Could You Afford a Vacation Home in California? Check Out the Prices in These 4 Cities

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For many travelers, California is a dream destination. The state is blessed with almost anything a visitor could want, from beaches and ski resorts to deserts, casinos, museums, redwood forests and more. With so many desirable locations, California is an optimal state in which to buy a vacation home.

One caveat is that mortgage rates and home prices are much higher than just a few years ago, in the heart of the pandemic. To help offset these higher costs, vacation homes in premier rental locations can be a better option, so you have the option of generating additional revenue when you’re not on vacation yourself.

With all of these factors in mind, here’s a look at sample vacation home prices in four California cities, using values from real estate marketplace Zillow.

Mammoth Lakes

2023 Average Home Value: $767,825

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Mammoth Lakes is small town in the Eastern Sierra that’s a year-round mecca for holiday-makers. In addition to boasting a world-class ski resort that’s the home training ground for many Olympians, Mammoth Lakes is also a premier summertime destination as well.

From boating and fishing to hiking and biking, the town offers recreational activities for all ages and abilities. The sound of summer concerts fills the air nearly every weekend from June through September until the chill returns, when residents and visitors alike dust off their skis, snowshoes and snowboards and get ready for the thrill of fresh powder.

Considering you’re getting the magical blend of an elite resort area that still maintains its small-town charm, the price you’ll pay for the average home in Mammoth Lakes still remains affordable, at less than $40,000 above Zillow’s average home price for the entire state.

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Palm Springs

2023 Average Home Value: $661,149

The very name “Palm Springs” brings back memories of a lost age, when entertainers like Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra graced the area. But Palm Springs remains a premier desert destination, filled with golf courses, spa resorts and swanky hotels, not to mention its distinctive mid century-modern architecture.

Iconic features like the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway give the area something special that most desert communities lack, while the surrounding area offers great opportunities for biking, horseback riding and hiking. The Joshua Tree National Park is conveniently nearby, while the city proper boasts impressive art and air museums, along with the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. At night, the warm air makes for a comfortable stroll under the stars after dining at one of the city’s great restaurants.

All this can be available to you at a price that’s actually below Zillow’s average home value for California as a whole.

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2023 Average Home Price: $707,714

It can be hard to find a better location for a vacation home than a city that offers warm summer days, mild winters, hot-air ballooning, championship golfing and world-class wineries. And while these features also apply to a very famous city in Northern California — Napa — you’ll have to cough up a pretty penny to afford a vacation home up there.

Temecula, on the other hand, offers all of these desirable attributes at a fraction of the cost — below even the cost of an average home in California, according to Zillow. In spite of its high-end trappings, Temecula still carries its old-town vibe, with historic buildings, antiques dealers, a regular farmer’s market and an ongoing community theater. Hiking, boating and fishing opportunities abound, while modern shopping districts offer retail therapy for those in need.


2023 Average Home Price: $3,377,908

If price is no object, why not get a vacation home in one of the most exclusive beach communities in the country? World-famous Malibu, stretching for 27 glorious oceanside miles, is almost as famous for its celebrity residents as for its endless, breathtaking ocean views. In between the desirable enclaves are a host of nooks, coves, and full-blown beaches with beautiful golden sand, including world-famous Zuma Beach. Beyond the oceanside, however, Malibu beckons with ample hiking and biking trails and cultural opportunities, including the world-class Getty Villa.

A short drive down the legendary Pacific Coast Highway will bring you to Santa Monica and the rest of the greater Los Angeles area, while heading in the opposite direction will soon land you in the Mediterranean charm of Santa Barbara. Of course, you’ll have to pay a pretty penny for this idyllic lifestyle — roughly 3.6 times the cost of the average California home and nearly 9x the national average home price.

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