The Best Affordable Places to Live on the West Coast

If the Pacific Coast is for you, consider these more affordable options.

By Devon Thorsby, Editor, Real Estate |Oct. 2, 2019, at 12:45 p.m.

The Best Affordable Places to Live on the West Coast

Slideshow

Affording life on the West Coast

A colorful water reflection in the Willamette Sough at sunset.

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Can you live near the Pacific Ocean without spending all your money on housing? It’s tough but not impossible. Using data from the U.S. News Best Places to Live rankings, we isolated the 10 most affordable metro areas located on the West Coast out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S. We did so by comparing each place’s median household income to the median cost of living, factoring in median mortgage and rent payments, plus property taxes and utilities. Keep in mind that these places may be the most affordable options among West Coast metro areas that appear on our Best Places to Live list, but they’re not necessarily affordable compared with the rest of the U.S. If you’re looking for affordability above all, check out our list of the Best Affordable Places to Live in the U.S.

10. Santa Rosa, California

10. Santa Rosa, California

The Wine Country is an area of Northern California in the United States known worldwide as a premium wine-growing region. Viticulture and wine-making have been practiced in the region since the mid-19th century. There are over 400 wineries in the area north of San Francisco, mostly located in the area's valleys, including Napa Valley in Napa County, and the Sonoma Valley, Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Bennett Valley, and Russian River Valley in Sonoma County.

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 74
Metro Population: 500,943
Median Home Price: $629,917
Median Annual Salary: $53,890
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 28.22%

While Santa Rosa takes the No. 10 spot on this list, it’s not affordable compared with many other cities throughout the U.S. To cover living expenses here, residents spend 28.22% of the area's median household income. Out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S., Santa Rosa is the ninth-most expensive place to live. But with only 14 of those places located within 100 miles of the West Coast, Santa Rosa is more affordable than four other California metro areas: Salinas, Santa Barbara, San Diego and Los Angeles.

Learn more about Santa Rosa.

9. Stockton, California

9. Stockton, California

Webber Point Silhoutted Red Sunset Reflection, Stockton Callifornia

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 123
Metro Population: 724,153
Median Home Price: $352,350
Median Annual Salary: $46,770
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 27.42%

The 12th-most expensive place to live in the U.S., Stockton ranks No. 123 on the overall Best Places to Live list. The median annual salary for the Stockton metro area is $46,770, nearly $4,000 below the national median of $50,620. Additionally, Stockton has an unemployment rate of 5.9%, which can make it difficult for many local residents to feel secure about their jobs. Still, people continue to move to the Stockton area, as the metro area grew by 2.95% between 2013 and 2017 due to net migration, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Learn more about Stockton.

8. Modesto, California

8. Modesto, California

Modesto is the county seat and largest city of Stanislaus County, California, United States. It is the 18th largest city in the state of California

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 120
Metro Population: 803,074
Median Home Price: $289,168
Median Annual Salary: $46,176
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 27.32%

Modesto ranks No. 120 out of 125 on the overall Best Places to Live list. The typical resident in Modesto must spend 27.32% of the median household income to cover housing expenses. While the cost of living maybe be slightly improved compared with Santa Rosa and Stockton, potential residents should keep Modesto’s 7% unemployment rate in mind. Additionally, the area's median annual salary, $46,176, is more than $4,000 below the national median.

Learn more about Modesto.

7. San Francisco

7. San Francisco

Each busy day looks exactly the same, but people around are always different. Just take a moment to slow down.

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 7
Metro Population: 4,641,820
Median Home Price: $678,517
Median Annual Salary: $69,700
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 26.98%

Taking the No. 7 spot on the overall Best Places to Live list, San Francisco is the highest-ranked West Coast metro area, but only the seventh-most affordable. San Francisco’s housing market is notoriously competitive, and median rents and home prices, at $1,673 and $768,517, respectively, are higher than the most other parts of the U.S. However, because of higher-paying jobs in the area and a median annual salary of $69,700, the cost of living is slightly offset by the higher income residents earn.

Learn more about San Francisco.

6. Sacramento, California

6. Sacramento, California

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 82
Metro Population: 2,268,005
Median Home Price: $389,858
Median Annual Salary: $55,010
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 26.55%

The capital of California ranks No. 82 on the overall Best Places to Live list and sixth on the list of affordable West Coast metro areas with a cost of living that requires 26.55% of the median annual household income. Sacramento’s median annual salary, $55,010, is nearly $5,000 above the national median of $50,620, and the area's unemployment rate of 3.7% is slightly below the national unemployment rate of 3.9%. The Sacramento metro area is seeing steady population growth due to net migration: Between 2013 and 2017, its population increased by 3.69%.

