In many cities, you move from one neighborhood to another and hardly know you’ve crossed a border. But in Sacramento, there are two major waterways that provide a natural line of demarcation from one area of this beautiful American city to another.
The Sacramento and American Rivers wind through the capital of California, separating North Sacramento from Downtown and Midtown, Arden Arcade from East Sacramento, and Land Park from West Sacramento.
These lush waterways flow out into the countryside to nurture one of the most fertile agricultural areas in the country, giving life to Sacramento’s famous farm-to-fork restaurant culture. In addition, the rivers provide endlessly beautiful vistas throughout the city and offer plenty of opportunity for outdoor adventures.
If you are buying a home in Sacramento, you are always going to be in relationship to one or the other of these spectacular waterways, so let’s take a look at the neighborhoods they cradle.
We looked at the data and spoke with Jenny Rosas, who works with 79% more single-family homes than the average Sacramento agent, to learn about the housing attributes of some of the most sought-after neighborhoods in Sacramento, plus their amenities and character.
The city of hidden treasures
Sacramento is considered quite the hidden treasure of California for many reasons. The city enjoys plentiful sunshine, acres of waterways and other natural areas to explore, mountain views with access to winter sports not far away in Tahoe, plentiful historical and cultural sites, and a fabulous restaurant scene.
As the capital of California, the city is home to many state landmarks, museums, and parks, including the Crocker Art Museum, the oldest public art museum west of the Mississippi River. And because Sacramento isn’t as high-profile as Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, or Silicon Valley, it has traditionally offered more moderately priced housing.
The escalating housing prices in San Francisco, combined with the coronavirus pandemic, sent young professionals streaming north to find housing, some to work from home and others to make the commute back to Silicon Valley. Consequently, housing prices are up 17% in 2022 in Sacramento year over year.
But there are areas that remain more affordable. Sacramento is divided into approximately 10 major areas with nearly 100 unique neighborhoods and suburbs. Here are a few areas to consider.
1. Downtown/Midtown: Where the action is
If you like the hustle and bustle of the city and proximity to great jobs, then start your house-hunting in Downtown or Midtown. This is where you will find many of the cultural and historical sites of Sacramento, plus great restaurants and bars for after-work gatherings. In Downtown, Prelude Kitchen & Bar is one of the most well-known quintessential farm-to-fork Sacramento restaurants with a fabulous cityscape patio.
Midtown is especially known for its trendy nightlife with more than 200 restaurants to choose from, and its central location makes it transit heaven, with plenty of public transportation to get you wherever you want to go.
One of the most attractive features of both Downtown and Midtown is the range of housing available. You will find plenty of historical housing here, especially in the Victorian style, but there are some modern accommodations as well.
However, be wary of sticker shock if you think you are going to find something super cheap here! That said, at a median price of $290,400, it still beats the overall median price of $470,000 for the Sacramento area.
“I resided in Midtown for a while, and at a time when prices weren’t as intense,” Rosas said. “It was the place to be for young professionals. Now, you are competing against multiple offers, and while it is still attractive to many new buyers coming into the city, pricing has made it impossible for some to afford.”
West Sacramento is right on the outskirts of downtown and is kind of the quintessential Sacramento neighborhood. When people think of West Sacramento, they think of that farm culture that Sacramento is famous for and an area that is more spacious. But like many areas of Sacramento, it has a lot of diverse pockets of more or less affordability. For instance, in the north area of West Sac is much more affordable for first-time homebuyers, whereas the southern area is more expensive.
2. West Sacramento: Tree-lined beauty
“West Sacramento is right on the outskirts of downtown and is kind of the quintessential Sacramento neighborhood,” Rosas said. “It gave rise to the ‘City of Trees’ slogan.
“When people think of West Sacramento, they think of that farm culture that Sacramento is famous for and an area that is more spacious. But like many areas of Sacramento, it has a lot of diverse pockets of more or less affordability. For instance, in the north area of West Sac is much more affordable for first-time homebuyers, whereas the southern area is more expensive.”
Although there are apartment complexes in West Sacramento, most of the neighborhood is made up of single-family homes, listing in a range of $200,000 to $500,000 as of March 2022.
