Orange County rises to No. 1 home-price gains in US on high-end rush

“How expensive?” tracks measurements of California’s totally unaffordable housing market.

The pain: Orange County home prices are rising at the fastest pace in the nation, and you can blame the high-end buyer for that.

The source: My trusty spreadsheet reviewed home price indexes from First American Data & Anaytics for 30 US cities as of May, including five in California. The yardsticks have a curious twist – tracking appreciation by breaking the markets into three price slices: starter homes, mid-tier and luxury residences.

The pinch

Overall, Orange County prices rose 10.5% in the past 12 months, the No. 1 gain of the 30. That was driven by a 12.3% jump for luxury homes – also No. 1 among the 30 markets.

The county also had a 10.9% increase for its mid-section market (No. 2) but “only” a 8.3% rise for the starter segment (No. 6).

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Clearly, there are a lot of deep-pocketed buyers looking at Orange County’s more-expensive housing.

This is a different pattern than the nation overall, where house hunters bid up the lower-priced residences.

The median overall gain for the 30 US cities was 4.2% with increases of 3.9% for luxury vs. 4.1% in the middle and 4.6% for the most affordable housing.

Pressure points

A high-end push was also seen in San Diego County where prices rose 8.4% overall (No. 3 of 30) – with gains of 10% luxury (No. 2) vs. 8.7% mid (No. 4) vs. 6.6% starter (No. 10).

A modestly similar swing was found in the Inland Empire: Up 3.7% overall (No. 18) – with gains of 5% luxury (No. 14) vs. 3.5% mid (No. 19) and 4% starter (No. 20).

Elsewhere in California, the cheaper slice of the market was the appreciation leader.

Los Angeles County: 3.8% gains overall (No. 17) – 3.1% luxury (No. 21) vs. 4.1% mid (No. 16) vs. 4.9% starter (No. 14).

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Alameda/Contra Costa counties: 3.2% gains overall (No. 21) – 3.5% luxury (No. 17) vs. 0.8% mid (No. 27) vs. 4.2% starter (No. 17).

Sacramento: 2.8% gains overall (No. 22) – 2.1% luxury (No. 26) vs. 4.6% mid (No. 12) vs. 3% starter (No. 26).

Jonathan Lansner is the business columnist for the Southern California News Group. He can be reached at

’24 homebuying vs. history

How slow, by county? Click for details …

Los Angeles: 43% below average
Ventura: 42% below average
Orange: 39% below average
San Diego: 34% below average
San Bernardino: 23% below average
Riverside: 16% below average

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