The Ultimate San Diego Neighborhood Guide
Thinking about purchasing rental property in San Diego or renting out your current property? Here’s your guide to current San Diego rental rates!
Table of Contents
2) Torrey Pines
3) Golden Hill
5) North Park
6) Ocean Beach
7) El Cajon
8) Mira Mesa
11) Del Mar
Located in the southernmost part of California, San Diego is a large, bustling beach city, with a little bit of everything for everyone. With a population of approximately 3.2-million people, San Diego is home to a diverse community of people from all walks of life.
Bordered by the Pacific Ocean on the West, Mexico to the South, El Cajon to the East and San Clemente to the North—San Diego County is an expansive area. Known for its Mediterranean-like climate and sunny beaches, San Diego is a great place for those who enjoy sunny, temperate weather, long coastlines of gorgeous beaches and shred-ready waves—which also happens to make it a hot real estate market for investors looking to snatch up rental property!
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, San Diego, Calif. ranks No. 33 on “Sunniest Cities in U.S. and Puerto Rico List.” Ranked by annual percentage of average possible sunshine, San Diego is touted as having a 68 percent chance of average days of sun—which is about 248 days of awesome weather!
San Diego is the second largest city in California, both in population and square mileage. With such an expansive area to cover, it’s only natural for it to be segmented into small neighborhoods.
In 2008, it was voted unanimously by local city government that San Diego adopt the “City of Villages” concept to help expand growth and development. Because of this, San Diego has segmented into approximately 50 different neighborhoods with unique cultures to accommodate what is needed most for its residents. With such a unique personality and culture, this makes the San Diego rental market one of the most diverse markets in California.
1. Rental Markets in San Diego County
Overview of Rental Market
San Diego’s market rises or increases 6 percent (year-over-year) in median sales price and a 6 percent rise in median rent per month, according to Trulia.
In fact, median San Diego home prices have currently soared to $515,000 on average, as of February 2017, while home rental prices have hovered at $2,750/month. As you can see in the chart here, which covers the time range from 2015-2005 and includes condo and apartment rentals, too. Home rental prices are where the biggest increases occur, slightly skewing the data.
Overall, the cost has increased immensely over the last two years for home rentals especially. But overall continuous increases in San Diego rents in recent years have made the region one of the most expensive places to live in the nation. (Image courtesy of Department of Numbers)
How Does the San Diego Rental Market Compare to other California Counties?
San Diego County is the third most-expensive county for renters in the state. This is an excellent factor for folks like you who own an investment property, and especially lucrative for those thinking of purchasing one.
Below you’ll find an overview of how San Diego’s rent-to-income ratio compares to the rest of the California:
No.1: Santa Barbara County, a tenant’s rent will gobble up 48 percent of their monthly income.
No. 2: Santa Cruz County, is a close second with 41 percent of median income on rent.
No. 3: Renting in San Diego requires 35 percent of a tenant’s monthly income.
RENT, BY THE NUMBERS >>
A new report by London Group Realty Advisors, as reported on in 2016 by The San Diego Union-Tribune noted that, “San Diegans — as measured against a percentage of household income — paid more for rental housing than residents of San Francisco and even parts of Silicon Valley in the last few years.” Which shows that San Diego is a hot market for rental property owners because the demand is still so high due to low inventory.
The report went on to note that: “Renters in San Diego and Orange counties shelled out about 35 percent of their incomes, whereas San Franciscans paid 29 percent and Mountain View renters, in the heart of Silicon Valley, paid 27 percent.
Key Neighborhoods in San Diego:
2. Torrey Pines
Located close to La Jolla on the coast, northwest of San Diego proper, lies the beautiful seaside hamlet of Torrey Pines. With merely 3,000 residents, investment property-seekers and rental home owners in the area may find that this locale is perfect for single family AND multi-family home rentals. Prices for the average rental unit in the area is $2,309, and this includes studios, single family homes and condos.
