This is part two B of a three 1/2 part series on Moving to a New City. I’ve narrowed down my search to four cities in California I’d like to research further before visiting them individually. I realized that before I could actually visit each city, I needed to compare prices for renting vs. buying property in each city.

A recap of the cities I intend to visit over the next few months:

  • Roseville, CA – closest metro is Sacramento.
  • Concord, CA – closest metro is San Francisco
  • Ventura, CA – closest metro is Los Angeles
  • Atascadero, CA -closest metro is San Luis Obispo (but I wouldn’t consider this an actual metro – this city is most remote in comparison to the others.)

Since Ventura and Atascadero are within driving distance of where I currently live, these two cities are first on my agenda. Using to compare rental prices with home sales, I notice that it might be better to purchase a house rather than rent. Below is my analysis:

Ventura, CA:

Prices in Ventura have decreased quite a bit compared to home prices a few years ago, yet homes still hover around $350K -$450K. I’ve actually visited Ventura before and really like the ‘old’ downtown area. Unfortunately, rentals are few and far between in the downtown area and home prices are out of my price range ($650K and up). However, a few short miles southeast, not far from the shore, I found an adorable rental home and a quaint house for sale:

Ventura, CA Rent or Buy
Ventura, CA Rent or Buy

According to Michael Bluejay’s calculator, buying a house for $415,000 compared to renting for $1,950 would be profitable in year 7 of home ownership. However, my monthly mortgage payments would be approximately $3,000 per month with a 10% down payment. That’s $1,050 more per month in mortgage than in rent! Could I even make that much of a monthly payment? I don’t know – it would be a stretch. Guess I need to stick to homes in the mid-$300’s! Fixer-upper here I come.

Atascadero, CA:

Atascadero is about a 3-hour drive north of where I currently live. I’ve never visited this area before, so using to hunt down appropriate properties was a little tricky, especially since house prices range from high $100K to $900K – that’s a huge difference in prices. There are also few rentals listed on Zillow in this area, making it more difficult to compare. Atascadero appears quite mountainous, which would make biking around challenging – a potential drawback to this city.

Atascadero, CA  - rent or buy
Atascadero, CA - rent or buy

I found two properties within a couple of miles from each other -one for rent and the other for purchase. According to my calculations, buying would be more profitable after year 5. There are a few homes under $300,000, but until I visit the city myself, I have no idea why there is such a huge price range between homes. I might need to look a little bit north in the town of Paso Robles, CA. It’s about 10 miles north and has less expensive properties. I also found some really quaint photos of their historic downtown area that piqued my interest. The area also seemed a bit less hilly, meaning it’s better for bicycling.

Within the next few weeks, my plan is to physically visit these two/three cities; bike around, check out properties, get the ‘feel’ of each city. Stay tuned….


  1. retirebyforty Reply

    Paso Robles is getting into central CA, that’s probably why it’s a bit cheaper. It’s pretty far away from LA and it’s all farm land around there right?
    I lived in Newbury Park for a few years and it was a nice small town. I don’t know what the home price looks like now though. It’s right before the Camarillo pass(forgot what it’s called.)

    • @Retirebyforty – It’s just northeast of San Luis Obispo, so it’s a little more central. However, I’m not sure how much farm land there is around there. I’m interested in checking it out, though! As for Newberry Park, I know where it is, but the prices are a bit absurd. I think I’d like to move a bit more north. 😉

  2. Jeff @ Sustainable life blog Reply

    Sounds like there are some good options for you in those areas. I like that you can pick an area and be large to many metro areas. Enjoy your discovery time in those cities!

    • @Jeff – I purposely made a point to choose cities not too far from larger metros. I don’t think I could live in the middle of nowhere since I’ve lived in a pretty large suburb my entire life. 😉 I’ll definitely be posting a followup!

  3. Paula @ Reply

    Regarding Ventura, CA: it’s best not to take on payments bigger than you can afford. I bought a fixer-upper — we can afford the payments and the house has the potential to be super-cute; plus its in an area where it makes more sense to buy than rent.

  4. Barb Friedberg Reply

    Very smart analysis. Renovating can be very profitable. Ikea has gret kits & baths. ood luck.

