted agents from top brokerages like Keller Williams, Century21, and RE/MAX.

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Pros and Cons of Buying a House in California

✅ Pros ❌ Cons
  • With high demand and low inventory, California’s market outlook is very strong
  • California offers a long list of desirable amenities, from natural beauty to a great economy, to good schools
  • Very high home values mean building equity fast
  • Some of the highest home values in the U.S. make buying in difficult for many
  • Threat of natural hazards like wildfires, earthquakes, and flooding
  • With many homes selling above ask, bidding wars can be discouraging
  • Long closing process
  • May require a Jumbo Loan
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Rent vs. Buy in California

Because of the extremely high home values in California, saving up your down payment can take a while. Many people may even prefer to rent long-term instead of buying in a high-priced market like California.

The truth is that whether renting or buying is better for you is going to depend on how long you plan to live where you currently are.

👍 When to buy: If you’re going to be there for longer than five years, buying is going to make more sense, because you’re building equity while being insulated from rising rents.

👎 When not to buy: If you’re staying for less than five years, that isn’t enough time to make back the upfront costs of buying, so you’re better off renting.

The 4 Biggest Challenges of Buying a House in California

📈 The Housing Market is Competitive

The California housing market is one of the most competitive in the nation, and California housing prices are among the highest in the U.S.

According to Zillow, the median home value in California is a staggering $790,475. That’s more than double the U.S. median home value of $344,141.

Bidding wars are common in California home sales – and many of these high bidders are paying in all cash. A recent Redfin report looking at metro areas in which homes sold for six figures over the asking price most frequently found that six of the top ten “well over ask” metros were in California.

These kinds of numbers can be intimidating to people looking to buy a home in California, but the fact is that high demand coupled with low inventory means home values will likely continue to climb – and buyers who get into the market are going to build equity fast.

Working with an experienced real estate agent can help you compete in this tough market. You can get support with finding your dream home, negotiating pricing, and navigating complicated paperwork.

💰Find full-service agents and save thousands on fees!

💰 You May Need a Jumbo Loan

With prices this high, you may need a jumbo loan to finance your purchase. Because Jumbo loans are a little riskier than smaller mortgages, they usually require a larger down payment, and may also have a higher interest rate.

A jumbo loan is a mortgage used to finance expensive properties that won’t qualify for a conventional loan. Also known as a “non-conforming conventional mortgage,” they’re in an amount greater than the maximum amount set by Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, and the FHA for loans they’ll buy from lenders.

In California, conforming loan limits vary between counties. Once you hit that limit, you’ll have to take out a jumbo loan.

How to Get a Great Deal on a Home in California

The best way to get a great deal on a California home is to work with an experienced real estate agent who knows the local market. They can help you in a number of ways:

  • Provide insight into the local housing market
  • Find homes that haven’t yet been publicly listed by networking with other agents
  • Advise you on how to make a strategic offer
  • Support you to negotiate pricing

We recommend our friends at Clever Real Estate. Clever connects you with pre-vetted, experienced real estate agents in your area who can help you find the home of your dreams, within your budget. And with Clever’s Cash Back program, you could receive cash in your pocket at the end of closing.

Another underrated way to get the best deal possible is to shop around between mortgage lenders. Getting the very best rate will save you tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of your mortgage, so every little bit helps.

👋 Need a great agent?

Saving on realtor fees doesn’t have to mean sacrificing great service. If you’re weighing your options for buying or selling a house, Clever can help! With our friends at Clever: 

✅ You’ll only pay $3,000 or 1.5% to list your home 
✅ In eligible states, you’ll get cash back when you buy a home 
✅ You’ll work with a full-service realtor from a top broker, like RE/MAX or Keller Williams 

Meet top agents and save thousands!

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FAQs About Buying a House in California

Is it Smart to Buy a Home in California Right Now?

In California, home values have skyrocketed to record highs, with many homes selling above the asking price. Although it may be expensive to buy now, prices could climb even higher in the future. If you plan to stay in the state for more than five years, buying will allow you to build equity and avoid the cost of rising rents. Learn more about the pros and cons of buying a house in California.

How Hard Is it to Buy a House in California?

You will need to save up to buy a house in California. The median home value in the state is 129% higher than the national average, and many homes are selling far above the asking price. Since it can be difficult to buy a home in California, we recommend working with an experienced real estate agent to help you navigate the process. Learn how an agent can help you get the best possible deal.

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