3. Meadowview: Convenient and family friendly
Located on the south-central edge of Sacramento, Meadowview is an urban neighborhood that offers a lot of conveniences for commuters — with a 15-to-30-minute average driving commute — and a family-friendly and affordable environment.
“Meadowview is closer to downtown than some of the outlying communities, like Elk Grove, and more affordable than many of the communities,” Rosas explains, noting that the neighborhood is a bit older, with homes built primarily between 1940 and 1970, and it is made up of small to medium-sized single-family homes.
Rosas adds though the median price point of $336,000 puts it well below the Sacramento median, you will find pockets within the subdivisions in Meadowview where you may find even more affordable options.
Meadowview is well known in the Sacramento area for its schools, including its elementary schools, Edward Kemble, John Bidwell, and Susan B. Anthony; its middle schools John H. Still and Rosa Parks; and West Campus High School, one of the top-ranked schools in Sacramento. West Campus students have ranked in the top 10% statewide for consistently high achievement in reading and language, as well as math proficiency.
4. Boulevard Park: The charm of Sacramento
Let’s step away from affordability for a moment to talk about one of the most charming neighborhoods in all of Sacramento.
Tucked in between Downtown and Midtown, Boulevard Park is considered one of the best places to live in Sacramento. With a median home price of just over $1 million — and many homes topping out over $2 million — this area is not for the first-time homebuyer.
“It’s actually a little section of the downtown area that is just very charming, featuring the older historical homes,” Rosas said.
If you love a great urban neighborhood, this is the place to look. The Boulevard Park Neighborhood Association, formed in 1991, strives for “the preservation of old values and traditions but also values individuality and new ideas,” and regularly organizes beautification projects, holiday decorations, yard sales, and annual events, such as a Fourth of July picnic, National Night Out, and progressive dinners.
Although there are restaurants aplenty in Downtown and Midtown, Boulevard Park is home to the Italian and French cuisine of The Waterboy, the flavorful Spanish fare of Aioli Bodega Espanola, and the seasonal American menu of Mulvaney’s B&L, located in an historic firehouse built in 1893.
5. North Oak Park: The up-and-comer
Just southeast of Midtown is the North Oak Park area. What’s not to love about this area for young professionals? Easy freeway access makes it ideal for commuters to reach any area of the city in a reasonable amount of time.
With a median home price of $231,729, the neighborhood offers traditional ranch houses as well as condominiums and bungalows.
“Oak Park has seen a lot of regentrification, especially North Oak Park,” Rosas said. “There have also been some newer developments in that area. It’s a very cute area, and attractive to singles and young professionals because it is so affordable.”
6. Land Park: Upscale and suburban
With a population of just over 7,000, Land Park is one of the smaller communities in Sacramento — and like Boulevard Park, one of the most upscale, with a median home price listing at $732,000. The area features Tudor-style homes and smaller cottages, as well as condominiums.
Its proximity to Sacramento, just over two miles south of the downtown area, make Land Park a short commute and within easy reach of the city’s amenities. But its main attraction is that it is a true suburb, offering a quieter environment for families and seniors.
During the week, there’s no need to wander out of Land Park to find tasty food. On the north side of Land Park is an international food mecca, strung along Broadway like jewels on a necklace. Land Park’s most iconic restaurants include Chada Thai Cuisine, Kyoto Sushi Bar Grill and Ramen, New Station’s authentic Chinese cuisine, Queen Sheba’s spicy and flavorful Ethiopian fare, and Tower Cafe, featuring specialties from around the globe.
7. Rancho Cordova: Modern living
Many of the young professionals, especially those with families or families on the way, are increasingly moving into the Rancho Cordova area.
“When I speak to clients relocating from the Bay Area or Southern California, they initially gravitate to some of the more well-known areas, like Natomas, Roseville or Folsom,” Rosas said.
“I recently had a client who I invited to visit in Rancho Cordova. They identified a home they liked there and just recently closed.
“They absolutely love it. They didn’t know this place existed. The attributes of Rancho Cordova just worked for them. There is quick access to the interstate, and cleaner, wider streets because it’s a newer area.”
