Life in Northern California means diverse landscapes ranging from the rugged coastline of the Pacific Ocean and lush farmlands throughout the valleys to the majestic redwood forests of the North Coast. The region’s Mediterranean climate, lush vineyards, and access to iconic landmarks and national parks are enough to draw residents from around the world. If you’re looking to buy a home in California, the median home sale price is $749,900. But that price may not fit into your budget.

At Redfin, we’ve compiled a list of the 11 most affordable places to live in Northern California – and all the cities have a median home sale price under the state’s average. While some may consider Northern California as anything north of the Bay Area, the region is often considered to include the state’s 48 northern counties. So, you’ll find some cities located in the Central Valley on our list. Let’s jump in.

1. Fresno

Median home price: $366,000
Average sale price per square foot: $243
Average rent for a 1-bedroom apartment: $1,302
Median household income: $63,001
Fresno, CA homes for sale
Fresno, CA apartments for rent

Located in the heart of California’s San Joaquin Valley, Fresno is first on our list of affordable places to live in Northern California. While some may not consider Fresno part of Northern California, its location meets our requirements. Fresno has a median home sale price of $366,000 and about 542,100 residents. There are plenty of attractions in Fresno, such as the Fresno Chaffee Zoo, Woodward Regional Park, the vibrant Tower District, and Save Mart Center, a popular concert venue that also hosts Fresno State University basketball games.

2. Madera

Median home price: $394,500
Average sale price per square foot: $242
Median household income: $61,626
Madera, CA homes for sale
Madera, CA apartments for rent

Just north of Fresno is the town of Madera, located in California’s Central Valley. Madera is well-known for its rich agricultural heritage and community feeling. With a median home sale price of $394,500, Madera offers affordable housing options for those looking to live in Northern California. The city is home to attractions such as the Madera Wine Trail and the Madera Speedway, making it ideal for those who enjoy outdoor activities and local events.

3. Merced

Median home price: $410,000
Average sale price per square foot: $225
Average rent for a 1-bedroom apartment: $1,485
Median household income: $59,233
Merced, CA homes for sale
Merced, CA apartments for rent

The third most affordable city on our list is Merced, home to about 86,300 residents. With a median home sale price of $410,000, Merced has plenty of housing options. This city offers a blend of urban amenities and natural beauty as it’s only about 90 minutes from Yosemite National Park. Merced is home to attractions such as the Applegate Zoo Park and the Merced National Wildlife Refuge, making it an ideal place for nature enthusiasts.

4. Redding

Median home price: $415,000
Average sale price per square foot: $235
Average rent for a 1-bedroom apartment: $1,115
Median household income: $67,323
Redding, CA homes for sale
Redding, CA apartments for rent

With a median home sale price of $415,000, Redding is fourth on our list of affordable places to live in Northern California. Redding has stunning natural landscapes and plenty of outdoor recreational opportunities since it’s close to the Shasta-Trinity National Forest and Lassen Volcanic National Park. In Redding, you’ll find attractions such as the Sundial Bridge and Turtle Bay Exploration Park, making it an awesome option for those looking to be near nature.

los banos california

5. Yuba City

Median home price: $430,000
Average sale price per square foot: $238
Median household income: $70,412
Yuba City, CA homes for sale
Yuba City, CA apartments for rent

Located in the Sacramento Valley, Yuba City offers a blend of small-town charm and affordable housing prices. With a median home sale price of $430,000 and a population of approximately 70,100 people, Yuba City can be a great option for those looking to live in a smaller city. Yuba City is near attractions such as the Sutter Buttes, Ellis Lake, Gauche Aquatic Park, and the Feather River, so there’s always something to do outdoors.

6. Stockton

Median home price: $425,000
Average sale price per square foot: $272
Average rent for a 1-bedroom apartment: $1,300
Median household income: $71,612
Stockton, CA homes for sale
Stockton, CA apartments for rent

Sixth on our list is Stockton, located along the San Joaquin River. With a median home sale price of $425,000, the home prices are about 325K less than California’s average. Stockton is home to attractions such as the Haggin Museum, which features art and local history exhibits; Adventist Health Arena, where you can see shows; and the Bob Hope Theatre, a landmark venue. There are plenty of hidden gems to explore in Stockton.

7. Modesto

Median home price: $430,000
Average sale price per square foot: $287
Average rent for a 1-bedroom apartment: $1,442
Median household income: $73,375
Modesto, CA homes for sale
Modesto, CA apartments for rent

About 35 minutes south of Stockton is Modesto, which offers a blend of urban amenities and a relaxed lifestyle. Home to 218,500 residents, Modesto’s median home sale price is $430,000, making it another great affordable option to consider. Modesto has many unique attractions, such as the McHenry Mansion, Gallo Center for the Arts, and the iconic Modesto Arch.

8. Chico

Median home price: $459,000
Average sale price per square foot: $283
Average rent for a 1-bedroom apartment: $1,250
Median household income: $65,932
Chico, CA homes for sale
Chico, CA apartments for rent

With its vibrant arts scene and outdoor recreational opportunities, Chico is another great Northern California city to consider moving to. Home to about 101,500 residents, Chico has plenty to offer its residents. Chico is home to attractions such as Bidwell Park, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., the National Yo-Yo Museum, and California State University, Chico.

Aerial view of Tower Bridge across Sacramento River, Sacramento, California, USA.

9. Sacramento

Median home price: $466,500
Average sale price per square foot: $319
Average rent for a 1-bedroom apartment: $1,847
Median household income: $78,954
Sacramento, CA homes for sale
Sacramento, CA apartments for rent

As the capital of California, Sacramento has a fantastic cultural scene, a thriving urban environment, and affordable home prices. About 524,900 people are living in Sacramento, so there are numerous things to do. For example, you can explore the the California State Capitol Museum, Crocker Art Museum, and Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park, see a concert at Golden 1 Center or Ace of Spades, or enjoy nature along the American River or at Sutter’s Landing Regional Park.

10. Turlock

Median home price: $472,500
Average sale price per square foot: $291
Average rent for a 1-bedroom apartment: $1,425
Median household income: $74,559
Turlock, CA homes for sale
Turlock, CA apartments for rent

The city of Turlock offers a blend of small-town charm and city life – without the prices and population. The median home sale price is $472,500, and there are roughly 72,700 residents living in Turlock. The city has attractions like the Carnegie Arts Center, Donnelly Park, and the Turlock Certified Farmers Market.

11. Citrus Heights

Median home price: $474,500
Average sale price per square foot: $310
Average rent for a 1-bedroom apartment: $1,764
Median household income: $75,022
Citrus Heights, CA homes for sale
Citrus Heights, CA apartments for rent

The final city to make our list of affordable places to live in Northern California is Citrus Heights. Located in the Sacramento metropolitan area, Citrus Heights is a suburban area with 87,600 residents. Citrus Heights is home to attractions such as Rusch Botanical Gardens and Arcade Creek Park Preserve and is near Folsom Lake State Recreation Area, where you can camp, fish, and enjoy the scenic views.

Methodology: All cities must have over 50,000 residents per the US Census and have a median home sale price under the average median list price in California. Median home sale price and median sale price per square foot from the Redfin Data Center during February 2024. Average rental data from Rent.com February 2024. Population and median household income data sourced from the United States Census Bureau.

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