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Old 02-15-2008, 02:12 PM
Location: South Bay
327 posts, read 859,455 times
Reputation: 190


Hey everyone. What's the deal with Mission Viejo and Rancho Santa Margarita? Are they good places to live (i.e. nice neighborhoods, good schools, good amenities? How are the demographics of this area different from Irvine? Also, what would you say the commute time is to Huntington Beach?

The MLS search shows that this area has a lot more affordable homes than the rest of Orange County. I'm just wondering if its cheaper because it's a bedroom community with little or no infrastructure, or if it's actually a really nice place to live, but it's cheaper because it's on the outskirts of Orange County?

Thank you for your help!
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Old 02-15-2008, 04:45 PM
Location: Mission Viejo, CA
2,498 posts, read 10,285,535 times
Reputation: 1598
Mission Viejo and Rancho Santa Margarita are in an area usually referred to as "South Orange County." This is a newer area of the county that is mainly residential, with most of the tech jobs being in Irvine or farther north.
Mission Viejo is the first city I will describe (I live here):
Mission Viejo is one of the first master built communities in the USA, actually considered "master planned" before Irvine was. Construction began in the 1960's on the oldest homes centered around La Paz Road. Today the city has about 100,000 residents and was recently ranked the safest city in America. Mission Viejo is very much a family oriented community. There are 52 parks or designated open space sites within the cities borders.
Cordova Park
http://cityofmissionviejo.org/depts/rcs/parkpics/images/14.jpg (broken link)

Impressive sport facilities, like the Youth Athletic Park
http://cityofmissionviejo.org/depts/rcs/parkpics/images/52.jpg (broken link)

There are also several recreation centers located throughout the city, some examples:
Sierra Recreation Center
http://cityofmissionviejo.org/depts/rcs/parkpics/images/facility_k.jpg (broken link)

Norman P. Murray Community Center
http://cityofmissionviejo.org/depts/rcs/parkpics/images/facility_j.jpg (broken link)

Aquatics Center
http://cityofmissionviejo.org/depts/rcs/parkpics/images/facility_e.jpg (broken link)

The Mission Viejo Library (a beautiful award winning building, much better than OC Public Library System):

The city is also home to its own freshwater lake that is safe for swimming. If you have little kids this is great because it is much safer to swim in than the ocean. The lake is surrounded by beautiful custom estates and the entire city has access to the marina where kayaks, sailboats, party boats, pedal boats, etc... are for rent for like $5. Also, only Mission Viejo residents and there guests can use the lake, so it is never as crowded as the ocean.

Shopping: The city has its own mall, the Shops at Mission Viejo anchored by Nordstrom, Macys, and Saks Fifth Avenue. The Kaleidoscope Courtyards entertainment mini mall is across the street with Regal Cinemas, Howies Game Shack, Laser Quest and other venues. There are a variety of shopping centers with all your basic and everyday needs throughout the city.

Schools: Mission Viejo is served by Saddleback Valley Unified School District and Capistrano Unified School District. I live in CUSD and am happy, although the district has severe budget and leadership problems. The schools in Mission Viejo are still very good and parents make sure the district doesn't mess up. In all, Irvine schools are some of the top in the country, but Mission Viejo's are just behind them and your child can still succeed at Mission Viejo schools as much as at an Irvine school. Check the attendance boundaries for both districts to be sure you avoid three schools. Can't think of their names right now, but they are not up to par with the rest of the city. Open enrollment within a district works usually so if you find a house you really like, but want to go to Del Lago Elementary (10/10), then you could buy somewhere else within SVUSD boundaries and transfer.

Demographics vs. Irvine: Mission Viejo is a bit less diverse because 83% of the residents are white. In Irvine, it says 30% are Asian, but it could be even more now (part of the reason Irvine schools are so good is the schools have large Asian populations). In Irvine there is a large Asian influence and there are many traditional Asian markets and restauraunts. Irvine is 61% white, 7% Hispanic, and 1% African American. Mission Viejo is about 7% Asian, 12% Hispanic, and 1% African American. That is about as diverse as MV gets.

As far as income, they are basically the same. Irvine families make an average of $103,000 where Mission Viejo families make an average of $99,000. As you can see, both are fairly affluent areas. Not ultra rich, but people make decent livings.

