10 Things You Should Know if You Are Moving to Orange County

  • Skip the Weather Forecast – It’s 70 and Sunny:  No disrespect to the local weather forecasters, but we don’t rely on them for much.  If they predicted 70-something for temperatures year round, they’d be right (or close to it) most of the year.  For many folks, this is the ideal and is one of the reasons so many people love living here.  If you enjoy seasons, it may be an adjustment.  5 minutes of rain = Storm Watch & TrafficRancho Santa Margarita Lake
  • The Mello Roos Dilemma:  Buying a newer home, sans the Mello Roos bond are contradictory goals.  By and large, homes constructed after 1982 will have a mello roos bond.  The newer the home, the higher that bond is likely to be.  Newer homes and mello roos go hand-in-hand.  Sorry.  I don’t like it either.
  • It’s Expensive:  No kidding.  Orange County real estate is still expensive, even after prices have fallen.  As of today, $500,000 will likely get you an entry level home with little or no yard – depending on where you are in the OC.
  • Land of the Beautiful People: With nice weather, comes lots of opportunities to be outside to play, to exercise, and enjoy beaches making it easier and desirable to stay in great physical shape.  Cosmetic surgery doesn’t hurt either.
  • ‘Large Yard’ is a Relative Term: The high cost of housing for Orange Country primarily resides in land value.  Land is at a premium and builders structure tracts to maximize return – meaning much smaller lot sizes.   Homes sit on smaller lots and are closer together.  If you are looking for a large yard, with some exceptions, older is often better.  And FYI, generally a 10,000 square foot lot is considered BIG.
  • It’s the Burbs:  A lot of Orange County is made up of suburban living with all it’s wonderful pros and a few cons.  Great schools, beautiful parks, proximity to shopping and restaurants, community activities all account for some of the positives.  As for the downside – architecture isn’t always unique and if you’re not careful, you just might find yourself pulling into your neighbor’s driveway.
  • Yes, Homes Are Cheaper In Corona:  It never fails; every time I work with someone relocating to Orange County that is unfamiliar with the area there are 3 distinct stages: 1 – Excitement, 2 – Sticker Shock, 3 – So I hear you can get a much bigger house in Corona….  And, yes you can.  Before we go look at those homes however, you are required to sit on the 91 freeway during peak traffic hours and visit during peak smog season.  Then we’ll talk.  Sorry Corona lovers.
  • We Like National Chains:  We do have some amazing strip malls with lots of chain stores and restaurants.  But if you look hard enough (and I have as of late) there are some wonderful, privately owned restaurants.  Coastal towns like Laguna Beach, Corona del Mar, San Clemente, Costa Mesa, and Newport Beach are always guaranteed to have some things a bit more eclectic.
  • There’s Lots To Do: Kids play outside year round, outdoor exercise is common, skiing isn’t far (Big Bear, or just a bit farther is my favorite, Mammoth Mountain), beaches, amazing surfing, skate parks, and of course, the all-important Disneyland (although you may go less than you think you will).

Alright you OC folk – enlighten me.  What have I failed to mention?

Disclaimer:  This post is deeply biased and written by a 4-Season-Loving, ski fanatic, Oregonian that has called Orange County home for some of the early days of her childhood and the most recent 12 years.   Go Figure.


  1. Karl H-H says:

    From an OC resident of 13 years, moved to PA five years ago and is two weeks away from returning for good:

    Life is outdoors. That’s the lifestyle. Less room inside, less yard but temperate climate and area planning makes life easy to live outdoors. Plus, that’s where the people are.

    It may be expensive not to mention gas and sales tax, but property taxes and closing costs are less than in the Northeast and offset the higher income tax. Not to mention, smaller house & yard means less work, less being tied to your house on weekends, smaller maintenance costs. Size combined with moderate climate also means lower heating/cooling bills…not proportionally, but lower.

    Far more social. It could be good or bad, but there is more focus on having a good time and enjoying life than in other areas.

    Still, the sticker shock is the hardest hill to climb!

  2. From what I’m told, there’s nothing like a good old fashioned harsh winter to make you appreciate our mild climate. And you’re right on the money to point out some of the other upsides – lower utility bills, less yard work, etc. Welcome Back Karl!

  3. Justin Tanos says:

    You can also surf and snowboard in the same day!

  4. Great post, Linsey! You took care of addressing the “big guys.”

    It’s interesting you mentioned Corona. I had a friend who moved out that way when she got married. She and her husband were interested in a larger home / more land, but with a cheaper price tag. They were quite happy for the first few months. Then the aggravation of driving into Orange County each day (on average she said they were each spending nearly four-hours round trip!) to work started to wear on them. Needless to say, they are back living in Orange County.

  5. Justin – True and great point!

    Rachel – Unfortunately, that isn’t uncommon. The larger home and yard is very alluring, but if you are dealing with commuter hours, that gets old real quick.

  6. Fun, and accurate post Linsey!

    Don’t forget about the traffic – goes with the territory. LAX (which is 40 miles away) is often referred to as “an hour and a half away depending on traffic”. But, locals learn the traffic patterns, alternative routes, and many structure their world in a 6 mile radius (as I have done) and avoid the freeways all together. The amount of retail and activity options make this totally possible in many places.

    Also, luxury cars rule the roads. Remember where you park your Lexus, BMW or Mercedes – there will be 12 other of exactly the same car in the same color in the parking lot at Target. You may have trouble identifying which is yours.

  7. Traffic – ahhh how could I have forgotten?! And excellent observation about the luxury car environment. All too true! :)

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