Riverside or Orange County? Where to Settle in Southern California

by on December 12, 2013RealEstate.com Guest Contributor

Southern California is a great place to live with beautiful weather year-round, gorgeous natural treasures and exciting things to do. The question is, where in Southern California should you settle? If you are deciding between living in Riverside County or Orange County, here’s a breakdown of what it’s like to live in both counties to help you make the right choice.

What’s it Like Living in Orange County?

Orange County is located in Southern California between the cities of Los Angeles and San Diego. It is the sixth most populous county in the entire United States while covering the smallest area compared to other counties in Southern California. This results in smaller homes, little yard space and tightly packed cities, one right next to the other. According to Trendgraphix, there are currently 6,285 homes for sale in Orange County, the average days on market for a home is 61, and the average sales price is $680,000.

What's like to live in Orange County, CaliforniaYes, living in Orange County is very expensive when compared to most places in the county; the average U.S. home price is $199,000. Even more surprising is that the average listing price of Orange County homes is over $1 million! The pricey real estate can partly be attributed to beachfront properties in any of the OC’s six different beach communities: Seal Beach, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Dana Point, San Clemente, and Laguna Beach.

Keep in mind that there are plenty of reasons why the real estate price tag is so high in Orange County. First of all, there is great sunny weather almost every day of the year. Backyard thermometers in Orange County rarely dip below 60 degrees or spike above 85. The beach isn’t more than a 30 minute car ride for any residents, and the same goes for great amusement parks like Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm. If you’re craving a nature hike or adventure, there are also plenty of state parks and nature preserves throughout Orange County, including Peter’s Canyon Regional Park and Crystal Cove State Park.

Close proximity to beautiful sites and unbeatable entertainment are the reasons why Orange County is so crowded – it’s a great place to live and people know it! Though technically a suburb, this county has all the perks of a big city with nearly everything you could need or want at arm’s reach. However, the county can still give you that small-town feel with several close-knit communities throughout. Check out this list of the top 10 best Orange County suburbs to live in for ideas on where to settle.

What’s it Like Living in Riverside County?

Riverside County boarders on the west of Orange County and covers 7,208 square miles of land. According to Trendgraphix, there are currently 5,691 homes for sale in Riverside County, the average days on market for a home is 58 and the average sales price is $316,845. If you’re paying attention, that’s half the price of Orange County real estate! With the price gap between Riverside and Orange Counties growing every year, more and more people are moving inland for more affordable housing.

What it's like to live in Riverside County, CaliforniaRiverside County is more of a true suburb than Orange County, comprised of sprawling neighborhood communities. Neighborhoods in Riverside are much more spacious, offering larger homes with more yard space. In Riverside County the natural landscape of surrounding mountains and open skies can be appreciated, providing a much more serene and quiet atmosphere than Orange County.

Riverside County has plenty of its own attractions and perks including several drive-in movie theaters, the California Citrus State Historic Park, Mt. Rubidoux – the city’s iconic mountain hike – and music festivals out in Indio each summer, just to name a few. There are also nine different Indian Casinos throughout Riverside County as well as great restaurants, spas and resorts that frequently host concerts throughout the year.

Temperatures in Riverside County are similar to Orange County, but they does spike higher in summer, reaching up to 100 degrees on average during summer months, and gets a bit colder in the winter, reaching the low 50s. More and more families are opting to settle in Riverside County because it is much more affordable than Orange County while being just a short drive away. However, one of the biggest downsides to Riverside County is the particularly terrible traffic on the 91 freeway, which connects the two counties.

Deciding What’s Right for You

Now that you know more about Orange County and Riverside County, here’s a final list of factors to consider before you make your move.

Proximity to Work

When choosing where to live, proximity to work is one of the most important factors to consider. A longer commute means less time with your family, more money spent on gas, and possibly a negative effect on your quality of life.

Most jobs for Southern California residents are located in Los Angeles and Orange County. If you decide to settle out in Riverside, that means you’re most likely looking at over an hour of commuting to work. Are you willing to give up two hours of your day for travel in order to have a bigger house and plot?

Things to keep in mind: Southern California is a crowded place and rush hour traffic is a reality no matter where you settle. Also, the Metrolink train runs from Riverside County to Orange County to accommodate travelers.

Culture

What kind of local culture are you looking for? Orange County is more hustle and bustle whereas Riverside County in much more calm and quiet. However, since each city is different, it’s important to do research on a local level before making your decision. For example, Orange County has a reputation for being rich and glamorous, but that is specific to South Orange County, not necessarily the entire county.

Crime Rates

In Orange County the safest city is Ranch Santa Margarita with a nearly nonexistent property and violent crime rate of 0.83 percent (8.3 crimes per 1,000 residents), and the most dangerous is Anaheim with a crime rate of 2.87 percent. In Riverside County the safest city is Murrieta with a crime rate of 1.53 percent and the most dangerous is Riverside with a crime rate of 3.66 percent.

Schools

If you have kids or are considering starting a family, it’s important to look into the schools and districts in local areas. GreatSchools.org is a great resource for finding the best schools in any area, offering ratings for all public schools as well as contact information for all private schools.

Schools are very important to homebuyers, so beware: Real estate near top-ranked schools is highly coveted and expensive. According to 2013 data, homebuyers will pay $50 more per square foot for homes in top-ranked school zones compared with homes served by average-ranked schools

This guest post was written by Grace Keister, Content Marketing Specialist for First Team Real Estate. First Team Real Estate is the No. 1 Real Estate Company in Southern California with over 1,800 local agents throughout Orange County, Los Angeles, Inland Empire and San Diego.