FAST FACTS >>
- Location: North West San Diego, right on the coast
- Approximate Population: 3,000
- Rental Price Range: avg. price is $2,309
- Rental properties: Many apartment complexes and single family homes, some studio apartments
- Culture: Suburb coastal neighborhood, great retirement community good for biking and walking
- Key Landmarks: Torrey Pines Golf Course, UC San Diego, Torrey Pines Gliderport, Blacks Beach, Salk Institute, Birch Aquarium, Mount Soledad, Torrey Pines State Beach, The Spa at Torrey Pines
Landmark Spotlight:Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
Covering a beautiful swath of 2,000 acres of coastal state park off N Torrey Pines Road. Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve includes a unique array of native greenery and points of interest, such as maritime chaparral, the rare Torrey pine, miles of unspoiled beaches, and a lagoon that is vital to migrating seabirds. The entire Reserve includes 10 trails of varying difficulty with most not exceeding a mile or less in distance. Visit https://torreypine.org for more information and details on hours and rules.
>>Address: 12600 N Torrey Pines Rd, La Jolla, CA 92037
GOOD TO KNOW >>
Most upscale neighborhoods in San Diego, such as Torrey Pines, have a homeowners’ associations (HOA). This is especially true for condo buildings with a common area or pool area, which is typically maintained by a HOA Management Company.
Investopedia offers a more robust definition, “A homeowner's association (HOA) is an organization in a subdivision, planned community or condominium that makes and enforces rules for the properties within its jurisdiction. The purchase of the property automatically makes the homeowner a member of the HOA and dues are required.”
3. Golden Hill
Long ago, Golden Hill was known as “Indian Hill” due to the Native Americans whom resided there before the California land boom. In 1887, it was renamed by land developer, Daniel Schuyler, via a poem he wrote: “With the mountains’ proud peaks so lofty and still, ‘Tis a picture worth seeing, from Golden Hill.” The area is perfect for investment property owners and seekers alike as most residents are renters—more than 90 percent, in fact.
According the a recent exposé by The San Diego Union-Tribune:
“The area fell into decline in the 1950s when a change in zoning laws allowed for high-density, low-income rentals and homeowners moved to the suburbs. But many of the area’s stately Victorian, Colonial Revival and Craftsman homes have survived – built by such architects as William Hebbard, Irving Gill and Richard Requa – and the area is undergoing a renaissance, much like its neighbor, South Park, did a few years ago.”
FAST FACTS >>
- Location: 28 square block south of Balboa Park
- Approximate Population: Very densely populated area; 10,000
- Average Rental Price: $1,536
- Rental properties: Many apartment complexes/high rise apartments and single family homes, 90.5% of real estate is occupied by renters
- Culture: Since it’s very densely populated, it’s a very walking-oriented neighborhood close to Balboa Park, and home to several recording studios and music festivals.
- Key Landmarks: Close proximity to the heart of Downtown San Diego and a choice haunt for millennials due to its up-and-coming restaurant and bar selections
Point of Interest: The Villa Montezuma House
Take a peek at this magnificent Queen Anne Victorian mansion located at 1925 K Street via online tours only, or just walk on by, as they’re currently restoring it to its original beauty.
According to the museum’s website, the house is on the National Register of Historic Places, under the name, the Villa Montezuma, a.k.a. the Jesse Shepard House. It was built in 1887 by master architects Comstock and Trotsche.
The Villa Montezuma house museum is currently closed to the public with no prospective reopen date, but does offer archival information and photos, online tours, and historical information on its site at: http://www.villamontezuma.org.
4. Pacific Beach
If you’re considering renting your single-family home or residential property in Pacific Beach, or purchasing an investment property there, this eclectic beach area is what we like to call a “no-brainer.” The rental market in “PB,” (as it’s referred to by locals) is hot, and always has been.
Known for its high-density population of college students and beach-loving professionals, Pacific Beach’s rental community is vast and demanding. What’s interesting about the rental market is that it ebbs and flows with college enrollment and the time-of-year. As seen in the chart via Trulia.com below, the rental market seems to trend high in the beginning of the year and autumn--likely due to the college ebb and flow. Take note!
