Homes for Sale in Los Angeles: Life in L.A.
Los Angeles, California is often thought of as the home of show business and a start-studded haven, but there’s a lot more to it than that. Los Angeles is the second-largest metropolitan area in the United States, and it’s a hub of industry and innovation in many ways, which is why someone might be searching for houses for sale in Los Angeles, California.
Los Angeles covers a whopping 34,149 square miles, and as you travel from end-to-end or top-to-bottom, you’ll find mountains, forests, and natural areas, beaches, and more. The weather year-round is mild and pleasant for the most part, and there’s a lot to love about this glamorous, forward-thinking, exciting city.
Top employers in Los Angeles County include the county of Los Angeles, the University of California Los Angeles and Kaiser Permanente. Other major employers are Northrop Grumman, the Target Corp., and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
The cost of living is high in Los Angeles, although this is common in most of the world’s big cities.
Since there is so much demand to live in Los Angeles and surround yourself in all the benefits it can bring, the prices reflect that. The cost of houses for sale in Los Angeles can be expensive, although there are opportunities to find a deal when you know how to look.
Whether you’ve lived in Los Angeles for quite some time and you’re ready to make a move, or you’re going to be a transplant to the area before you start your home search you should prepare yourself with what to expect. Finding houses for sale in Los Angeles relies on having an understanding of the market itself, the neighborhoods and areas in the area, the types of homes available, and how to make the search and buying process as seamless as possible.
The Los Angeles Real Estate Market
The national and local real estate market are going to heavily influence the prices paid for houses for sale in Los Angeles. A few things to know about the market in Los Angeles County right now include:
- According to a report from Curbed Los Angeles at the start of 2019, the median price for a three-bedroom house was $630,000. Based on that median price, with a 3.5% down payment, you might expect a mortgage of around $3,062 monthly. This doesn’t include property taxes and mortgage insurance.
- Also in January 2019, the median price for an existing single-family home in Los Angeles County was $566,010.
- While the prices may seem high, it could actually be an excellent time to search for houses for sale in Los Angeles County because, in January of this year, only 4,080 homes and condos sold. That was a 8% decline from the previous year. Southern California, as a whole, saw the fewest homes sales in January 2019 since 2008.
- Many of the declines in the area are related to increasing interest rates, which is being felt in home markets around the country and not just Los Angeles, but also fewer luxury and high-end homes are selling because that market has slowed significantly.
- The average price per square foot in Los Angeles is reportedly around $655.
- The median sales price between December and March was $805,000, and there were 1,545 home sales during that time.
- Despite a cool down in the market, it remains competitive, and in most cases, sellers do receive multiple offers, yet homes sell for around 1% lower than their list price on average.
What Types of Houses are for Sale in Los Angeles?
If you’re searching for homes in L.A., you’ll find that most are single-family. Much of what you see in L.A. now as far as the layouts of existing neighborhoods started at the beginning of the 20th century when there was a construction boom in the city. Many of the existing properties are bungalows and ranch-style homes.
Around two-thirds of all the land in the city is zoned for residential construction, and of that 75% is for single-family properties or duplexes.
There are some high-rise condos and similar properties available, although it’s less common. Some officials in Los Angeles feel it would be valuable to change city zoning restrictions to allow for more multifamily properties that would open up more home buying opportunities to people who are priced out of the single-family home market.
Something dubbed “small lot homes” are available in Los Angeles as well. They are homes that aren’t actually connected to one another, but they can look as if they’re multifamily properties. These homes do share a common space.
Photo by Modative, Ave 57 Art Walk Homes
Co-ops aren’t very common in L.A. like they are in cities such as New York, but there are a few.
Another option some people might explore rather than searching for new houses for sale in Los Angeles or existing properties is to buy an empty lot and then build a custom home. This can be challenging, though, because there are quite a few restrictions for new construction and permits and inspections can make it a costly and time-consuming process.