  5. @Paula @
    I definitely don’t want to buy a property I can’t afford. I did notice on Zillow that there are some affordable options in Ventura, and they are most likely fixer-uppers. But I guess that is fine as long as I intend to live it in for a long, long time!

  6. I am really enjoying this series. It is great that you are being so proactive and giving yourself plenty of time for analysis. Plus, I love how you know what your priorities are.

    I think that, based on your approach, you are going to be happy with whatever you decide because it will be a well-informed decision.

  7. Oh, I know I voted for Ventura in the last post, but I’ve been to Paso Robles too and I really enjoyed it. Good luck on your visiting tours.

    • @Lindy Mint – I’ve seem some really cute pictures of down town Paso Robles and it looks so historic! I’m a total sucker for renovated old-town cities. I just need to now go visit these two cities and report my findings!

  8. I’ve only bought 2 homes, but they were both major fixer uppers. It took 10 years but my home is really nice now. I don’t think I’d be in the same position if I spent an extra $50 or $100K 10 years ago. I definitely was paranoid about making payments and affordability was key. I could fix a place up as I earned extra money but if things got crazy I still wanted a payment that was close to what I was paying in rent. It worked out.

  9. As a graduate of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, I am a big fan of the Central Coast! However, you don’t get a lot of bang for the buck there as it is very expensive. Best wishes in your home hunt, Jen.

    All the best,

    Len Penzo dot Com

    • @Len – Thanks, Len! I love San Luis Obispo, but know I can’t afford it. Which is why I’m shooting for Paso Robles or Atascadero. I’ll be posting updates on these cities soon!

  10. The Saved Quarter Reply

    Is there something in Concord that would bring you to that city over another in the area? I am in the SF Bay Area, on the pricier Peninsula – you’ll find more affordable options in the East Bay for sure. Just wondering if there is a reason you picked Concord over something else, like Fremont or Danville, etc.

    • @The Saved Quarter – I noticed that there were a few teaching jobs in the Concord area which led me to research that city a little more. I’m not necessarily stuck looking at only Concord once I make it up there, but I did like that listed them as really affordable. Since you live in the bay area, is Concord a nice city? Is there some reason it is so inexpensive compared to the rest of the area?

  11. Whichever gives you better quality in life, go for it. Nobody lives forever. Renting can be as good as buying and vice versa. If you can afford one or the other, go for it. It’s like the old adage. If you come across a fork, take it.

    • @Doable Finance – You’re definitely right; it’s really more about the quality of life in this case. Especially if there are some benefits to continue renting. Though someday I’d like to purchase a home, I’m just fine with renting for now!

    • @101 Centavos – Thanks for letting me know that! I’m okay with warmer weather in the summer, it can push 100 a few days each summer where I live and I’m okay with that – as long as I have a/c!

  12. I grew up in Arroyo Grande (directly south of SLO and part of the area known as “The Five Cities” or “The 5”), and would highly recommend that area over Atascadero and Paso Robles. But then again I’m very biased.
    Anything north of the Cuesta Grade has much higher temperatures during the summer – Paso is regularly in the triple digits in July & August. Plus every summer weekend you get to deal with the traffic caused by hundreds of RVs taking Hwy 46 from Bakersfield and Fresno to Pismo Beach.
    However, the 5 is cheaper than SLO, but not as cheap as Atascadero/Paso. The one town south of SLO with comparable prices is Nipomo, but it’s farther away.
    A word of warning though – stay away from the Lucia Mar Unified School District. For the past decade the school board has had a record of cutting programs, trying to cut teacher pay, and using mass layoffs as a bargaining tactic. Try San Luis Coastal, or head south to Santa Maria Bonita (I’m not familiar with the districts in the Atascadero/Paso areas, so I’m not much help there).

    • @Kathryn – Thanks so much for all of this information. I’m hoping to head up to SLO in the next few weeks so I’ll definitely check out Arroyo Grande. Thanks again, this was very helpful. 😉

  13. I really like your method of evaluating locations. It helps you to really think about whats important rather than going just on impulse and finding out you made the wrong choice.

    • @Rohan – Couldn’t agree more. I now just need to visit a couple of these cities a few more times and really narrow down my search. Then find a job there! 😉

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