FAST FACT >>
Location: South of La Jolla, North of Mission Bay
Approximate Population: 47,000—densely populated
Average Rental Price: $3,300
Rental Properties: Many small apartment complexes, some medium-sized complexes (3-4 rooms) and single-family homes
Culture: Renters are most commonly college students and young professionals. Big nightlife scene in PB, plus laid back beach mentality as it is right on the coast
Key Landmarks: Pacific Beach, Garnet Ave. business district
The 2017 Pacific Beach Rental Market At-A-Glance (Courtesy of Trulia.com)
5. North Park
A whopping 79 percent of North Park residents rent, which makes it a prime spot for those seeking to rent out their home or invest in a local North Park rental property. Once a quiet, sleepy area of Uptown San Diego, it’s now a hub for the hipster and artistic communities. Interestingly, North Park gets its name for being North of Balboa Park, and since the real estate boom of the early-2000s, North Park is anything but sleepy nowadays. Its locale is perfect for those seeking to be close to downtown, freeways, jobs and, of course, bars, nightlife, the Zoo, new restaurants, and much more.
FAST FACTS >>
Location: North East of Balboa Park
Approximate Population: 80,000
Average Rental Price: $2,250
Rental Properties: Primarily made up of small- (studio to 2 bedrooms) -to-medium sized apartments, but also single family homes, with a good mix of owners and renters
Culture: Lots of restaurants, bars, and coffee shops in walking distance, many art studios and live music venues; voted as one of Forbes’ “America’s Best Hipster Neighborhoods”
Key Landmarks: North Park Sign, The Observatory in North Park (Music venue)
Things to Do: North Park’s “Ray at Night”
North Park has an eclectic vibe, which helped launch this monthly art-and-culture hoopla on Ray Street. The event was inspired by, according to ExploreNorthPark.com, “all the creative energy from local and nationally known artists.” The event is one of San Diego’s longest-running monthly art walks, and typically includes about 15 galleries, street performances and local food trucks and vendors in attendance. Ray at Night is held on the second Saturday of every month from 6-10 PM. Visit explorenorthpark.com for more information and details.
6. Ocean Beach
Ocean Beach packs a lot of punch into a very small slice of San Diego’s stunning coastline.
Nestled on 1.2 square-miles of land, Ocean Beach offers those looking to rent their property, or invest in one for renting out, a great income source. The median rent ranges from $1,300-1,700, while median income soars over the San Diego average: Ocean Beach residents rake in roughly $74K annually, while the San Diego median sits around $67K. This offers would-be landlords looking to invest in the area a great pocket of working professionals to tap into for renting purposes.(Image courtesy of City-Data.com)
Location: South of Mission Bay, North of Point Loma
Approximate Population: 10,000
Average Rental Price: $1,687
Rental Properties: Small studio bedrooms (1-2) to medium sized. Single family cottages and beach bungalows as well
Culture: Residents are mainly renter occupied; local economy dominated by small independent retail
Key Landmarks: OB Dog Beach, OB Antique District, OB Municipal Pier
DID YOU KNOW?
Ocean Beach is also an excellent area for real estate investors looking to obtain supplemental income on utilizing their properties as vacation rentals, too. Travelers recently voted Ocean Beach a top-tier travel destination and the area was afforded a 2015 Certificate of Excellence award from TripAdvisor.
According to OceanBeachSanDiego.com, “This achievement is a direct result of consistent great reviews from TripAdvisor travelers. OB invites you to visit and enjoy our beaches, pier and boardwalk, outdoor activities, nature and parks, sights and landmarks.”
7. El Cajon
According to Trulia, El Cajon market trends (for 2016) indicate an increase of $16,000 or 4 percent in median home sales over the past year, and this falls below the San Diego County average. The average price per square foot for this same period rose to $292, up 17 percent. This makes El Cajon one of the more affordable areas in San Diego County for those seeking to invest in real estate for renting purposes.
The median income, as of 2015, hovers roughly around $50K annually, making it an area that offers more working-class professionals and families seeking to rent at a lower rate than the county average. Median rent for all property types and sizes in El Cajon is roughly $2,400/month and this is due to the fact the market is more saturated with single-family homes where 2-4 bedroom rentals are the norm.
Overall, El Cajon is wise area to invest in for those looking to maximize on their property’s ability to create passive income. This is helpful when you factor in that, as of 2015, the average cost of a condo or home in San Diego is about $450K, while El Cajon is less at $388K.