One reason I personally like Mission Viejo more than Irvine is the geography. Mission Viejo is set in rolling hills with green slopes on the sides of many of the parkways. Irvine is mainly flat and a bit more stale.

I will do RSM later, that was a lot of typing.
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Old 02-15-2008, 05:37 PM
Location: South Bay
327 posts, read 859,455 times
Reputation: 190

Thank you for the very descriptive response. I appreciate your time and effort. I look forward to your assessment on RSM.

I would definitely be working in Irvine, or Huntington Beach at the farthest. How terrible is the traffic through this region? What are the commuting experiences to Irvine from MV or RSM?
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Old 02-15-2008, 06:46 PM
Location: Mission Viejo, CA
2,498 posts, read 10,285,535 times
Reputation: 1598
It depends on the area of Irvine. To the Irvine Spectrum area, 20 minutes from north Mission Viejo at rush hour, about 25 from south Mission Viejo. If your commute is to the area around John Wayne Airport in Irvine, it is about 35-40 minutes in heavy traffic, but you could probably do it in 30 minutes if you left before 7:15AM.

Huntington Beach, I don't know about that commute at rush hour. I would think it would not be fun. Probably 50 minutes if I had to guess. If you left early you could avoid traffic.

Rancho Santa Margarita is going to be a little farther. The closest areas of RSM to the freeway are 15 minutes and some areas are 20 minutes away from it. Irvine Spectrum area is 25-30 minutes from RSM and airport area is about 40-45 minutes in traffic. One of the worst things about RSM in my opinion is that there are only two entrances from the 5 freeway: Exit Alicia and drive through Mission Viejo to Santa Margarita Parkway which goes into the city or exit Oso Parkway and turn left on Antonio into RSM.

OK, Rancho Santa Margarita is another master planned city in south Orange County located east of Mission Viejo across the canyon that is Oneil Regional Park. The city is located below Saddleback Mountain, its main back drop. The city is very new and one of the youngest in the county, with most homes not older than 15 years old. About 50,000 people live in the city. The style of the city is stucco with red tile roofs, Spanish theme, throughout. Much of the city is small single family homes or apartment complexes, while there are three big single family homes developments: Dove Canyon, Robinsion Ranch, and Rancho Cielo. Dove Canyon is the flag ship neighborhood of the city, where homes top out at about 1.5 million. RSM doesn't have 2+ million dollar homes like MV or Irvine so the city is more all middle or upper middle class.

RSM has a good amount of parks, although no major sport parks. Many RSM baseball players, play at Mission Viejo fields. The city has several recreation centers throughout and a nice lake in its heart. The lake is different than Lake MV though because you can't swim in it. Instead they have built a pool with sand on the bottom next to it that looks like it blends in with the rest of the lake. This one is more just scenic and more for walking around.

Typical RSM homes.

Community Pool

RSM Library, part of OC Public Libraries

For shopping, the heart of the city is Town Center where the majority of the stores are. All the big chains you need are there and there are a few more local strip malls throughout the city. The city is fairly compact though and you could go from one side to the other in a few minutes.

Schools: RSM is split in half also, with half in SVUSD and half in CUSD (same districts as MV). The schools in RSM are all good and the high schools are good as well. At the high school level, some students do not like CUSD's school Tesoro. Tesoro High School has attendance boundaries mainly in Coto de Caza which is sort of like snobville USA of south Orange County. The RSM kids are sometimes made fun of by the spoiled Coto kids for living "outside the gates." I could see this happening as Coto has a bad reputation with everyone else in south Orange County for many people's attitude. The SVUSD part of RSM attends high schools in Mission Viejo, at Mission Viejo High and Trabuco Hills High so Tesoro is the only "RSM" high school. Something to think about, because the drive is a bit to go to Mission Viejo everyday from RSM.

Demographics: Almost the exact same as Mission Viejo, 81% white, 7% Asian, 13% Hispanic. The median income for a family is lower, at $88,000.