Learn more about Sacramento.

5. San Jose, California

5. San Jose, California

Drone photo of sunset over downtown San Jose in California

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 14
Metro Population: 1,969,897
Median Home Price: $1,080,017
Median Annual Salary: $77,180
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 26.08%

San Jose has the highest median home price of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S. at over $1 million. But like San Francisco, San Jose’s high income levels help to offset the higher price of living. The cost of living in the metro area requires 26.08% of the area median annual household income. But San Jose is steeped in well-paying tech jobs, so the typical resident also earns more (a median annual salary of $77,180), which makes the area somewhat more affordable for those who live there.

Learn more about San Jose.

4. Seattle

4. Seattle

Seattle, Washington, USA pier and skyline at dusk.

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 9
Metro Population: 3,735,216
Median Home Price: $442,333
Median Annual Salary: $63,120
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 24.97%

Outside of California, other West Coast metro areas offer a lower cost of living. Like San Francisco and San Jose, Seattle offers its residents a plethora of tech job opportunities, leading to a higher median annual salary of $63,120. Seattle residents spend 24.97% of the median annual household income on housing expenses. Based on a SurveyMonkey analysis of more than 2,000 U.S. resident responses when asked where they would prefer to live, Seattle ranks seventh for desirability out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S.

Learn more about Seattle.

3. Portland, Oregon

3. Portland, Oregon

Rolling fog over city of Portland Oregon downtown cityscape during sunrise

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 8
Metro Population: 2,382,037
Median Home Price: $375,425
Median Annual Salary: $55,330
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 24.84%

Ranking No. 8 on the overall Best Places to Live list, Portland is the third-most affordable place to live on the West Coast out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S. The cost of living in Portland requires 24.84% of the area's median annual household income. Contributing to its high overall ranking is desirability: Portland ties for first place in the Most Desirable Places to Live ranking with San Francisco, Honolulu and Colorado Springs, Colorado. Additionally, Portland’s strong job market, with a median annual salary of $55,330 and an unemployment rate of 3.7%, helps draw people to the area.

Learn more about Portland.

2. Salem, Oregon

2. Salem, Oregon

The Union Street Railroad Bridge spans the Willamette River in Salem, Oregon. This is an old Railroad bridge converted to be used by pedestrians and bicycles. A woman bicyclist can be seen enjoying the path. Near this area is a Boat ramp, 2 bridges for Oregon Route 22, City parks and Down town areas. It is on the National Register of Historic Places. It connects West Salem and Wallace Marine Park with downtown Salem and Riverfront Park.

(Getty Images)

Best Places 2019 Rank: 77
Metro Population: 410,119
Median Home Price: $269,367
Median Annual Salary: $47,240
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 24.66%

Oregon’s capital ranks No. 77 on the overall Best Places to Live list. Salem residents spend 24.66% of the median household income on housing expenses, making it the second-most affordable place to live on the West Coast. For a metro area with fewer than 500,000 residents, Salem is also seeing significant growth: The area's population increased by 5.05% between 2013 and 2017 due to net migration, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Learn more about Salem.

1. Anchorage, Alaska

1. Anchorage, Alaska

"Anchorage Alaska, on a Summer afternoon taken from  mud flats at Matanuska Valley Port."

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 70
Metro Population: 399,360
Median Home Price: $259,900
Median Annual Salary: $58,980
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 22.61%

If you’re looking for an affordable place to live on the West Coast, head north. At No. 70 on the overall Best Places to Live list, Anchorage is the most affordable metro area within 100 miles of the West Coast, requiring only 22.61% of the median household income to cover living expenses. It also helps that the median annual salary, $58,980, is more than $8,000 above the national median, which balances out the cost of living even more so than other metro areas on the list. Anchorage ranks No. 21 for desirability out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S., likely boosted by the Alaska metro area’s easy access to wilderness.

Learn more about Anchorage.

The Best Affordable Places to Live on the West Coast include:

The Best Affordable Places to Live on the West Coast include:

Early morning sightseers and photographers gather together on the overlook at Pittock Mansion west of Portland, Oregon. The building dubbed "Big Pink" stands tall as the first rays of daylight warm the waking city.

(Getty Images)

  • Anchorage, Alaska.
  • Salem, Oregon.
  • Portland, Oregon.
  • Seattle.
  • San Jose, California.
  • Sacramento, California.
  • San Francisco.
  • Modesto, California.
  • Stockton, California.
  • Santa Rosa, California.

Read More

Devon Thorsby is the Real Estate editor at U.S. News & World Report, where she writes consumer-focused articles about the homebuying and selling process, home improvement, tenant rights and the state of the housing market.

She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.

Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at dthorsby@usnews.com.

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