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10 Best Livable Cities in California

By Laura Agadoni · Nov 25, 2015 · Real Estate Data

10 Best Livable Cities in California

Image courtesy of Flickr, Ian D. Keating

Deciding where to live in California can be a tough choice. This article lists the 10 best livable cities in California based on amenities, crime rate, schools, employment, and commute time.

If you live in California and plan to buy a home here, or if your job is relocating you to The Golden State, there are plenty of wonderful cities to settle down in. You just need to know which ones they are.

But first lets mention the elephant in the room: California can be an expensive place to live. Kiplinger ranks San Francisco the third most expensive city in America, San Jose the fourth, Oakland the eighth, Los Angeles the ninth, and San Diego the tenth. Considering this, property taxes are always something home buyers should factor into their decision making. While you can still find affordable beach towns in Florida, Mississippi, and New Jersey, you won't find any comparable deals along the beautiful Southern California coastline, where you will find some of the most expensive real estate in the country.

But California is a big state that offers plenty of livable cities. We've put together a list of ten California cities with a population of over 10,000 that are good picks for individuals and families to set down roots based on amenities, crime rate, schools, employment, and commute time. And it goes without saying that if you're in California, you'll have good weather.

1. Irvine

City of Irvine

Irvine , located in Orange County, is a great place to live. There is much to do in Irvine with the Orange County Great Park, the Irvine Spectrum, and the Diamond Jamboree all located here. Irvine is also home to the University of California, Irvine (UCI). The following are some of Irvine's highlights:

  • Cost of Living: 22% higher than the state average
  • Crime Rate: 52% lower than the state average
  • High School Graduation Rate: 96%
  • Unemployment Rate: 4.5%
  • Average Commute Time: 23 minutes (14% lower than the state average)
  • Median Housing Price: $646,500

2. San Carlos

City of San Carlos

San Carlos , located in San Mateo County, is a desirable city because of its overall quality of life. It's known as the "City of Good Living" and maintains a quaint downtown area. It's an expensive place to live, but the median household income of $120,112 is 95 percent higher than the rest of the state, which helps cover the high prices. The following are some of San Carlos' highlights:

  • Cost of Living: 48% higher than the state average
  • Crime Rate: 33% lower than the state average
  • High School Graduation Rate: 96%
  • Unemployment Rate: 5.0%
  • Average Commute Time: 26 minutes (5% lower than the state average)
  • Median Housing Price: $927,900

3. Cypress

City of Cypress

Cypress , located in north Orange County, has plenty of amenities, including the Los Alamitos Race Track. The following are some of Cypress' highlights:

  • Cost of Living: 9% higher than the state average
  • Crime Rate: 34% lower than the state average
  • High School Graduation Rate: 91%
  • Unemployment Rate: 4.2%
  • Average Commute Time: 28 minutes (5% higher than the state average)
  • Median Housing Price: $512,100

4. Coronado

City of Coronado

Coronado , a beach community located in San Diego County, feels as if you're on an island. Yes, it's expensive, but we did just say "beach community" and "San Diego." Residents there surf, swim, sail, bike, and play golf and tennis. And there are plenty of unique local businesses to frequent. The following are some of Coronado's highlights:

  • Cost of Living: 82% higher than the state average
  • Crime Rate: 20% lower than the state average
  • High School Graduation Rate: 97%
  • Unemployment Rate: 2.5%
  • Average Commute Time: 21 minutes (23% lower than the state average)
  • Median Housing Price: $1,336,900

5. Yorba Linda

City of Yorba Linda

Yorba Linda , located in north Orange County, is a good, all-around town making it half way down our top ten list. The following are some of Yorba Linda's highlights:

  • Cost of Living: 27% higher than the state average
  • Crime Rate: 64% lower than the state average
  • High School Graduation Rate: 94%
  • Unemployment Rate: 4.6%
  • Average Commute Time: 31 minutes (15% higher than the state average)
  • Median Housing Price: $696,500

6. La Palma

City of La Palma

La Palma , located in north Orange County, is known for the many seasonal events it holds. Once called "Dairyland," La Palma no longer is agricultural and is now residential, commercial, and industrial. The following are some of La Palma's highlights:

  • Cost of Living: 14% higher than the state average
  • Crime Rate: 31% lower than the state average
  • High School Graduation Rate: 92%
  • Unemployment Rate: 3.7%
  • Average Commute Time: 31 minutes (15% higher than the state average)
  • Median Housing Price: $575,100

7. Folsom

City of Folsom

Folsom , located in Sacramento County, is probably most famous for Folsom Prison, the same prison Johnny Cash sang about in "Folsom Prison Blues," but that's not the reason this city made our list. Folsom is the home of Intel's research and development offices, and historic Folsom is a destination place that has live theater, art galleries, a history museum, and a pioneer village. The following are some of Folsom's highlights:

