Los Altos

The 12 Most Expensive Cities in California

Are you ready to step into the lap of luxury, or perhaps just daydream a little? Welcome to a deep dive into The Most Expensive Cities in California, where the homes are as lavish as they are costly, and the lifestyles are nothing short of opulent. You may be contemplating your next big move or merely savoring the idea of living among the elite. Either way, time is of the essence; the real estate market in these exclusive havens is ever-changing, and prices are skyrocketing even as you read this. From tech hubs brimming with innovation to coastal paradises where every day feels like a vacation, these cities offer more than just a residence—they offer a way of life that is the epitome of grandeur. So, if you’re ready to venture into the world of unparalleled affluence, read on. This isn’t just a list, it’s a doorway to a life most can only dream of.

CityMedian Home PriceMedian Price per Square Foot
Los Altos$4.5M$1,800
Beverly Hills$3.75M$1,300
Santa Monica$3.75M$1,500
Palo Alto$3.5M$1,700
Manhattan Beach$3.3M$1,500
San Francisco$3.25M$1,200
Newport Beach$3M$1,100
Mountain View$2M$1.23K
San Mateo$1.8M$1.02K
Santa Clara$1.5M$1.09K
Berkeley$1.4M$880
Los Angeles$950K$600
Most Expensive Cities in California Table

12. Los Angeles

LA

Median Home Price: $950K (up 17.3% since last year)

Median Price per Square Foot: $600 (up 16.7% since last year)

Los Angeles, often dubbed the “Entertainment Capital of the World,” is a city of contrasts and an amalgam of diverse lifestyles. While not as expensive as some of the other cities on this list, select neighborhoods in LA—such as Bel-Air, Beverly Hills, and Hollywood Hills—stand as monuments to opulence and grandeur. But that’s not all; the city serves as a melting pot where upscale living can seamlessly transition to bohemian lifestyles. Want to know why California is expensive? Look no further than the City of Angels. Whether you’re an aspiring actor, a successful entrepreneur, or someone who enjoys the finer things in life, Los Angeles offers a slice of paradise for everyone. High-end shopping, a robust culinary scene, world-class museums, and the allure of possibly running into a celebrity at your local coffee shop make LA not just a city but an experience in itself.

11. Santa Clara

Median Home Price: $1.5M (up 7.6% since last year)

Median Price per Square Foot: $1.09K (up 24.4% since last year)

Santa Clara’s real estate landscape is a direct reflection of its prominence in Silicon Valley. It’s not just a city for tech workers; it’s an ecosystem engineered for innovation. As a resident, you’re not only investing in a property but also in a rapidly appreciating asset, thanks in part to companies like Intel, Nvidia, and Applied Materials. Beyond work, Santa Clara offers a rich quality of life with its upscale residential areas, numerous parks, and a school system that ranks among the nation’s best. Its well-thought-out city planning and world-class healthcare services make it much more than just a “work city.”
Curious about How Do People Afford to Live in California? Santa Clara offers a glimpse into the multifaceted lifestyle that many Californians are willing to invest in.


10. San Mateo

Median Home Price: $1.8M (up 10.9% since last year)

Median Price per Square Foot: $1.02K (up 11.5% since last year)

San Mateo is often referred to as the bridge between Silicon Valley and the broader Bay Area, including San Francisco. This city has seen real estate prices soar, in part due to its strategic location, but also due to its intrinsic allure. It offers a well-balanced lifestyle with affluent neighborhoods that often overlook the San Francisco Bay. Excellent public transport options mean commuting to either tech jobs in the Valley or finance and healthcare roles in San Francisco is a breeze. Apart from work and scenic beauty, the city offers a rich tapestry of cultural activities, diverse culinary spots, and shopping avenues, adding layers to its already attractive profile.