I will leave it up to you to pick (although you could probably guess what I would recommend based off my user name Seriously though, both are great places to live, especially if you have children. If you have specifics like: Is this neighborhood good?, What is this elementary school like?, are there walking trails near here? etc...... feel free to ask them.
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Old 02-16-2008, 04:35 PM
Location: South Bay
327 posts, read 859,455 times
Reputation: 190
Thank you very much for your response. This really helps. We'll be visiting in a month and will definitely plan on spending some time looking around MV and RSM.
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Old 02-17-2008, 02:15 AM
158 posts, read 516,917 times
Reputation: 60
I lived in Rancho Santa Margarita with my husband when we first got married. It is a beautiful city. People are active (lots of joggers), and the landscape is hilly & green. Unfortunately, we had to move because we could not find an affordable home to purchase and still allow me to stay home with my babies (priority).
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Old 02-22-2008, 03:04 PM
365 posts, read 1,279,402 times
Reputation: 46
Those are two very nice places. Also look at Ladera Ranch if you enjoy master planned communities! It is tucked back off the 5 East of Mission Viejo, and was known as a zone in Mission Viejo. Those are all very nice, safe communities with young families and active communities.
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Old 02-24-2008, 03:10 PM
2 posts, read 29,339 times
Reputation: 19
Default Rancho Santa Margarita, Mission Viejo, Coto

My Name is Paul McDuell (www.mcduell.com) - I am a Realtor in Rancho Santa Margarita (RSM). My mailing address is in Trabuco Canyon. Parts of Trabuco Canyon were included in RSM when it became a city.

In my opinion, RSM is one of the best places in the world to live!

Mission has some newer areas, but most of Mission is now getting older. Still a very nice city, but I give the edge to RSM . Note that RSM and Mission share a common boundary in several areas, so in parts they are indistinguishable.

Rancho Santa Margarita was officially incorporated on 1 January 2000. It was the 33rd city in Orange County, and is one of the newest cities in the state.

Rancho is wonderful, it's new, it's clean, and most everyone is friendly. Even those "Coto" people. While "Coto de Caza" is not part of RSM, they are right next door. I talk to a lot of people that live in Coto. By and large, they are very nice too.

There is virtually no crime in Rancho. My wife is the neighborhood watch captain for our block (not even sure why we have a neighborhood watch) so we hear about a lot of the trouble in the area. The crimes are almost non-existent, and the vast majority that do occur are practically laughable. A Stolen bicycle, skateboard, laptop, often returned later.

The homes here run the gamut, from 1 bedroom Condominiums, to homes over 4,000 square feet. Most of the largest homes are in the Dove Canyon community, behind guarded gates, but there are also large homes in other parts of RSM. The wonderful thing about RSM, is that a young family can purchase a relatively new detached home for a reasonable price

We have the Cleavland National Forest as our backyard which means no more homes behind us in the future. This includes O'Neil park. We are far enough away from the big cities to feel rural, but close enough to get anywhere in Orange County quickly. RSM has several community parks, many with community pools. The RSM lake is a great place to stroll, see the ducks, visit, and bike ride.

We have several grocery stores, shops, restaurants, movie theaters, a dog park, Churches, and several great schools.

As far as commute times - we may not be close to the freeways (that is a big plus in my book), but we are close to the Toll Roads. Yes, you have to pay a fee to use them (get Fast Track Transponder), but they are just like the Freeway. I can leave from my house and be in Irvine in 15~20 min. I used to commute to Torrance Airport everyday for 5 years. I left and came home before rush hour and the commute was less than an hour. (that's doing some driving above the posted limit :-). Torrance is Much farther than Huntington Beach (my old stomping grounds). Driving at rush hour will be a totally different story, the freeways, like any major city, do slow down.

There are two important things to consider when contemplating a move to RSM. Many of the communities have a "Supplemental Fee" known as Mello Roos. Similar to a property tax, comes on the tax bill. The vast majority of RSM homes have Mello Roos fees. While this at first would appear to be a determent, there are some advantages. First, our home prices are lower because the Mello Roos fees are taken into consideration when evaluating home values. Next, in areas that have Mello Roos, the fees are an additional income stream that is used to create and maintain the cities infrastructure. Note that while property taxes are based on the selling price of a home, Mello Roos fees are NOT. The Mello Roos fees do not change upon property transfer, but the property tax fees do. Mello Roos fees can and typically do go up, but are normally adjusted annually and rise about 2% a year. The Mello Roos fees differ from community to community, and even by floor plan. Each locality is given latitude in determining how the Mello Roos is calculated. Fortunately, it is a matter of public record and any good Realtor will be able to tell you how much the Mello Roos fees are, as well how much the projected after sale property taxes will be.