FAST FACTS >>
Location: Eastern San Diego
Approximate Population: 100,000
Average Rental Price: $1,528 / month
Rental Properties: Mainly single family homes and apartment complexes; predominantly rental property
Culture: About 60 percent of population are renters, predominantly a suburban area with a lot of room to grow.
Key Landmarks: El Cajon Boardwalk, Fletcher Hills mountain range
EL CAJON REAL ESTATE INVESTMENT FACTS:
- The median home value in El Cajon is $473,600El Cajon home values have gone up 6.0% over the past year and Zillow predicts they will rise 2.5% within the next year
- The median list price per square foot in El Cajon is $283, which is lower than the San Diego Metro average of $347
- The median price of homes currently listed in El Cajon is $485,000
8. Mira Mesa
Mira Mesa boasts one of San Diego's largest communities, and is also incredibly diverse. Many flock to the area for the some of the best breweries in San Diego, located predominantly on Miramar Road, now nicknamed “Beeramar Road.”
It’s also is a wise area for real estate investors seeking a solid investment with a community of strong earners. The median income is roughly $95K, (San Diego median income is below, at $67K), while the median home closing price is around $508K, according to Realtor.com and City-Data.com.
(Image courtesy of City-Data.com) This makes the area affordable in terms of investing, especially when you compare it to areas such as La Jolla where the median close price is $1.2M. Big difference!
FAST FACTS >>
Location: East of Torrey Pines and Sorrento Valley
Approximate Population: 72,000
Average Rental Price: $2,550
Rental Properties: Mira Mesa is predominantly owned property (58%) rather than rented, though there are definitely opportunities for rental property
Culture: Very car-focused community, hiking areas and community events are regular in this area, great for families
Key Landmarks: Not a landmark, but the Miramar Air Show is an annual event that draws people to the area every year
9.Downtown San Diego (Center City)
Downtown San Diego is one of the most revitalized areas in all of the County, as it has undergone the biggest ‘face-lift’ of any of the locales listed in this guide. The development of the East Village-area surrounding Petco Park—and the addition of the baseball field in-and-of-itself—helped urge real estate boom, which spurned the building of the gorgeous new San Diego Library, as well as many new, mixed-residential high-rises.
Comprised of unique areas, such as Little Italy and Seaport Village, Downtown San Diego, or Center City as it’s oftentimes called, had higher rents than the county as a whole in 2016, according to the The San Diego Union-Tribune. “Of the 5,826 units downtown, the average rent was $2,059 a month. Vacancy was higher than any of the sub-regions at 6.3 percent,” notes Phillip Molnar of The San Diego Union-Tribune.
A recent study via UC San Diego Extension School’s Center for Research on the Regional Economy, noted:“Today, downtown San Diego is a diverse, vibrant community with roughly 35,000 residents, 80,000 employees who work downtown, 137,000 jobs connected to downtown businesses and millions of year-round visitors. Downtown is a regional employment center, a public transportation hotspot and the number one space for innovation firms and startup growth in the region. It’s an urban core that ignites the economic engine of greater San Diego.”
All this should make real estate investment-seekers eager to uncover the opportunity downtown has to offer, as it is indeed an area ripe with possibilities to not only have an excellent tenant pool to tap into, but an area that will grow, investment-wise, exponentially over time.
FAST FACTS >>
Location: East of the San Diego Bay, composed of 8 sub-areas within that (Gaslamp, Little Italy, East Village, Horton District, Seaport Village, Cortez Hill, Marina, Core District & Columbia)
Approximate Population: 35,000
Average Rental Price: $2,105
Rental Properties: Dominated by large sky-rise apartment complexes, mainly studios. 90% of population rents rather than owns
Culture: Since everything is close together, residents of Downtown tend to walk to work, opting for public transportation instead of using their car. With the Gaslamp quarter so close, it’s vivid with nightlife and restaurants
Key Landmarks: Petco Park, Seaport Village, San Diego Convention Center
DID YOU KNOW?
According to UC San Diego Extension School’s Center for Research on the Regional Economy, “Downtown San Diego is a renter’s community. Roughly three-fourths (76%) of downtown units are occupied by renters, compared to just 46 percent throughout the county. The large proportion of high-income renters in downtown indicates that the intense demand for homeownership in San Diego may continue.” That’s what we call a win:win!
