This is the third installment in Inman’s “12 in ’21” hot neighborhoods series, which explores areas with both booming real estate markets and dense amenities. To read previous stories in the series, click here and here.
Sacramento may well have been the perfect city to thrive in these crazy times.
Though Sacramento is the capital of California and the state’s sixth largest metropolis, it has for years been overshadowed by its bigger cousins. Nearby San Francisco was the tech hub. Los Angeles had Hollywood. And San Diego, near the border with Mexico, had the best weather.
All those other cities thrived because they had booming job markets. But when the coronavirus pandemic hit and remote work became the norm, suddenly a lot of workers no longer needed to stay in their pricey coastal cities. And that made a place like Sacramento very attractive.
Among Sacramento’s many selling points include its relatively affordable housing market compared to other cities, its proximity to California’s many mountains, and its nearness to the Bay Area, which lets people in the Sacramento still take advantage of the coastal labor market. Outsiders may also know the city as the setting of Greta Gerwig’s acclaimed film Lady Bird.
For those reasons, the whole of Sacramento has been booming over the last year.
But even within the thriving city, the Oak Park neighborhood stands out. The area sits near downtown, is filled with eclectic homes, and has historically been more affordable than other core parts of the metro area. More recently, it’s also seen an influx of coffee shops and cafes. And for those reasons, it’s one of the hottest neighborhoods in the country.
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Here’s what you need to know:
What is Oak Park?
Oak Park is located southeast of downtown Sacramento. It’s bounded on the north by U.S. Route 50 and on the west by California State Route 90. Broadway, a major boulevard in the city, forms a kind of commercial spine through the area, and is lined with palm trees and quaint older commercial buildings.
Tim Swanston — an agent with North Coast Commercial who works with multifamily real estate in the area — told Inman that historically the area was somewhat rougher compared to nearby neighborhoods. However, over the last decade or so the area, and particularly the northern part, has seen its fortunes rise.
“North Oak Park is the trendy area,” Swanston said, explaining that its proximity to the UC Davis Medical Center means there are many younger doctors and nurses who now live in the neighborhood.
Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that the central part of the neighborhood has a population of more than 5,000 people. The median age is just over 31, which is slightly younger than the city as a whole.
Oak Park real estate
Jim Anderson, an agent with Lyon Real Estate who works in the area, told Inman that homes in Oak Park typically date from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. Many of them were built in the craftsman style, though there are others styles as well, such as Tudor Revival. There are also a few Victorians dating from the area’s origins in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Just over two decades ago, when Anderson was starting out in real estate, homes in the area were selling in some cases for less than $20,000. However, like Swanston, Anderson said the area has seen surging popularity in recent years and now prices more typically hover around $300,000.
Data further shows that the area has indeed seen substantial price increases. Oak Park technically stretches across both the 95817 and 95820 zip codes. According to numbers from Zillow (which uses a unique home valuation metric), homes in the 95817 zip code had an average value of $460,093 in January of this year. In the 95820 zip code, homes had an average value of $345,486 in January.
Both of those numbers represent year-over-year increases of about 15 percent.
Zillow economic data analyst Dan Hardy told Inman in an email that Oak Park has seen prices rise over the last year along with the rest of the U.S.
“As of December 2020, sale prices were up an incredible 20 percent annually in both the 95817 and 95820 ZIP codes that the neighborhood spans,” Hardy noted. “Available inventory has been trending down since early 2019, likely aided by the newly quickened pace at which homes were selling. During the pandemic, homes have typically been selling within a week of being listed in 95820, and a slightly slower pace of about 8 to 12 days in 95817. This downward trend in inventory may be slowing, however, with sellers perhaps incentivized by the recent rise in prices and more confident while vaccines are now being distributed.”
As of the time of this writing, there were approximately 17 properties listed for sale in Oak Park on Zillow. The most expensive was a four-plex that Anderson is representing, which was asking $888,000. The most expensive single-family home appeared to be a 1,407-square-foot house built in 2013 that boasts three bedrooms and three baths. The home was listed for $529,900.
The least expensive single family home in the neighborhood was a 504-square-foot home with one bedroom and one bath. It was asking $219,000.