A Guide to Neighborhoods in Los Angeles
Los Angeles is huge, and there are many different neighborhoods and areas of town to choose from if you’re going to be buying a home. When you’re comparing houses for sale in Los Angeles, the area is going to affect price, convenience and commute time, and the general atmosphere you enjoy.
The best way to go about learning more about the city is to start with the regions. Then, within those regions, there are many small neighborhoods, but knowing the region can give you a general feel of what to expect. There are an estimated 472 neighborhoods, but if you have an idea of what region appeals most to you, it gives you a great starting point.
The following are some of the main areas of the city:
The Downtown Los Angeles area is where you’ll find many businesses as well as hotels, theaters, museums, and restaurants. There are arts and culture venues in downtown Los Angeles. This area lends itself primarily to young professionals in many ways. This is also where you’ll find more condos and multi-family properties, as opposed to single-family houses for sale in Los Angeles.
The downsides of downtown include the fact that at night there may be more crime, and there isn’t a lot of green and outdoor space in downtown Los Angeles.
Hollywood has some of the charming old houses that remain in the city, and it’s where you’ll see a lot of the bungalows. Hollywood has nightlife and eateries. However, it can be difficult to access the freeway, and in some parts of Hollywood crime may be an issue.
Many of the things out-of-towners associated with Los Angeles are in Hollywood, such as Runyon Canyon, the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, and all the other icons of the film and entertainment industry.
Hollywood does tend to be more popular with renters than buyers, but there are houses for sale as well.
For families who enjoy the outdoors and the beach, Manhattan Beach is a good option. Manhattan Beach is near the airport as well, and there’s a lot of opportunities to get outside and enjoy outdoor recreation. Many people walk and bike around Manhattan Beach, which can be nice, but living here comes at a premium.
Manhattan Beach includes 2.1 square miles of beachfront, and there is a wide variety of ages who call the area home. The Manhattan Beach Unified School District is often named as one of the best in Los Angeles County, and Manhattan Beach is also very safe. Many of the available properties in Manhattan Beach are townhouses.
Santa Monica is also close to the beach, including the beaches of Malibu. It’s walkable, the schools are good, and there’s lots of shopping. You’ll find a nice mix of both single people and families in Santa Monica, but traffic can be challenging.
For someone considering Santa Monica, they should be prepared for steep price tags. In fact, recently, the median sales price for single-family homes was $3.2 million.
The San Fernando Valley
Also just known as The Valley, this area includes Sherman Oaks, Van Nuys, Encino, North Hollywood, Burbank, Reseda, and Toluca Lake. The Valley feels very suburban, safe, quiet, and family-friendly. This is where you’ll find a lot of the area’s new construction homes for sale as well.
The Valley has a lot to offer homebuyers, but it gets very hot, and you can feel like you’re separated from the rest of Los Angeles because of the division created by the Hollywood Hills.
The Valley is often linked to the most suburban lifestyle of any of the other areas in Los Angeles. Many of the challenges people face in other areas of Los Angeles aren’t a problem in The Valley either. For example, traffic and parking issues aren’t as significant. The Valley tends to be more affordable than centralized areas in Los Angeles, and there are a lot of outdoor activities at areas like the Sepulveda Basin Recreation Area and Rocky Peak Park.
West Hollywood is a centralized area of Los Angeles, and it’s close to Beverly Hills and Hollywood, but also relatively close to The Valley. West Hollywood has great nightlife, and it’s walkable. Many of the properties in West Hollywood are apartments, however, and there is limited parking throughout West Hollywood.
West Los Angeles/Culver City
Houses for sale in West Los Angeles and Culver City have the advantage of being close to good public schools, and there are also a lot of restaurants and nightlife. However, traffic can be challenging in the area. Culver City is relatively close to the ocean and Santa Monica, and it’s also home to hundreds of technology startups.
Culver City also offers public transportation thanks to the addition of the Metro Line Extension. It can make it much easier to get to other areas of Los Angeles than fighting traffic.