Carlsbad is a highly desirable area of San Diego County. The market trends in Carlsbad show a 10 percent year-over-year rise in median sales price (which exceeds the county average of 6 percent) and a 7 percent rise in median rent per month, a great marker for those seeking to rent out their home, or invest in one as a rental property.
Best of all: We don’t foresee finding renters in this market as difficult, even though the median cost of rent, according to Trulia, averages about $3,275. This is mainly because Carlsbad is a beautiful seaside hamlet with clean beaches, great schools and many large companies in the vicinity. There are many excellent employers nearby, such as Cobra Puma Golf, Prana, ViaSat, Inc., Thermo Fisher Scientific; LEGOLAND California, Omni La Costa Resort & Spa, TaylorMade-Adidas, and The Gemological Institute of America—to name just a few!
FAST FACTS >>
Location: Northern San Diego
Approximate Population: 100,000
Average Rental Price: $3,275 per month average
Rental Properties: Predominantly mid-sized single family homes (2-3 rooms)
Culture: Seaside resort city, lots of coastal tourist attractions. Many golf manufacturing companies in the area
Key Landmarks: LEGOLAND, Carlsbad Village
DID YOU KNOW?
Carlsbad is a name that doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue easily, and the story of how it became to be called such is quite interesting. Apparently, according to CityTownInfo.com, the naming of Carlsbad is connected to the digging of water wells in the late 1800s. The well-diggers discovered that the “drinking water from those wells possessed chemical characteristics very similar to a very famous European spa located in Carlsbad, Czech Republic.” Super interesting! To cash in on the mineral water, a partnership named the Carlsbad Land and Mineral Water Company was founded.
Del Mar is one of the most expensive areas of San Diego County to purchase an investment property, boasting current median home sales at $1.65M! Now, that being said, median rental
prices hover between $5,000 to 7,000 monthly so it ‘all works out in the wash,’ as they say.
This is because desirable Del Mar is known for its quiet, clean beaches, safe neighborhoods and high-end restaurants and eateries and bustling nightlife. If you have the capital to spend, Del Mar will typically give back in high dollars and cents.
FAST FACTS >>
Location: North of Torrey Pines, South of Solana Beach
Approximate Population: 4,000
Average Rental Price: $5,500
Rental Properties: Predominantly owned property, (53%) as opposed to rented
Culture: Small community, only comprising of a little under 2 square miles
Key Landmarks: Del Mar Race Tracks (Del Mar Thoroughbred Club), Del Mar Fairgrounds
THINGS TO DO:
The Del Mar Fairgrounds offers San Diegans year-round fun, as it not only offers a horse-racing season schedule, but it has a myriad of events that occur there each year. Kaboo, a new music festival, is beginning to make waves, but there are also some local standbys that have graced the fairgrounds for many years, such as the San Diego County Fair, Del Mar National Horse Show; the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, and The Scream Zone during Halloween season.Visit http://www.delmar.ca.us/ for more information on fun things to do in beautiful Del Mar!
Oceanside is, like its namesake, indeed nestled on the ocean, approximately 35 miles north of downtown San Diego. Oceanside is also the third largest city in San Diego County, and together with Vista and Carlsbad, it’s often coined the Tri-City area. What’s also unique about the city is that it’s home to many military families as it lies just south of the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton which is the major West Coast base of the United States Marine Corps.
In terms of investing in real estate in Oceanside, it’s known for being a rather stable housing market. Median home sales for 2016 have hovered in the more affordable range of $475K, and median monthly rents are around $2,495, according to Trulia.com. Best of all, home appreciation is rising in Oceanside making it a great investment opportunity, as BestPlaces.net noted a 4.8% increase in appreciation over the last 12 months!
FAST FACTS >>
Location: South of Camp Pendleton, North of Carlsbad and West of Vista
Approximate Population: 160,000
Average Rental Price: $1,938-$2,495
Rental Properties: Majority owners (56%) mainly single family homes (2-3 bedrooms)
Culture: Mainly suburban with beach culture
Key Landmarks: Oceanside Pier, California Surf Museum, Thursday night Sunset Market
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