5 Cheapest Places to Live in Northern California

An aerial picture of Clear Lake, California. Picture is of the water and the land formation with trees.

California’s popularity among tourists and residents is no accident. The unique culture, climate, and scenery make the Golden State a coveted place to call home. However, high demand results in high housing and living costs.

The median value of a home in California is $538,500. In popular cities, these astronomical costs can seem inevitable. Yet hidden gems offer some of the cheapest places to live in Northern California. Homes in the cities below can be found over $200,000 cheaper than the median price statewide.

With all the benefits of living in sunny California at half of the price, these NorCal cities will captivate you with their beauty and value. Here are the five cheapest places to live in Northern California. 

1. Chico

An picture of a map with the city of Chico, California on the map. Shows different roads and attractions.

Median home value: $349,300

Median rent: $1,145

If you love scenic views and natural landscapes, Chico City is an ideal area to find affordable living spaces. With trees, fields, parks, and ranches, this area offers tranquil living with peaceful and picturesque recreation opportunities. 

You can settle down in an affordable home near protected parks like the Plumas National Forest and Tahoe National Forest. Friends and family will love visiting and seeing all the natural wonders right in your backyard.

You won’t be bored with the local museums and attractions that give Chico its unique charm and personality. And when you need a getaway, you’re only a few hours’ drive from Sacramento and San Francisco.

2. Stockton

Median home value: $298,200

Median rent: $1,183

With its waterfront views and reasonable prices, Stockton provides plenty of reasons to call this your new home. Located on the San Joaquin River in the Central Valley, this modest city offers enriching experiences for all ages.

Many young families reside in this area already, and the area offers the perfect balance of activities and privacy for all residents. Residents will love having the Historic Bob Hope Theater in town with new events every month. The area also features a children’s museum and an art museum for the whole family to enjoy.

You will find many beautiful parks in this area as well as robust shopping and dining opportunities. Stockton welcomes you as a perfect place for families to grow and expand.

3. Eureka

Median home value: $295,500

Median rent: $951

Perfect for those ready for a slower-paced hometown with access to fabulous activities, Eureka can provide it all at an affordable price.

A port city in Northern California, Eureka’s historic Old Town is an experience that puts it firmly on the map. This area boasts more than 150 buildings from the Victorian era that have been preserved for tourists and residents to enjoy. Among the most notable architecture is the Victorian Carson Mansion, which visitors can appreciate from the former estate’s grounds.

This modest town–complete with unique shops, marinas, and natural sights–offers every hobby or recreation and less stress and bustle than big cities. So whether you like hanging out in town or forging a new path on a trail, you can find a great mixture right in Eureka.

4. Crescent City

Median home value: $178,600

Median rent: $1,005

For those who love the California coast at an accessible price, Crescent City is an ideal place to buy or rent a living space. The crescent beach and ocean views offer a quaint but comfortable place that you will love to call home.

Located in the northeastern corner of California, Crescent City maintains the personality of NorCal while also being down-to-earth and accessible. You will find many recreational spaces here with plentiful parks, beaches, and trails. This scenic city sits near Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, where you and your family can camp, hike, and drive among the age-old trees.

More adventurous sightseers can kayak, paddle, and float along the Smith River, California’s longest free-flowing river. This city is friendly and lively, making it the perfect place to raise a family.

5. Clearlake

Median home value: $124,400

Median rent: $914

Located in Lake County, Clearlake is among the top counties with the cleanest air in America. With an atmosphere that matches the serenity of the city’s freshwater lake, this area is perfect for those looking to get away from the fast life and take it slow.

Surrounded by water, trees, and mountains, this beautiful area can clear your mind as you marvel at the natural sights. While homeowners will love the greenery on their property, there are many outdoor public attractions to enjoy as well. For example, you can take a trip to Clear Lake State Park or the Taylor Observatory to appreciate nature to its fullest.

Residents can visit the nearly 40 local wineries in Lake County that offer highly acclaimed wines and local specialties. There are also plentiful local artists at The Upper Lake Mercantile, where you can buy one-of-a-kind items to decorate your new home.

You will feel invited and welcomed in this small town with a home of your very own. And if you ever miss the excitement of the city, San Francisco is a mere 2.5-hour drive away.

Key Takeaways 

  • Culture, climate, scenery, and activities make the Golden State a popular place to call home.
  • The median price of a home in California is $538,500.
  • High demand for California living results in high housing and living costs.
  • Homes in Northern California can be over $200,000 cheaper than the median price statewide.
  • Many towns in Northern California are near beaches, state parks, and forests. 


NorCal’s charming cities are full of well-priced home and rental options. The unique landscapes and history make these the best and cheapest places to live in Northern California. If you want to live in a town that takes life slow, waking up here every day can feel like a dream.  

If you’re considering moving to Northern California (or have already), we want to hear how much you love it in the comments below. Or, please tell us if there are any affordable spots we missed–if you’re willing to have some new neighbors, that is!

Related: Living in California