Californian expat property guide – rent or buy?

28th March 2018
Californian expat property guide – rent or buy?

Accommodation is a top concern when it comes to relocating to a new country. Finding the right place to live in a prime location can take time and effort. California is a state so vast that each city and region has its own feel and culture.

Hundreds of British professionals make the move to the Sunshine State each year, ready to experience expat life in California. Wherever you are moving to within the state, one big decision to make is whether to rent or buy.

Renting in California

British expatriates often opt to rent a property first, before committing to a purchase. This helps you get a feel for the different neighbourhoods, so you can find the right area to buy in. California stretches over 700 miles from bottom to top, meaning there is a lot of choice of where to live. Your place of work will determine your location, but even looking within a commutable distance can offer a large choice.

Los Angeles, for example, has a large expatriate community. It is the second-most-populous city in the United States of America, and the rental market reflects that. A three-bedroom apartment in the city centre is likely to cost upwards of $3,000 a month (according to Numbeo.com). Rents are a little lower outside of the city so you can get more room for your money. In the suburbs, there are larger family homes with outside space, whereas the city centre tends to be apartments. This is typical of most major cities – the closer to the centre, the smaller the properties and the higher the rent. However, while rents are high in relation to the rest of the USA, they are lower than typical rentals in London.

Some rental properties are very in demand, especially in the major cities and on the coast. This means you may have to go through an application process. You will also need to provide financial information and references. You will be provided with a lease, which outlines the rental agreements and conditions. This will cover any inclusive utilities or services, such as access to communal amenities or maintenance fees. You will need to pay a deposit and advance rent, which may be higher for expatriates with no US credit.

Purchasing property

The buying process is quite straightforward in California, but you should engage the services of a real estate agent. A good agent will have their ear to the ground and can advise on properties due to come to market. Once you agree on a price, you will need to pay a down payment to reserve the property, pending a formal offer. The purchase contract at this point is legally binding. You will then pay a 10% deposit while the property goes through its necessary checks before the balance is paid. There are various fees due throughout the process, including legal, search and registration fees. This is just a brief overview of the buying process and you would need to seek professional advice on your purchase.

The median house price in Southern California has been steadily rising. In Los Angeles, the median house price was $570,000 (approximately £407,100) in December 2017. The most in-demand homes are in the coastal regions, and potential purchasers may find themselves in a bidding war.

Property prices in California are significantly more expensive than the average home in the USA. However, British buyers will find this is lower than London, where the average price of a home is £478,142. This can make purchasing a property in California a good investment.

If you are moving to the USA, Cadogan Tate can help you with the logistics of your international relocation. Get in touch with us today to arrange a no-obligation quote.

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