Anderson said buyers are typically bidding between $15,000 and $20,000 over homes’ asking prices in the Oak Park area right now. The area’s rise from challenged to trendy has also attracted the attention of flippers, though Anderson said that homeowners themselves have actually had the most success remodeling their properties.
Redfin also provided data to Inman, and those numbers show a similar trend: Median sales prices in 95817 rose from $105,000 in February of 2012 to $453,000 in January of 2021. In 95820, median prices rose from $82,000 to $355,000 over that same period.
Redfin’s data further shows that 95817 had 60 new listings in January of 2021, an increase of nearly 82 percent year over year, while 95820 had 138 new listings, a jump of almost 44 percent.
Homes in 95817 spent an average of 10 days on the market, and homes in 95820 typically sat on the market for 9 days. Properties in both zip codes have been selling above asking price since last spring, the data additionally revealed.
Oak Park rents
The pandemic has been a strange, and in some cases challenging, period for rentals. For one thing, the number of payments themselves were down in many cities, and, for another, pricey metros like San Francisco have actually seen rents drop over the past year.
Oak Park, however, seems to have avoided the roller coaster that its coastal neighbors faced.
According to data that rental listings company Zumper provided to Inman, one-bedroom units in the neighborhood were going for an average of $1,233 per month as of February 2021. That’s up 3.2 percent compared to the same period one year ago.
Two bedroom units have seen even more demand, with rent hitting $1,675 per month this February — up a whopping 11.1 percent year-over-year.
It’s easy to see why rents in Sacramento, and in particular Oak Park, have continued rising. Even after precipitous, pandemic-driven declines over the last year rent for a one-bedroom unit in San Francisco still averaged $2,660 in January 2021. That’s more than twice as much as rent in Oak Park.
Sacramento is about 90 minutes from San Francisco, but for the Bay Area’s tech workers that commute probably doesn’t seem too long when they’re only going into the office occasionally, if ever.
Swanston said that overall he has seen a lack of vacancies in the area, in part due to Bay Area transplants. That has sent rents creeping up.
He also said the region’s general lack of real estate inventory has translated into few multifamily units hitting the market. Those that sell are sometimes brokered privately, without ever becoming available to the public. And those that do have public listings have tended to be less desirable for any number of reasons.
Oak Park amenities
As is the case with other areas featured in this series, Oak Park excels not just because it has a strong real estate market, but also because it’s dense with amenities.
Swanston said one area of particular note is the Broadway Triangle, in the heart of the neighborhood, which has shops and eateries and other popular destinations.
“North Oak Park has become kind of a hipster area with coffee shops and breweries,” Swanston explained.
That same area also features a number of newer apartment-style developments, which have boosted density and provided a larger customer base for local businesses.
Beyond food, the Broadway Triangle also includes numerous old buildings and a performing arts venue with a grand brick facade.
Overall, amenity tracking company Walkscore gives the neighborhood a rating of 76, which means that it is “very walkable.” That’s thanks to the high concentration not just of restaurants, but also to an abundance of schools, parks, entertainment venues and other destinations.
Walkscore further notes that the area only has a few public transit options, but that it is a “biker’s paradise.”
Oak Park buzz
Oak Park is a perennial winner on lists of best places in Sacramento, with various publications highlighting the area’s independent boutiques and mix of comparatively affordable homes. Back in 2019, the Sacramento Bee — the city’s paper of record — specifically highlighted Oak Park as among a handful of neighborhoods that have become “epicenters” of new development.
All of the attention has also turned the area into something of a case study in gentrification. As a result, there’s an ongoing debate about where new development and trendy boutiques leave longtime residents — many of whom are people of color.
Those conversations are still ongoing, as is the evolution of the neighborhood itself. In the meantime, though, the fact that the topic is even being debated hints at Oak Park’s popularity. Neighborhoods such as Los Angeles’ Echo Park and New York City’s Williamsburg, after all, also generated heated debate about gentrification as they gradually took center stage in the country’s collective consciousness.
And while it remains to be seen how the area might develop over time, one thing is clear: People from across the city and the state continue to flock there.
“Sacramento is a great place to live,” Anderson ultimately concluded. “You still get more for your money than you do in the big cities.”