One last thing you also need to know about are Home Owner Association (HOA) fees. These are fees collected by the Home Owner's Associations for the various planned communities. They can vary greatly as well. They can range from $0 to well over $200 a month.

South Orange County has been hit very hard in the current housing "crunch". Many purchasers here bought their homes using the "option ARM" loans. Many of the loans have adjusted (explaining that is a post in itself). A lot of people have found themselves in homes they can no longer afford. Many homes have come on the market, and because of that, prices have come down. (None of my clients every took out option arm loans). It's my belief, based on my readng and personal experience, that we are at or very near the bottom on prices. I have only just recently felt this way. Mortgage rates are starting to edge up. I feel that 2 weeks ago may have been the ultimate time to buy in this area. Prices seem to be firming up, rates are edging up, but my crystal ball is a little foggy so it's a little hard to know for sure. I firmly believe that if this is not the very bottom, then we are at least close. This is NOT the best time to sell a home, but it is a VERY good time to buy.

If I can assist you and your family with any of your Real Estate needs let me know. If you would like a tour of Rancho Santa Margarita, or any areas in South Orange County, I would be honored to have the opportunity.

Visit my website - there is access to the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) where you can search for homes in Calif. Note that my search tool is up to date, where search tools on many of the large sites can be out of date by a couple of weeks.

I've been a Realtor since 1979, and a Southern Calif. resident all of my life (since 1955). I am an ABR (Accredited Buyers Representative) and an e-Pro (Real Estate Computer Expert).

Feel free to contact me with any questions related to Southern Calif. Real Estate.

Good luck to you in your search for a home. I hope to hear from you.....
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Old 02-25-2008, 10:34 AM
114 posts, read 425,878 times
Reputation: 47
I have to weigh in just a bit here. I sopent my entire 42 years in o.c, both north ( Garden Grove) and south( Mission Viejo then Portola Hills). I would suggest to anyone to look into m.v, rsm, and in particular Portoal as we loved it. We found Portola nice as it was so close to not only the cleveland national forest and 241, but also whiting ranch. By the way, Foothill Ranch is nice too and around the corner.

However, what made me want to pipe in was the comment of o.c housing prioces being at there low. Ive been hearing that for the last 18 months opn a quarterly basis from every oc realtor, broker, and mortgage lender i know which are a few, yet the prices keep falling and the marker keeps getting worse. So be wary on that front.

As an asie we recently relocated to Austin, Tx for a variety of reasons, some of it the falling real estate market. Luckily we cashed out with about 350 in equity. Oh , the "analysists" said then a year ago that it was geting ready to go falt and now tat same house is selling for apporximately $100,000 less (give or take).
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Old 02-25-2008, 02:34 PM
575 posts, read 1,597,934 times
Reputation: 306
Originally Posted by Paulcalif View Post
It's my belief, based on my readng and personal experience, that we are at or very near the bottom on prices. I have only just recently felt this way. Mortgage rates are starting to edge up. I feel that 2 weeks ago may have been the ultimate time to buy in this area. Prices seem to be firming up, rates are edging up, but my crystal ball is a little foggy so it's a little hard to know for sure. I firmly believe that if this is not the very bottom, then we are at least close. This is NOT the best time to sell a home, but it is a VERY good time to buy.
Lots of good info, but I have to say I'm with dfarmer and would be very careful about buying into the part about missing the bottom 2 weeks ago.

Let's just look at the part about interest rates edging up. While I know not all economists agree on a direct relationship between home prices and interest rates; it would seem to me that rising interest rates would point to lower house prices, not higher. (ie: your explanation of how mello roos can affect pricing)

This would be especially true in an area where affordability is already an issue. (OC anyone?)

Of course I'm also assuming people will actually have to legitimately qualify for credit. Personally I certainly hope the days of "you make $90,000 and have little if anything to put down..... no problem, we can qualify you to buy a million dollar tract home" are over.

Now if the economy were booming and those higher interest rates were being offset by better job prospects and higher pay... OK, not so much of an issue. Then I could see interest rates and house prices rising together.

But if you don't want to acknowledge the prospect of the big R (as it seems more and more folks are) I'd say at least buckle in for a period of stagflation.

Given current economic conditions I can't see how prices could possibly continue up from where they are now and be sustainable. (speaking of OC in general)

But if time proves that Paul is right and I'm wrong on this one... I'm up for a crystal ball exchange.
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