This coastal city located west of Los Angeles County, California, is considered one of the state’s most highly visited urban centers that combines a laid-back BoHo beach vibe with economic game-changers and a robust culture. Home to a harmonious blend of residential communities, commercial districts, and recreational options, Santa Monica has earned the distinction of being among National Geographic’s top 10 beach cities in the world. It has approximately three miles of coastline facing the Pacific Ocean, with its most popular landmark – the Santa Monica Pier – serving as a welcoming beacon to many modern seafarers.
Niche.com regards Santa Monica as the top best suburb to live in the Los Angeles area. The city and its neighborhoods – Sunset Park, Montana, Mid-City, Ocean Park, and City Center – are among the best places to live in California.
Looking to move to Santa Monica? Here’s our guide to the Santa Monica real estate market and luxury living in this hip and upscale city
Table Of Contents
- Overview: The Santa Monica real estate market
- Focus: Luxury real estate in Santa Monica
- Quality of life in Santa Monica
- Economy and jobs
- Full-service city
- The neighborhoods of Santa Monica
- Main Street
- Montana Avenue
- Ocean Park
- Pico Boulevard
- Ocean Avenue
- Wilshire Boulevard
- The Santa Monica luxury lifestyle
- Outdoor activities
- The Valerie Fitzgerald Group, your reliable Santa Monica real estate agent
Overview: The Santa Monica real estate market
Realtor.com places selling prices of Santa Monica real estate at a range between $450 thousand and $22 million. Considered a competitive, red-hot real estate market, Santa Monica boasts some of the most sought-after properties in the state. The most recent Zillow listings reveal a wide variety of options, with the most number of available properties on sale being single-family homes, condominiums, and multi-family residences. Dominant architectural styles here include Craftsman, Spanish Colonial Revival, Victorian, Bungalow, and Art Deco.
Everyone wants to live in Santa Monica, as reflected in its high occupancy rates. Unoccupied residences here only account for a mere 7.8% of the total. Just as the demand for homes for sale here is high, so is the demand for places to rent. In fact, about 71% of Santa Monica’s population is made up of renters. That said, those wanting to invest in rental properties in Santa Monica are bound to see handsome returns.
Focus: Luxury real estate in Santa Monica
Whether the intention for buying luxury real estate in Santa Monica is for settling in, for use as a vacation home, or for renting out to moneyed out-of-towners, the result is the same: Investing in this niche market will ensure a wealth of opportunities and a windfall of profit. After all, the city is an attractive destination and a favorite vacation spot among foreign tourists from colder climates. Add to that the area’s job market growth, booming tech economy, and lifestyle hotspots for both visitors and locals.
Luxury market observers and experts also note a strong demand for locations near nature spots and, in the case of Santa Monica, upscale home buyers are bound to fall in love with the spectacular sunsets, beautiful beaches, lovely weather, and refreshing breeze from the Pacific Ocean here.
Premier properties by the beachfront are the most sought-after but are also the rarest. You have higher chances of getting a property such as this in Santa Monica with the help of local real estate experts like The Valerie Fitzgerald Group. With their access to offline listings and a wide network of colleagues in the industry with whom they can collaborate, your dream of owning waterfront property in Santa Monica can come true.
The work-from-anywhere setup that served as a means to adapt to the new normal brought on by the ongoing pandemic also led to a stronger desire for more space, more land, and more exclusivity in picture-perfect surroundings. Santa Monica has all of these and more.
Luxury real estate properties in Santa Monica come in all shapes and sizes, including waterfront homes, luxury condos, and beachfront mansions. Homes here include fixtures and amenities like second-story terraces, groomed outdoor spaces with fountains and well-maintained landscaping, floor-to-ceiling windows, and elegant French doors. Interiors feature smart-home technology, high-end appliances, and open-floor plans.
Quality of life in Santa Monica
Santa Monica is home to more than 90,000 residents. This population benefits from the city’s massive economic muscle, as well as a booming tourist industry. While the cost of living here is high (204.5 points higher than the national average and 154.6 points higher than the state average at 304.5 points), it makes up for this with high-paying jobs in the technology sector, a diverse range of recreational activities, and the fun and laid-back beach lifestyle.
Economy and jobs
Santa Monica is at the center of Los Angeles' Silicon Beach region. As one of the country’s leading creative hubs and startup epicenters, the city has thrived on the successes of its largely technology-driven economy.
This city’s beautiful beaches and lovely Mediterranean climate have also led to a strong tourism industry that has been the driving force behind promising career opportunities for many Santa Monica residents.
With tourism and tech being the primary foundations of Santa Monica’s economy, the city can generate revenues of more than $130 million annually through business license taxes, sales and use taxes, and transit occupancy taxes. Some successful startups that originated from Santa Monica include TaskUs, Hulu, and HeadSpace. Illumination, Lionsgate Films, Miramax, The Recording Academy, and the Universal Music Group are also some of the notable businesses headquartered in Santa Monica.
