Land Costs on the California Coast

Land Costs Are High on the California Coast. Land prices on the California coast are among the highest in the country. In contrast, land prices in inland California typically are at or below the national average. Comparing land prices across metropolitan areas can be difficult, largely due to data limitations. Nonetheless, several estimates of land values are available in the economics literature and they find that land is considerably more expensive on California’s coast. One analysis of land sales between 2005 and 2010 found that land prices in California’s metros ranged from twice as expensive as the average U.S. metro (Oakland and San Diego) to more than four times as expensive (San Francisco). We also examined existing data to better understand the value of single–family home lots in different areas. Using American Housing Survey data from 2011, we found an even greater divergence between California and the rest of the country. Residential land in an average U.S. metro was valued at around $20,000 per acre, compared with over $150,000 in California’s coastal metros. Land values were highest in San Francisco, where an acre of land was valued at nearly $400,000.

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