However, the idea of retiring in a cozy cottage or condo near the California coast is not impossible. There are small towns, especially along the central California coast, where people are still able to find homes for under $500,000 ... and sometimes much less. These are not ocean front homes, of course, but they are homes within ten or fifteen miles of the coast, where they are still in a temperate climate just a short drive to where residents can enjoy a variety of beach activities.
As in most states, the majority of California residents are clustered around the major urban areas of San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego. Homes within commuting distances of those cities are often quite expensive, especially the properties near the beach. Other particularly expensive areas in the state include the Silicon Valley between San Francisco and San Jose, the Napa Valley, Santa Barbara and Montecito, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Monterey and most of the coastal regions of Orange County.
That leaves hundreds of miles of California coast that is dotted with small towns. Many of them are too far away from any metropolitan area to make it possible to commute to jobs. As a result, it is possible to find relatively affordable homes in a variety of locations.
California Towns Worth Exploring
If you are considering retiring in California and you think you might enjoy living in a small city or town, especially along the central coast, below is a list of towns worth exploring that are either on the coast or within ten miles of it. You may want to contact the Chamber of Commerce or a Realtor in these towns and learn more about what they have to offer. Ask the Realtors to expand your search to other communities in their area that they think might fit into your budget. Several of the towns listed below have even more affordable retirement areas nearby. Here are the towns you may want to consider, starting in the south and moving north:
Laguna Woods Village
San Luis Obispo
Range of California Weather
If you have not spent much time in California, you may not be aware that the weather varies dramatically between the Southern and Northern part of the state. Southern California tends to get very little rain. Typical summer highs are in the 80's and 90's; winter highs are usually in the 60's and 70's. Northern California weather is colder, foggier and wetter, although it rare for weather along the coast to tip below freezing (but it does happen occasionally). Precipitation ranges from an average of only 13 inches of rain annually in Oceanside to as much as an average of 38 inches of rain in Eureka. Along the central coast, where you will find many of these small towns, high temperatures in both the summer and winter are usually in the 60's or 70's, although they can go higher or lower.
While the weather along the central and northern coast of California may not appeal to those who hope to spend time swimming in the ocean water, it is perfect for those who enjoy other outdoor activities such as golf, bicycling, gardening, tennis or hiking. Be prepared for breathtaking views around every corner!
Medical Facilities Serving the California Coast
Most of the cities on the above list have access to medical facilities within 30 miles. For example, the town of Cambria is about 30 minutes away from a hospital in Templeton; Grover Beach contains its own hospital and is also located a short distance from San Luis Obispo with additional medical facilities; Avila Beach, Pismo Beach, and Shell Beach are also near San Luis Obispo; Pacific Grove is near medical facilities in both the Monterey Peninsula and the Salinas Valley. Eureka contains its own hospitals. The other towns on the list are also close enough to well-populated areas (like San Diego or San Luis Obispo) that there are a variety of medical facilities available.
Common Community Amenities
All of the communities on the above list have a variety of amenities to offer retirees. Specifics vary from location to location. However, in general, within a short drive you should expect to find the services and programs that are listed below. Contact the local Chambers of Commerce and senior centers in the towns that interest you for more specific information:
Wide variety of places to worship
Festivals, parades and local celebrations
Colleges with classes/programs oriented towards senior citizens
Wineries and vineyards
Places to go boating, paddle boarding or kayaking
Bridge groups and similar clubs and activities
Airports (in all the major cities, plus San Luis Obispo and on the Monterey Peninusula)
Types of Housing Available along the California Coast
There is a wide variety of housing choices available in these communities, ranging from charming old cottages, manufactured homes, condos, and new home developments such as Shea Homes' Trilogy at Monarch Dunes in the town of Nipomo, with new houses starting at about $400,000. There are also manufactured home parks in some of the above towns, some specifically designated as over-55 senior communities, with prices that are in the $200,000 to $300,000 range. In addition, you will have to pay a space rental fee, which can vary dramatically throughout the state.
The community of Laguna Woods Village, located half-way between San Diego and Los Angeles in Southern California, has condos and co-ops available with prices starting as low as $150,000. The town also contains a large selection of two-bedroom condos in the $300,000 to $400,000 price range. It is located just five miles from Laguna Beach. Like most over-55, age-restricted communities, you should expect to pay homeowner's dues. In Laguna Woods, you must also meet reasonable income and asset requirements. However, it is one of the most affordable places to live in Orange County, California.
Rental Houses and Apartments on the California Coast
All of the communities listed above have apartment complexes and rental homes available, often with prices in the $1250 to $2000 a month price range. Low income seniors may also qualify for Section 8 rent subsidies, so don't hesitate to apply.
Whatever housing prices and amenities you desire, the California coast has a variety of possibilities that may work for you. You may even want to take a road trip along the California coast and explore the possibilities. Talk to Realtors, look at the various towns and have a great vacation at the same time!
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