9. Berkeley

Median Home Price: $1.4M (up 14.8% since last year)

Median Price per Square Foot: $880 (up 13.6% since last year)

The academic prowess of UC Berkeley spills over to influence the city’s intellectual atmosphere. However, this is a city that’s not just for academics; it’s for those who appreciate culture, diversity, and a high standard of living. The blend of academic brilliance and social activism has given rise to a unique local culture that celebrates diversity. Art galleries, historic theaters, and a diverse culinary scene offer avenues for creative expression and leisure. What’s more, the real estate here is as varied as its residents, offering everything from historic homes to modern condos.


8. Mountain View

Median Home Price: $2M (up 9.9% since last year)

Median Price per Square Foot: $1.23K (up 13.9% since last year)

Mountain View is where the giants of the tech world, including Google, reside. It’s not just a corporate hub, but a city that has carefully evolved to cater to the needs of the innovators and thinkers who call it home. The real estate here caters to this audience, with modern, eco-friendly homes that often come with state-of-the-art amenities. On weekends, residents can be seen cycling down the Stevens Creek Trail or tasting food from around the world at the local farmers market. Thus, despite its techy image, Mountain View has a lot to offer in terms of both natural beauty and a high standard of living.

7. Newport Beach

Median Home Price: $3M

Median Price per Square Foot: $1,100

When you think of Newport Beach, the words “luxury” and “elegance” almost instinctively come to mind. Nestled in Orange County, this coastal paradise offers more than just stunning sea views. It offers a way of life that’s nothing short of opulent. The city is renowned for its sprawling estates that offer panoramic ocean views and boat docks, essentially encapsulating the quintessential California dream. With destinations like Fashion Island and Balboa Peninsula within reach, high-end shopping and dining are part of the everyday experience. Add a thriving yachting culture and a variety of upscale social events, and you have a city that epitomizes the luxurious California lifestyle.


6. San Francisco

california san francisco

Median Home Price: $3.25M

Median Price per Square Foot: $1,200

San Francisco isn’t just a city; it’s a global landmark, a melting pot of cultures, and a tech industry hub all rolled into one. The city’s iconic landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz are mere tips of the iceberg when it comes to what makes San Francisco expensive yet immensely sought-after. Home to cutting-edge tech companies and age-old traditions, the city offers a blend of the old and new, a fusion perfectly mirrored in its real estate market. You could opt for a Victorian mansion, a downtown penthouse, or an eco-friendly pad in one of the city’s upcoming neighborhoods. The gastronomic scene is another feather in San Francisco’s cap, offering everything from Michelin-starred eateries to hole-in-the-wall gems. The city is as diverse and creative as the people who call it home, and its real estate is an investment in a lifestyle as much as it is in property.


5. Manhattan Beach

Median Home Price: $3.3M

Median Price per Square Foot: $1,500

Manhattan Beach is the epitome of Southern California’s laid-back yet luxurious lifestyle. Located in the southwestern part of Los Angeles, this beachside paradise is a haven for those who enjoy the finer things in life but in flip-flops. Waterfront properties here are worth every penny for their unparalleled ocean views and proximity to the bustling downtown area filled with unique shops and high-end restaurants. However, Manhattan Beach is more than just beautiful homes and views; it’s an active community where surfing, volleyball, and biking along The Strand are integral parts of daily life. This city offers a resort-like living experience year-round, making every day feel like a vacation.

4. Palo Alto

Median Home Price: $3.5M

Median Price per Square Foot: $1,700

Palo Alto serves as an intellectual and technological mecca, being the home of Stanford University and tech behemoths like Google and Facebook. It’s not just a city; it’s an incubator of ideas and innovations, making it one of the most desirable and costly places to live in California. With its pristine streets, beautifully designed homes, and high concentration of tech luminaries, Palo Alto presents an environment where academia and industry seamlessly converge. Quality of life here is exceptionally high, backed by unparalleled educational systems, a multitude of parks, and cutting-edge healthcare services. Simply put, if you’re looking to immerse yourself in a setting that’s as intellectually stimulating as it is luxurious, Palo Alto is the place to be.


