The San Fernando Valley market is diverse and can serve the most specific tastes. There are many aspects to consider, and as natives we can tell you exactly what to look for. The first thing to do is ask questions about yourself.
Want vs Need
First and foremost, we have to look at the essentials. Make yourself a chart - dividing what you need and what you want.
Budget - The 33% Rule
Your entire mortgage payment - PITI (principal, interest, taxes, and insurance) should be around 1/3 or 33% of your monthly income, pre-tax.
Next, pick a budget. It's a waste of yours and your realtor’s time not to do this. This requires predicting what your expenses can be over the years. For some people, this can be a total wild card, meaning that they should consider extra margin in their budget. Don't stress yourself out by pushing the budget to the limit.
When you buy a house, treat it as an investment. Many people, especially in Southern California, use their home as a large part of their investment portfolio. They tend to have a much better return than other long term investments. When looking over your finances, see what you have set aside for investments, and consider allocating some of this into your housing budget.
It’s also important to balance the numbers with your lifestyle choices. If you want to have large gatherings and spend your free time at home, treat yourself to something higher-end. If you spend all your vacation time on the road, then you can feel comfortable with something on the cheaper end.
Large Family Style Home in a Quiet Neighborhood
New apartments coming up in an urban area
The Valley is a diverse area that has locations that can meet any of your necessities, while also providing for your self-indulgent desires. As we talked about in the budget section, some locations may be out of reach. In addition, some that seem like an easy purchase may not be suitable for you.
If you have a family or plan to have one, this should be a big part of your consideration of home purchase. People with families tend to look for areas with good schools, low crime, and a quiet atmosphere to bring up their young. The Valley has plenty of areas that fit these criteria.
If a family is not in the picture, ignore that section. If you don't have kids, you are probably finding a balance between quality of home vs commute time.
When we say quality, this can mean different things to different people. For some that is convenience to amenities, services, and entertainment. To others this can mean something more quiet and peaceful.
Areas with more jobs and schools tend to have the nightlife that young professionals and students want. In some cases they may not even need a car. Busier parts of the valley like Burbank, Van Nuys, Northridge, and North Hollywood all have large transit hubs.
Raising a Family
Are you going to raise a family or live the bachelor(ette) life? If you want to raise a family, most of the neighborhoods that you want to aim for are around the edges of the Valley. The North and West are good for this in particular.
When raising a family, one of the first things that people think about is the school situation. The Valley is home to three of the best schools in Los Angeles.
Northridge Academy High School consistently ranks number one in LA Unified. It is in the Northwest pocket of the valley and serves people from Northridge and Porter Ranch.
To the West is Chatsworth Hills Academy which also ranks consistently well.
Then there is the behemoth Granada Hills Charter High School. With a population of about 4000 there is plenty of room for any in their area.
If you plan to send your children to public school and are going to be moving to the valley, we would highly advise one of these areas.
In general, the San Fernando Valley has a lower crime rate than LA. This is what drove many people to the Valley when it was still just a suburb of LA. The dense population and poverty in central LA drove out many of the people who worked there.
Throughout the Valley, there are areas with very different situations as far as crime. Arleta and Pacoima have had an unfortunate reputation of being home to dangerous gang activity. This has been a deterrent for middle class families who would like to live there. With its close proximity to jobs and freeways, it can be a necessary trade-off for many. These areas have improved over the years, but are still not ideal for families.
Some people with families care a lot about a big yard and open space. For this you have to go far north or far west. These areas tend to have more parks and natural scenery. The Valley is not the sprawling suburb that it once was. Finding quiet and undisturbed nature is becoming difficult.
What kind of "Vibe" do you want
Now we should think about what you want to be surrounded by. Do you want to live near a busy nightlife or a quiet cul-de-sac? Do you want to live near the college kids, the families, or the working professionals? More importantly, do you fit into any of these categories?
In the City
CSUN is certainly surrounded by the "college vibe" but it is not wild or raucous in the way that college towns can become known for. It is filled with coffee shops to work on your thesis and Ramen shops to enjoy the end of a long day. There are places for a late nigh drink but not a huge bar scene.
North Hollywood is becoming the new hip area to live. It is home to a rapidly emerging arts scene, great public transportation, jobs and schools. These factors along with cheaper living and lots of apartments has brought an influx of young millennials. It already had a lot of short term housing that is relatively cheap. The area is improving but in a way that is conducive to this new younger crowd.
Then there are the quieter areas. It’s not just families that you see flocking to the outskirts of the Valley. Young professionals looking for a tranquil living space will move there to escape the hustle and bustle of their busy work life.
Areas like this are of course the ones that we mentioned in the families section. There are however a few hidden gems that didn’t make the list for being too far from schools and other amenities. These are areas that someone younger on their own would be more interested in.
For many of us, price is always a big deal, so let’s look where you can get still get a bargain. Sylmar would be the first. The lower prices occur for several reasons but mostly due to the lack of schools and good jobs. It is right at the 5 and the 210 freeway so it's really not bad for a commute in a car.
Another area where you can get away from the city is Woodland Hills. It still has great access to amenities to the north side of the city as well a lot of jobs. To the south are quiet and sprawling neighborhoods. They have a country club, parks, and lots of hiking trails.
In some ways Woodland Hills is more expensive, but the houses tend to be well-built and on larger properties. It is more common for families and couples than individuals.
The public schools in the area are above-average but not reputable. Many people send their kids to the highly ranked private preparatory schools in the area
Then to the far West there is Calabasas and West Hills. These are gorgeous areas with great views of the Valley. The schools aren't bad, but they are few and far between. This is the quiet getaway from someone in the Valley who wants to escape the traffic and noise.
The Bottom Line…
The Valley has an area for everyone, and the options can get overwhelming. Our guide is here to give you the knowledge necessary to decide which one is right for you.
We all have needs and limitations so that is the obvious place start. After that though things get complicated. It can be hard to decide how to order your priorities. If you need help with these decisions feel free to contact us at any time.