Other top industries here include retail trade and professional, scientific, and technical services. To date, an estimated 19% of the residents are working in these high-paying sectors. Moreover, the median household income in Santa Monica is $96,570 – decidedly bigger than the state’s 2016-2020 U.S. Census median household income of $78,672.
Some of the top places to work, according to user reviews on Niche.com, are VCA, UCLA Medical Center-Santa Monica, SP Plus, Providence Saint John's Health Center, and Douglas Emmett.
Meanwhile, below is a list of the city’s top employers:
- UCLA Medical Center-Santa Monica
- City of Santa Monica
- Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District
- Santa Monica College
- Snap Inc.
- Saint John’s Health Center
- Activision Blizzard and Activision
- RAND Corporation
- Lionsgate Entertainment
What is a full-service city? When you live in one, you’re assured of a whole range of services provided for free by the city itself. Santa Monica is one of the full-service cities in the Golden State. It keeps its inhabitants safe, secure, and protected with its city police and fire departments, as well as a neighborhood watch program. The Santa Monica Fire Department has a Class 1 ISO rating, the highest possible rating. The city also has a regional transportation network and services and programs for water, recycling, parking, building, engineering, and sustainability. Furthermore, Santa Monica also offers a high-speed fiber-optic network, free public Wi-Fi, affordable housing options, economic development plans, a library, and recreational, cultural, and educational services.
Besides driving a car, there are many convenient mobility options in Santa Monica.
- Walking. Santa Monica is only 8.3 square miles and is fairly walkable. Many streets have wide, pedestrian-friendly sidewalks. Walking is also the best way to get to know Santa Monica as a new resident and experience what the city has to offer.
- Biking. Santa Monica has bike lanes all around. If you don't own a bike, you can rent one, particularly in Perry's Cafe and Beach Rentals which has nine bike rental locations in Santa Monica.
- Metro Expo Line. The Metro Expo Line connects Santa Monica by light rail to Downtown Los Angeles. There are three stations in the city that also connect to Pasadena, San Fernando Valley, South Bay, Long Beach, and points in between.
- Santa Monica Bus. The Big Blue Bus from the LAX City Bus Center has two bus lines traveling to and from Santa Monica. These buses can get you to several points in the greater LA area and LAX.
- Santa Monica Circuit. This is a golf cart-style cab that offers free rides anywhere within its service area between Wilshire Boulevard and Marine Street and from the ocean to Fifth Street.
- Electric scooters and bikes. Scooter and e-bike rentals are also offered in Santa Monica through scooter and bike-share mobile apps like Lyft and Veo.
Santa Monica is also one of the most accessible destinations in the country. Many locations are wheelchair-friendly and meet ADA requirements to accommodate everyone’s needs. Some locations that offer wheelchair rentals include Santa Monica State Beach, Heal the Bay Aquarium, and the Annenberg Community Beach House.
Along with top-notch healthcare facilities and a well-established transportation system, Santa Monica also takes pride in its top-rated educational facilities. The University of Santa Monica and Santa Monica College produce future bright young professionals.
The city is served by the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. It has ten elementary schools, two middle schools, three high schools, an adult high school, and an alternative school under its wing.
The following Santa Monica private schools also provide top-quality education:
- Waldorf Early Childhood Center
- Saint Monica Catholic High School
- Santa Monica Montessori School
- St. Anne Elementary
- Pacifica Christian High School
- Lighthouse Christian Academy
Santa Monica is also home to the five-star-rated Santa Monica Public Library.
Santa Monica's year-round delightful Mediterranean climate makes it an even more attractive resort town. On average, Santa Monica residents enjoy around 310 sunshine days a year, allowing more time to enjoy the outdoors and its melting pot of lifestyle offerings.
From May until early August, morning fog usually occurs caused by ocean temperature variations and currents. Residents call this the May Gray, June Gloom, or Fogust phenomenon when overcast skies are common in the mornings.
The neighborhoods of Santa Monica
Santa Monica features eight unique neighborhoods, each with its own charm and personality. Find your dream luxury home here.
Main Street is where the Santa Monica art scene is. This neighborhood exudes a laid-back surf vibe and features many galleries and art and cultural attractions like the Edgemar Center for the Arts and Ten Women Gallery. Main Street is also lined with coffee shops and boutiques.
For a more secluded inland neighborhood, go to Mid-City. This is the arts and entertainment center of the city and home to some of the largest entertainment companies. This is also the location of Bergamot Station Arts Center, which houses one of the largest contemporary art collections in LA.
While primarily a residential neighborhood, Montana Avenue features the more high-end shops and is an access point to Downtown Santa Monica. Montana Avenue has tree-lined streets and features ten blocks of more than 150 boutique shops and restaurants.
Southeast of Santa Monica Pier, Ocean Park is an extension of Main Street’s artsy vibe. The neighborhood is home to independent coffee shops and art galleries. To the east of Ocean Park is Santa Monica Airport, which features the Museum of Flying.
Pico Boulevard is the most ethnically diverse neighborhood in Santa Monica. This is where you will see college students strolling near Santa Monica College, as well as residents and tourists visiting the clothing boutique stores, record stores, and art galleries.