  • Cost of Living: Lowest on our list. Considered average for the state.
  • Crime Rate: 36% lower than the state average
  • High School Graduation Rate: 89%
  • Unemployment Rate: 5.2%
  • Average Commute Time: 25 minutes (6% lower than the state average)
  • Median Housing Price: Lowest on our list at $398,200

8. Lake Forest

City of Lake Forest

Lake Forest , located in Orange County, is near Irvine and is similar to that city, but it's less expensive to live there. The following are some of Lake Forest's highlights:

  • Cost of Living: 10% higher than the state average
  • Crime Rate: 62% lower than the state average
  • High School Graduation Rate: 91%
  • Unemployment Rate: 4.7%
  • Average Commute Time: 26 minutes (5% lower than the state average)
  • Median Housing Price: $505,600

9. Walnut Creek

City of Walnut Creek

Walnut Creek , located in Contra Costa County, is about 25 miles northwest of San Francisco, but it's more affordable than the City by the Bay. The following are some of Walnut Creek's highlights:

  • Cost of Living: 19% higher than the state average
  • Crime Rate: 10% higher than the state average (primarily due to theft)
  • High School Graduation Rate: 96%
  • Unemployment Rate: 4.2%
  • Average Commute Time: 31 minutes (13% higher than the state average)
  • Median Housing Price: $587,200

10. Orange

City of Orange

Orange , located in Orange County, rounds out our list of one of the top cities in California in which to live. Its historic Old Towne is famous for outdoor dining and antique shops, making this city the "antique capital of Southern California." The following are some of Orange's highlights:

  • Cost of Living: 10% higher than the state average
  • Crime Rate: 40% lower than the state average
  • High School Graduation Rate: 81%
  • Unemployment Rate: 6.0%
  • Average Commute Time: 25 minutes (6% lower than the state average)
  • Median Housing Price: $527,700

Real Estate Commission: Explained, Revealed and Compared
By Arvin Sahakian · Aug 17, 2015 · Real Estate Data

Real estate agents receive commissions from home buyers and sellers, collectively earning over $50 Billion per year. Learn how commission amounts are set, who pays them, and how they work in this article. Read more.

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California Property Tax: Complete List by County 2014-2015
By Tim Nguyen · Nov 26, 2014 · Real Estate Data

List of secured property tax rates for all counties of California fiscal year for 2014-2015. Read more.

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California Proposition 60 and 90: Your Complete Guide
By Tim Nguyen · Nov 28, 2014 · Real Estate Data

If you live in California and are over the age of 55 you can effectively reduce your property taxes when buying a new home. Read more.

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The Surge in Foreign Real Estate Investment in the United States
By Laura Agadoni · Feb 24, 2016 · Real Estate

Foreign real estate investment in the United States, both commercial and residential, is a huge phenomenon that is only expected to accelerate, maybe even to skyrocket, in 2016. Read more.

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What to Expect During the Home Loan Closing Process
By Arvin Sahakian · Feb 24, 2015 · Mortgage

You've heard the term used before, but what does loan closing mean? Find out all you need to know about the process. Read more.

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5 Illegal Borrowing Activities: Things That Are Illegal When You Try to Get a Home Loan
By Laura Agadoni · Jan 22, 2016 · Mortgage

Whenever there is money to be made or money to be spent, some unscrupulous folks will take advantage, trying to game the system or commit all-out fraud. Read more.

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16 Ways to Improve Your Debt-to-Income (DTI) Ratio
By Veronica Nguyen · Nov 29, 2014 · Mortgage

Your DTI is used by mortgage lenders to determine whether you qualify for a loan, and if so, for how much. Improve your DTI with these 16 tips. Read more.

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5 Tips on Getting a Mortgage Loan after Bankruptcy
By Veronica Nguyen · Apr 15, 2015 · Mortgage

A bankruptcy will make it very difficult to attain a home loan. These 5 tips will help you re-establish your credit quickly in order to qualify for a home loan. Read more.

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Houston vs. Dallas: Which One is Better to Live in?
By Amanda Curry · Oct 11, 2016 · Real Estate

Houston Vs. Dallas? If you are considering moving to either of these major metropolitan areas, we've created a resource to help you make the decision process a little easier. Read more.

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Are Mortgage Rates Affected by Presidential Elections?
By Amanda Curry · Jul 20, 2016 · Mortgage Rates

One way to determine if mortgage rates are affected by the Presidential election is see to if there is any correlation between their direction and elections. Read more.

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