3. Santa Monica

Median Home Price: $3.75M

Median Price per Square Foot: $1,500

Santa Monica offers a blend of beach life and city amenities, bringing together the best of both worlds. The city features the picturesque Santa Monica Pier and the expansive Pacific Ocean, providing a wide range of outdoor activities, from surfing to biking along the scenic pathways. The atmosphere is relaxed, yet it exudes an undeniable sense of class and luxury. For those interested in the arts, the city boasts an array of galleries, theaters, and live music venues. Santa Monica represents the epitome of a balanced lifestyle, where work, play, and relaxation coexist harmoniously.

2. Beverly Hills

Median Home Price: $3.75M

Median Price per Square Foot: $1,300

Synonymous with unadulterated luxury and glamour, Beverly Hills is the city of stars, literally and metaphorically. From the iconic Rodeo Drive, with its lineup of high-end designer boutiques, to the posh estates that serve as homes to Hollywood’s A-list, opulence is the city’s middle name. Living here doesn’t just mean owning a luxurious piece of real estate; it’s about being part of an exclusive community, a lifestyle characterized by grandeur. Beverly Hills offers a smorgasbord of fine dining establishments, elite social clubs, and prestigious private schools, all of which contribute to its position as one of California’s most expensive and enviable places to live.


1. Los Altos

Los Altos

Median Home Price: $4.5M

Median Price per Square Foot: $1,800

Sitting at the pinnacle of California’s most expensive cities is Los Altos. Nestled in the heart of Silicon Valley, it’s not just a city but a symbol of affluence, success, and unparalleled luxury. The sprawling estates and meticulously designed homes are the residences of Silicon Valley’s most successful and influential individuals. Yet, despite its bustling tech community, Los Altos offers a tranquil lifestyle. It’s a city where elite minds come to find peace, often away from the limelight. With tree-lined streets, top-tier schools, and a host of community-centric events, Los Altos offers not just a home but an elite way of life, veiled in tranquility and luxury.

Conclusion

In a nutshell, these California cities are synonymous with luxury, technology, and culture. Whether it’s the tech-driven opulence of Palo Alto and Mountain View, the celebrity glam of Beverly Hills, the academic atmosphere of Berkeley, or the breathtaking coastal views in Santa Monica and Newport Beach, each area offers a unique set of compelling features. These factors, combined with high demand and limited supply, drive up the real estate prices and contribute to their premium status. Moreover, lifestyle costs—such as dining, shopping, and entertainment—are also proportionately elevated, reinforcing the exclusivity of these cities.

Given the current trends, it’s hard to see a future where these areas become any less expensive. Instead, all indicators point to continued price appreciation. With the ever-expanding tech industry, rising demand for luxury amenities, and a persistent appeal to high-net-worth individuals, it’s probable that these cities will remain the most expensive not only in California but in the entire United States. However, the rate of increase may vary depending on economic conditions, legislation, and the evolution of remote work, which could redistribute demand to some extent. Buyers and investors should keep a vigilant eye on market trends and be prepared for a long-term commitment.

Sources

  1. Santa Clara Housing Market: House Prices & Trends
  2. U.S. Census Bureau’s Housing Affordability Data

FAQs

What is the most expensive county in California?

Based on a myriad of factors, including home prices and cost of living, Marin County often stands out as the most expensive county in California. It’s located just north of San Francisco and is home to some of the wealthiest communities in the state. The blend of scenic beauty, high-end amenities, and proximity to major business hubs make it a highly desirable, albeit expensive, place to live.

Is LA the most expensive city?

While Los Angeles is certainly expensive, especially in neighborhoods like Bel-Air, Beverly Hills, and Hollywood Hills, it doesn’t top the list of the most expensive cities in California. Places like Los Altos, Beverly Hills, and Palo Alto generally have higher median home prices and costs of living. However, LA does offer a wide range of lifestyle options that can vary significantly in cost.

Is North or South California more expensive?

Northern California, especially around the San Francisco Bay Area, tends to have a higher cost of living due in part to the concentration of tech companies and higher-wage jobs. Southern California is also expensive, particularly in the Los Angeles and San Diego areas, but it generally offers a broader range of affordability options. Overall, Northern California is often cited as being more expensive on average.

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