The famous Santa Monica Pier is located on Ocean Avenue. This palm tree-lined avenue offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. This is the center of tourism in the city, with most of the local hotels situated here, as well as open-air restaurants and bars.
Wilshire Boulevard is one of the most popular streets in Santa Monica, and it spans from Ocean Avenue through Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, and Downtown LA. Wilshire Boulevard borders the famous Douglas Park. It also has a strip of diverse eateries and designer consignment shops that ends at the scenic Palisades Park, where you can enjoy a view of the sunset.
The Santa Monica luxury lifestyle
While Santa Monica is Southern California's most renowned beach town, there is so much more to see and do in the city for families and individuals of all ages and preferences. Santa Monica may be a hot tourist destination but it’s considered to be more laid-back than other popular beach towns like Venice and Malibu. Thus, it’s no surprise that luxury home buyers and vacation property investors are drawn to Santa Monica.
- Santa Monica State Beach. One of the most iconic and scenic attractions in the world, the Santa Monica State Beach stretches over three miles and covers 245 acres of coastline. Apart from enjoying swimming and walking along the seashore, you can also visit the scenic walking and biking paths, public art spaces, and sand volleyball courts of Santa Monica State Beach. Other sports you can play here include beach tennis, beach soccer, stand-up paddleboard, and surfing. Do note, though, that pets are not allowed here. However, there’s nearby Rosie's Dog Beach in Long Beach where you can take your dogs along with you.
- Santa Monica Pier. The heart of Santa Monica is in the historic Santa Monica Pier. One of the most photographed locations in the world, this venue is where locals and visitors alike get to experience and enjoy local culture. Along with its rich history and picturesque views, Santa Monica Pier is famous for the Pacific Park Ferris Wheel and regular events and family-friendly activities held here.
- Community Recreation Division. Santa Monica’s Community Recreation Division runs programs and facilities to keep the residents of Santa Monica active. One of them is the Santa Monica Swim Center & Aquatics program. This award-winning, community-serving program offers different training sessions and events for community members of all ages. They have swimming lessons, training programs, water aerobics, and many other weekly and monthly events. Other facilities and programs run by the Community Recreation Divison include:
- Memorial Park Gym
- Cove Skatepark
- Adult sports leagues
- Community camps and classes
- Annenberg Community Beach House. This venue in Santa Monica State Beach offers cultural programs and tours. Santa Monica Conservancy docents will be sharing the remarkable history of the Beach House site since its humble beginnings in the 1920s.
- Farmers’ markets. You can find farmers' markets all around the city that create vibrant, inclusive communities promoting California farmers and small food businesses. The farmers' markets are situated in the Downtown, Main Street, and Pico areas.
- Historic landmarks. Santa Monica is abundant with preserved local landmarks and historic districts. This interactive map shows all of Santa Monica's landmarks, structures of merit, and historic districts.
- Self-guided tours. Explore the 111-year history of the Santa Monica Pier by downloading its Secret Story Tour app and solving location-based puzzles to unlock stories about the pier. You can also download the Santa Monica Conservancy’s free Downtown Walking Tour brochure to take a self-guided tour and discover the city’s historic architecture.
The nightlife in Santa Monica echoes the overall vibe of the coastal city: relaxed and best for chilling out. Here, you’ll find live music, dive bars, lounges, rooftop bars, clubs, and Happy Hour offerings. Watch a big game at sports bars, enjoy craft beers at dive bars, dance the night away in nightclubs, or have a quiet night in a wine bar—the options are endless in Santa Monica.
The shopping destinations in Santa Monica are not just for buying merchandise but also for people-watching. You’ll discover a diverse lot from local artisans to young people wearing the trendiest local fashion. Shopping options in Santa Monica are a-plenty, from upscale malls to local boutiques selling unique items.
Santa Monica is a popular international dining destination and the birthplace of California and fusion cuisine, distinguished by artfully combining culinary styles. The city also prioritizes fresh produce and local food businesses, always opting for sustainable, organic ingredients for an authentic farm-to-table experience.
Places like Main Street, Ocean Avenue, and Montana Avenue have areas lined with restaurants so visitors can simply jump from door to door to savor the city's diverse food options. Whether you’re in the mood for Asian cuisine, all-American burgers and steaks, authentic Italian pasta dishes, or vegan delights, your craving will be satisfied here in Santa Monica.
The Valerie Fitzgerald Group, your reliable Santa Monica real estate agent
Experience the relaxed, beachside living while enjoying big-city amenities in your new luxury home in Santa Monica. To realize your dream, you only need to get in touch with our team, the Valerie Fitzgerald Group. We have over 20 years of proven experience in the Westside LA and Beverly Hills luxury real estate scene, including Santa Monica. Assisting you in your real estate journey is our primary concern, with the guarantee that you’ll find the right luxury home that fits all your requirements. Call us at 310.285.7515 or send an email to info(at)valeriefitzgerald(dotted)com.