You can expect about a 30-minute commute if you choose to live in Rancho Cordova, but on the weekend, you can hop on your bike to get your errands completed, or enjoy 26 miles of bike and pedestrian trails. Six miles of the beautiful American River forms the northern border of Rancho Cordova, and the town enjoys 70 acres of creek channels and tributaries, so you are never far away from a serene nature experience.
With a population of nearly 80,000, Rancho Cordova is one of the most populated neighborhoods of Sacramento. And although the median home value in Rancho Cordova is $476,300, this large suburb offers a fairly wide variety of housing options. The school system has earned high ratings, and over the years, Rancho Cordova has been home to a wide array of hometown events, making it an enticing place to live.
8. South Natomas: Location and affordability
With more than 90,000 residents, Natomas is one of the largest of the Sacramento areas, and one of the most modern. Since the 1990s, there has been ongoing residential, office park, and retail development, with more than 1,000 acres of undeveloped land still available for additional housing.
The area is home to the Sacramento International Airport, making it an ideal location for business professionals who travel regularly.
“Natomas is another community like Rancho Cordova in a sense, but it’s more established,” Rosas said. Like other areas of Sacramento, such as Oak Park, there are distinct differences between the northern and southern areas of Natomas.
“North Natomas is a newer community, with a lot of tract homes and newer development,” Rosas said. “South Natomas has more of the older type homes and is closer to the Downtown area.”
The homes in South Natomas are more moderately priced, with many current listings falling in the range between $300,000 and $400,000.
South Natomas is also home to one of the jewels of Sacramento — Discovery Park. The 302-acre park is located at the confluence of the American and Sacramento Rivers. It has one of the best boat launches in the city, giving avid boaters easy access to miles of scenic waterways.
9. East Sacramento: Vibrant and walkable
Just east of Midtown is East Sacramento, featuring a mix of homes ranging in price between $600,000 and $2.7 million. Home prices are up approximately 4% year-over-year from 2021, with the average home listing at around $800,000.
Here you will find mostly colonial-style homes, except when you wander into the Fabulous Forties. This stunning section of East Sacramento, once home to Ronald Reagan, features an eclectic and architecturally fascinating series of homes built mostly in the early part of the 20th century.
Like many of the neighborhoods, East Sacramento is bordered by the American River. The neighborhood’s most popular park is Paradise Beach, located not far from California State University, Sacramento. A bend in the river forms a cove, where you will typically find swimmers and skimmers enjoying the beautiful natural area.
Located close to downtown, this walkable neighborhood offers an easy commute to work and access to all of the amenities of the city. The university definitely adds to the charm of this area, infusing the neighborhood with a vibrant and youthful vibe.
10. Pocket: A mecca for retirees
You can’t tell the full tale of Sacramento neighborhoods without talking about Pocket. More than 55% of the 26,295 residents who live in Pocket are over the age of 40 years, with 35% of them retired.
“It’s a beautiful area with a mid-century feel,” Rosas says. “You are close to the delta, so you get a lovely breeze. Also, it’s great commuting because you are so close to downtown, with quick access to the interstate.”
Rosas explains that there is a mix of properties there, and many of the older properties have been renovated — so it is not an inexpensive place to live with home prices often hitting in the $700,000 range.
“In addition to the renovated homes, you have a lot of older, beautiful homes with larger lots,” Rosas notes. “A lot of folks gravitate towards this area because of the private schooling, the location, and the beautiful tree-lined streets.”
The neighborhood got its name from its shape and the way it is tucked into a curve of the Sacramento River that runs along its western border.
The scenic area along the river is one of Pocket’s chief attractions and provides copious hiking and biking trails so residents can take advantage of Sacramento’s wonderful climate all year round.
A final note
Sacramento is an eclectic mix of historical neighborhoods and new developments, offering plenty of variety to homebuyers looking to relocate here.
An experienced real estate agent can be especially helpful in pointing you in the right direction to meet your particular budget and lifestyle. Ask lots of questions if you are hunting in Sacramento! There are gems everywhere in this great American city.
Header Image Source: (Stephen Leonardi / Unsplash)