Shocking Lifestyle Choices Orange County Home Owners Are Making

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Shocking Lifestyle Choices Orange County Home Owners Are Making

Three homes recently sold in South Orange County tell three completely different stories – which lifestyle suits you?


This really busy, detailed chart may make your head swim if you’re not used to looking at numbers that tell the story about homes for sale in Orange County.     Take a close look – what’s the difference between these homes?  What’s the same?  I can’t read tea leaves, but I can put two and two together in this case.  Let’s take a look at these different homes and the lifestyle choices that Orange County homeowners are making.

Compare the cost of buying in Irvine, Mission Viejo, and Ladera Ranch
3 Homes with the same price – but that’s where the similarities end

OK – let’s tackle the big Kahuna first.  The purchase price and the mortgage payment.

What’s the same?  The sales price.  All three sold for $500,000.  Same.  (OK – just to be completely honest, the Ladera Ranch home sold for $499,000 – I rounded up for the sake of easy numbers.  There you have it – full disclosure. )

Assuming they each made a 20% down payment (or $100,000) and they all got the same smokin’ hot 4% interest rate, so they all have the same 30 year fixed principle and interest mortgage payment of $1910.  With me so far?  Hang in there, it’s going to get really good.

Let’s Talk About Size – Because Size Matters, Don’t You Think?

What’s the same here?  They are all 3 bedroom homes.  But that’s where the similarities stop.  The Ladera Ranch home interior  is 56%  bigger than the Irvine home.  What’s  that mean in lifestyle?  More room for your home office?  Or your Mastiff?  Or your quilting table?  Or your 6’5″ High School basketball star?  That’s a HUGE difference. It’s another lifestyle question – how much inside space do you need to be comfortable in your home?  And where does that fall on your list of priorities?

What about the outside?  The lot on the big Ladera Ranch house is 1/4 the size of the Irvine home and 1/2 the size of the Mission Viejo home.   What’s that translate to in lifestyle terms?  No real private back yard (or front yard, for that matter) in the Ladera Ranch home.  Where do you do most of your living?  What’s important to you – in inside space or outside space?  Because while the Irvine house is relatively small, it has a huge yard.  Room for a swing set, a sand box, big wheels, and a croquet set.  Even more yard in the Mission Viejo home!  Room for a gazebo and a BBQ.  Room to enjoy sunny Southern California days and cool evenings in your own yard.

Clearly, you’ve got choices in Southern California lifestyles today regarding inside and outside living space – which is best for you?

What about age?  Does that make a difference?

The Irvine home is the oldest at 39.  The Mission Viejo home is 33.  And the Ladera Ranch is the baby at just 6 years old.  They all have a 2 car attached garage with direct access to the house.  They all have a fireplace.  Think the floor plans might be a bit different?  You bet.  39-year-old homes rarely have the kitchen open to the family room.  And there’s Formica, linoleum, and electric cook top in the Irvine kitchen.  Granite, gas, and a center island in the Ladera Ranch home.  And as small as the Irvine home is, there is not a lot of storage – one sliding door closet in the master, only one sink in the master, and no separate tub and shower in the master.  More lifestyle choices.  Also, older homes tend to have lower ceilings.  And the washer and dryer are in the garage in the Irvine and Mission Viejo homes, and upstairs in the laundry room of the Ladera Ranch home.   Just some of the different lifestyle choices.

What about the Property Taxes?

What’s the same and what’s different?  Well, clearly the Irvine home has the lowest tax basis, with the Mission Viejo home a close second – $55  a year higher due to two school district bonds.   What’s most different is the Ladera Ranch home with two pretty hefty Water District Bonds assessments – about $500 per month combined.  One of the prices people pay for newer homes.  And avoid paying in Irvine and Mission Viejo.

And now, the Granddaddy of all Lifestyle differences – the Home Owner’s Association (HOA) dues and the Mello Roos

Of which, the Irvine home has none.  No HOA and no Mello Roos.  A kind of Mayberry-esque simplicity.  Ahhhh.

Then take the Mission Viejo home.  It actually has two HOA’s.  The local community association which monitors the homes for deferred maintenance, takes care of the common area landscaping, and prohibits your neighbor from painting his home black and purple.  And the Lake Mission Viejo Home Owner’s Association.  Which you don’t have the option of joining, you are required to.  This HOA provides you the use of the Lake; the beaches, parks, picnic areas.  Access to summer concerts, boating, and fishing.  More lifestyle choices, right?  All for the combined monthly total of $63. And the Lake is the small part of that – about $19 per month!

And then there’s Ladera Ranch.  The Grand Wailea of planned communities.  With two Mello Roos assessments totaling $3286 per year and $210 in monthly HOA dues, we’re talking some major lifestyle, baby.  Like three clubhouses with huge pools, countless smaller community pools, a skate board park, a water park, a dog park, hiking and biking trails, and rosebush encrusted roundabouts for traffic flow and ambiance.  You may think of your extra $546 per month over the cost of the Irvine home as your Country Club membership dues.  That’s a lifestyle choice, right?

As an extra bonus, Ladera Ranch home buyers get to pay a Lifestyle Enhancement Fee – just for buying a home in Ladera Ranch.  Seriously.  There is a one time fee of 1/4 of 1% of the sales price assessed every time a home is sold in Ladera Ranch.  Local custom ascribes this assessment to the buyer.  (I always try to get the seller to pay for it, and am occasionally successful!) In our example, the happy Ladera Ranch homeowners got to pay $1250 more that either the Irvine or Mission Viejo buyers.  Just to move into the ‘hood.  Lifestyle choice.

Some other, more subtle, lifestyle differences.

School Districts.  The Irvine Unified School District has a great reputation, based on high performance in categories such as SAT scores and college placement.  Many people buy in Irvine just to have access to the school district.  As for the Mission Viejo and Ladera Ranch schools, they are very high quality as well, based on results.  Both the Mission Viejo and Ladera Ranch homes in this example are in the Capistrano Unified School District – a great school district by state standards – just not quite the results the Irvine schools get.

In Summary, Beauty is in the Eye of the Homeowner.

There you have it.  Three homes, three different lifestyle options in quite a few different areas.  Shockingly, they all sold for the same price within the last couple of months.  There are Southern California home buyers out there with a wide variety of lifestyle goals.  Thank goodness we have the wide variety of home for you to choose from.

As usual – I’m Leslie, just keeping it real in Orange County Real Estate.

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