Point of Interest
If you’re looking to relocate to the west coast, it’s important to know that while mortgage rates in California are slightly below the national average, the higher property costs in certain areas need to be looked at closely before buying.
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While California is a beautiful state, many areas within the state are very expensive to buy a home or live in — which is especially true in the coastal areas. Plus, the cost of living in California is high, homeowner’s insurance is high and the home prices in some areas are astronomical. With that said, the current mortgage and refinance rates in California are slightly below the national average. Considering that buying a home in California can amount to a massive expense, the low current interest rates will help you save money on your mortgage expenses — even if they can’t make the price tag of the home more affordable.
Getting a mortgage in California
When it comes to buying a house in California, what you pay will depend heavily on where you buy. The costs of living and buying a home can vary wildly from one city to the next, much like it can in New York state. There are several factors you can weigh, though, to get a better picture of the overall costs of living in California.
Two of those factors are the median home price and median monthly ownership costs for homes in California, which are significantly higher than the national average across the board. The state also has the 11th highest average cost of homeowner’s insurance, and when it comes to the cost of living, the state ranks as the 2nd most expensive, only after Hawaii.
All of these factors should be weighed together to get an accurate picture of the costs and benefits — as well as the potential downsides — of buying in California.
- Median home price: $475,900
- Average 30-year fixed rate: 3.6%
- Median monthly ownership cost: $2,282
- Homeownership rate: 54.6%
*Rates and data as of May 5, 2020. Assuming 3.72% APR national average on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage.
California state mortgage rate trends
Mortgage rates in California have followed roughly the same trend as the rest of the nation over the last two years. Rates were constant through mid-2018 and then spiked upward at the end of 2018 and the start of 2019. Following the spike, the rates began a slow descent, eventually landing at the lower rates, where they currently sit.
All fixed-rate loan products followed the same trend upward and then downward trend as the 30-year fixed-rate loans. In May 2018, interest rates for 30-year fixed-rate loans were at about 4.25%, and those rates are just above the 3.5% mark currently. Rates have been fairly constant over the last year, whereas many other states in the country have seen sustained drops.
California state current mortgage rates
The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage loan in California currently has an interest rate of about 3.6%. The interest rates for 20-year loans are slightly lower, averaging about 3.5%. Interest rates for both of these loan types have been holding steady recently, but the interest rates for 15-year fixed-rate loans have dropped dramatically over the past few months and now average about 2.85%.
The most significant recent rate drop was on adjustable-rate mortgages. The average interest rates for 7/1 or 5/1 ARM loans are about 3.0% currently, or just under that. Those rates were much higher just a few months ago. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that all of these rates assume a 20% down payment and a credit score of 740 or higher. Your exact rate will vary by lender, the type and size of the loan, and your creditworthiness.
Most and least expensive places to live in California
Least expensive places to live in California
- Twentynine Palms, CA — Twentynine Palms, which is one of the training grounds for the U.S. Marines, is also one of the least expensive places to live in California, even if Uncle Sam isn’t paying for it. The median value of a home in the area is only $132,200. The monthly costs of homeownership in Twentynine Palms is only $1,154 — which is over $400 below the national average.
- El Centro, CA — The median monthly cost of owning a home in El Centro is right on par with the national average, but it’s well below the rest of California. The median cost of a home in El Centro is $182,300.
- Barstow, CA — Barstow, which is halfway between Los Angeles and Vegas, is a small California town with an affordable cost of living. The median value of a home in Barstow is only $107,100 and the median monthly cost of ownership is $1,116. The median gross rent in the city is $740 monthly.
- California City, CA — At 10% below the national average, the cost of living in California City is much lower than the rest of California. Housing costs in the city are 56% below the national average and the median rent is $475.98. Buying a home in California City is also affordable, with the median home price at $151,946.
- Calexico, CA — Living in Calexico is slightly more expensive than the other cities on this list, but is still well below the cost of living in the rest of the state. The median price of a home in Calexico is $196,500. The median rent in the area is still affordable at $906.
Most expensive places to live in California
- Los Altos, CA — The cost of living in Los Altos comes in 197% higher than the national average. Housing is an eye-popping 694% above the national average. The median home price in the city is $2,756,569 and the median rent is $8,635 monthly.
- Stanford, CA — Living in Stanford is extremely pricey for the average person, especially when it comes to housing. Housing in Stanford is 517% above the national average, which equates to a median home price of $2,140,883 and a median rent of $6,706.
- Palo Alto, CA — Palo Alto, which is home to many tech firms, is not a cheap place to live. The cost of groceries in Palo Alto is 48% higher than the national average. Expect to pay almost $5 for a loaf of bread. The median home price in the city is $438,753 and the median rent in the city is $1,374 monthly.
- Los Angeles, CA — The home of Hollywood and the film industry is also home to some of the most expensive living costs in California. Housing costs in LA are 127% above the national average and transportation costs are 31% higher. The median home price in the city is $788,384 and the median rent in the city is $2,470 per month.
- Atherton, CA — Housing, grocery and transportation costs in Atherton are all much higher than the national average. Housing is 55% higher than the national average, with a median home price of $537,872 and a median rent of $1,685.
California state mortgage resources and intricacies
Homebuyers looking to move west or purchase a home in the state of California have several resources they can consult during the process. For starters, check out the HUD website for the state or the California Housing Finance Agency (CHFA) website. If you have specific questions about the nuances of applying for a mortgage, refinancing or buying a home in California, a mortgage banker or realtor licensed to work in the state can be a great asset.
You’ll also want to look at tax rates when deciding whether to buy in the state. While the exact rate you’ll pay varies by the county and city you choose to buy in, the effective tax rate for the entire state was 0.74%.
The final word
If you’re considering a purchase in the Golden State, you may have some incredibly beautiful home options to choose from. When you look at the overall picture, though, you may be paying a pretty penny for housing and other living costs in some of those areas. Still, with mortgage rates slightly below the national average, it may be a good opportunity to buy in California if you’re thinking about heading out west.