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North County Homes
According to Zillow, all North County cities have seen home values rise since the Great Recession. File photo
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North County home values reflect desire for space

REGION — North County cities, which offer the comparatively larger living spaces many seek, have seen divergent growth in home values, with Oceanside perhaps standing out as an undervalued opportunity.

North County cities generally offer “the value of space,” including “bigger lots” and “bigger yards” than communities southward, said Nancy Layne, Windermere Homes and Estates broker and San Diego County Association of Realtors president-elect. “North County tends to be where there are more bedroom community homes.”

“We don’t really have a ton of walkable communities,” she said. That might sound like anathema in certain urban planning circles, but the tradeoff appeals to many.

Tellingly, median home values in many coastal North County cities exceed those in much of San Diego proper. This is true even of South County areas closely accessible to job hubs in Sorrento Valley, Kearny Mesa and downtown San Diego, but without the intervening commute from north of the I-5/I-805 split — “the worst commute in San Diego,” according to Layne.

Additionally, “schools drive the bus when people want to buy a house,” she said. “Poway, Del Mar, Encinitas — they all have very good school districts.”

Carlsbad, San Marcos, Solana Beach and Rancho Santa Fe’s school districts also receive high marks, according to the California School Dashboard, a performance tracker. Districts in Oceanside, Vista and Escondido perform less well.

All North County cities have seen home values rise since the Great Recession, some meteorically, though others having barely recovered earlier highs. Sources: Zillow Home Value Index (ZHVI),, used with permission. Graphic by Dan Brendel

Whether north or south, values are generally higher near the ocean. Though not always — inland Black Mountain Ranch and Poway have plenty of high-value homes.

Home values depend on many factors, not least the eye of a given beholder, so we generalize with caution.

Not all North County cities have experienced equal value growth. Del Mar and Solana Beach, for no clear reason, saw meteoric rises since 2008, according to data from Zillow, an online real estate company.

Accounting for inflation, Oceanside and inland cities (Escondido, San Marcos and Vista) have seen relatively minimal growth, on the whole, only recently reattaining the vicinity of their 2005/2006 pre-Great Recession highs.

Home values around the country peaked well before the bubble burst in 2007/2008, Jeff Tucker, a Zillow economist, told The Coast News.

Interactive Map: Median home values in North County bedroom communities exceed those in much of South County. Select the arrow (>>) to see map key for median home values across the region. Map sources: Esri, SANDAG.


“It sort of felt like the housing market crash was happening in slow motion,” Tucker said. “It was a known fact, for a few years, the prices were falling, inventory was really building up, and a lot of mortgage loans were going bad.”

Presently, “I think Oceanside is undervalued, by far,” said Tyson Lund of The Lund Team, a North County real estate company. “Real estate moves more like a tug boat,” meaning that people can be slow to realize value. But “Oceanside over time will become more valuable.”

“I think Oceanside, because of its proximity to the beach and because there are some areas that are still relatively affordable, … [is] particularly ripe for being redone,” Layne said. “My guess is that that’s the next hot spot. That, and sections of Vista — oddly because of COVID, because there’re larger parcels [there] and people want to have more space around them.”