Westwood is convenient to other desirable areas in Los Angeles, including Bel Air, Beverly Hills, and Santa Monica. Century City is also to the south. Westwood is where the UCLA campus is located, so there are a lot of students, but it can be a family-friendly activity as well.
Also, there are high-rise apartment buildings in Westwood on Wilshire Boulevard. Single-family properties include the pricey options in Holmby Hills, and Mediterranean mansions as well as modern homes that are relatively new.
Another option if you’re searching for houses for sale in Los Angeles is Pasadena. Pasadena is a walkable area of Los Angeles, and the city is dedicated to sustainability. Many of the homes are Craftsman properties build in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Pasadena is home to the California Institute of Technology as well as the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Pasadena City College.
It’s a family-friendly area, and it tends to have a relaxed atmosphere, but there are plenty of restaurants and retail options.
Of course, Beverly Hills is one of the most coveted places to call home in Los Angeles. Beverly Hills has a reputation as being an exclusive enclave of the rich and famous. It includes The Flats, which are between Santa Monica and Sunset Boulevards. This is why many of the biggest mansions in Beverly Hills are here—it’s level, and the lot sizes are relatively large.
Then there are other areas of Beverly Hills like Trousdale Estates, known for many Mid-Century Modern Homes, and there’s the residential area known as Beverly Hills Post Office, which includes different subdivisions. Nearby neighborhoods are West Hollywood, Holmby Hills, and Bel Air.
South Los Angeles
South Los Angeles had a reputation as being gritty for a long time, but in recent years it’s experienced a resurgence, and it also tends to be more affordable to buy here than other areas. USC is located in South Los Angeles, and a lot of homes for sale in this part of the city are historic and beautiful, although they may need work.
Many of the families who live in the neighborhoods of South L.A. have also been there for generations, which can make it feel welcoming and close-knit.
Tips for Buying a Home in Los Angeles
If you’re at the point where you’re ready to start looking for houses for sale in Los Angeles, keep in mind that it can be overwhelming. The following are some things to remember during the process, particularly if you start to feel like you’re in over your head.
- If you’re concerned about bidding wars, you should be. With houses for sale in Los Angeles, the supply is relatively low, and there may be multiple offers on a house you’re looking at. To be more competitive, if you can offer cash, it’s great. If not, you may have to be ready to go over your budget because bidding wars are the norm rather than the exception in L.A.
- Make sure you have options. Finding a home that you feel like is your dream may mean you don’t have a list of standbys, and you may be left with nothing. Have a list of backup homes ready, even if you love one more than the others.
- Consider buying a fixer-upper. In Los Angeles, a lot of buyers look for homes that need some help but are in areas of the city they find desirable. Along with fixer-uppers, also think about short sales and foreclosures. The process to buy these properties can be arduous, but it’s also one of the better ways to find a deal in an expensive market.
- It may be valuable to look for options like townhouses for sale in Los Angeles, or condos if you’re priced out of the single-family home market.
- When you’re looking, don’t just think about the house itself. Give yourself a chance to get to know the neighborhood as well. You can do work on a house if it’s in a great neighborhood, but it’s tough to feel good about a home purchase if you hate the neighborhood. With so many options in Los Angeles, you might find that you like a certain neighborhood more than you ever thought you would. Get out and about before you make an offer. See what the feel of the neighborhood is like, and do a test drive of what your commute might be like.
Consider Programs for First-Time Home Buyers
If you’re a first-time home buyer in L.A. or the state of California, some programs might help you. First, there is the California Housing Finance Agency first mortgage program. You have to make under a certain amount of money to qualify, and the loans help cover closing costs and down payments. There’s also a Los Angeles County first home mortgage program, offered through the Southern California Home Financing Authority, and a Los Angeles County homeownership program.
Summing Up—Searching for Houses for Sale in Los Angeles
Looking for homes for sale in Los Angeles is no simple feat, however understanding the market, the neighborhoods, and what to expect can help the process go more smoothly. It’s also important to take your time, be proactive, and be prepared for the potential that you won’t get the first house you submit an offer for.