California Dreamin’ or Houston Living?

By Adam Frinsco of The Advocates

This last weekend I traveled to Santa Barbara, California to attend a Financial Planning conference. Prior to the start of the conference I had about 3 hours to kill, so I decided to make a loop of the area that included a jog on the beach, and a stroll through an oceanside neighborhood where I found a tasty bagel shop. It was a pleasant experience, but I was surprised by a few things I observed.


First, I completely forgot about California’s recent trouble with fires and mudslides until I noticed multiple homes with their patios hanging visibly over the edge of the cliff and parts of their foundation exposed! I couldn’t tell if the owners still lived there or if they needed to solve the issue at hand before moving back in, or selling what was left of the property.

Second, I noticed that the homes (at least in this neighborhood) weren’t that well-kept, and were in need of some improvements due to the 30-40 years of salty breeze and normal wear and tear. Based purely on the size of the homes along the shore and their current condition, I figured, maybe California real estate outside the major cities isn’t that expensive after all. Maybe in another life I’d be able to move out here and settle for a small 3 bedroom home right on the beach in a small town like Santa Barbara. Even if I had to fix up the place, it couldn’t be more than $900K to purchase, right? That’s doable.


Wow, was I off. When I returned to Houston I did a quick Zillow search of the area I was exploring in. One of the very houses I had seen partially hanging off the cliff was estimated at $2.1MM! Of course that number might need updated based on recent events, but I still couldn’t believe that someone would actually want to pay that much money for a run-down house, even if it was on the beach in California! Yet, market values tell me otherwise.


These kind of experiences always make me appreciate where I live currently. Although muggy and mosquito-ridden, Houston offers my family a very comfortable place to live our lives while limiting the amount of household income we spend on real estate, which increases our ability to save for our future, support our children, and allocate the rest of our discretionary income to experiences such as visiting California.


So what do you think, would you trade your current Houston lifestyle for a California one?