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An insider’s guide to Orange County property management, economy and demographics, and real estate market

Real estate
An insider’s guide to Orange County property management, economy and demographics, and real estate market
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Orange County is a vibrant and diverse region in Southern California known for its beautiful beaches, stunning homes, and robust real estate market. This guide is designed to give you an insider's look into Orange County property management and how to thrive in this dynamic market.

Understanding Orange County

A brief history of Orange County

Orange County has a rich history dating back to its founding in 1889. Its culture and lifestyle are heavily influenced by its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, leading to a relaxed, outdoor-oriented way of life reflected in the local real estate market.

The culture and lifestyle of Orange County

Day-to-day culture and lifestyle are vital considerations for Orange County property management. Understanding the local culture and how it impacts housing preferences can help property managers cater better to their residents' needs, maintain high occupancy rates, and ultimately ensure the success of their rental properties.

Orange County, often considered the glamorous cousin to Los Angeles, is rich in cultural heritage and offers an enviable lifestyle that significantly influences its real estate market. Orange County, nestled in the heart of Southern California, is where sun-soaked beaches meet world-class cultural institutions, creating a unique lifestyle that blends leisure and sophistication.

Known for its warm weather, vibrant arts scene, outdoor activities, and diversity, Orange County is a hub of culture and lifestyle that appeals to various tastes.

Natural Beauty and Outdoor Activities

Orange County is renowned for its picturesque beaches and sprawling parks, making it an outdoor lover's paradise.

The area offers many outdoor activities from surfing on Huntington Beach, also known as "Surf City USA," to hiking in the Santa Ana Mountains. Moreover, the sunny, Mediterranean-like climate allows for the year-round enjoyment of these outdoor amenities.

Additionally, the stunning beaches of Newport Beach and Laguna Beach attract sun-seekers, surfers, and nature lovers, and beachfront properties are highly sought after for their panoramic ocean views and resort-like lifestyle.

Arts and Culture

The cultural scene in Orange County is vibrant and varied. Institutions like the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, the Bowers Museum, and the Orange County Museum of Art host various performances, exhibitions, and educational programs.

Meanwhile, music festivals and local galleries bring together local and international artists, reflecting the diversity of the area.

The historic Mission San Juan Capistrano and local art galleries further enrich Orange County's cultural wealth.

Shopping and Dining

Orange County is also a hotspot for shopping and dining. From the luxury boutiques of Fashion Island and South Coast Plaza to the eclectic shops of downtown Laguna Beach, there's something for every shopper.

Similarly, the food scene blends upscale dining, diverse international cuisine, and local restaurants, cafes, and food trucks, providing various culinary experiences.

Family-Friendly Attractions

Home to Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm, Orange County offers a wealth of family-friendly entertainment. The Discovery Cube Orange County also provides educational fun, while the Orange County Zoo introduces families to local and endangered species.

Orange County’s iconic offerings significantly contribute to its appeal for renters and homeowners alike.

Community Events

Orange County hosts numerous local events throughout the year, providing a vibrant cultural scene that attracts residents and tourists alike. The annual Swallows Day Parade and Mercado Street Fair in San Juan Capistrano, one of the nation's largest non-motorized parades, celebrates the swallows' return to the Mission San Juan Capistrano, attracting people from all corners of the county.

The Orange County Fair in Costa Mesa is another major attraction, drawing millions of visitors for music, food, and entertainment.  

Orange County also hosts various community events that unite locals and visitors. These events, from the Huntington Beach Air Show to the Festival of Whales in Dana Point, celebrate the area's history, natural beauty, and community spirit.

Impact on Orange County real estate market

The rich culture and lifestyle of Orange County have a significant impact on its real estate market. Orange County's lifestyle is defined by its diverse cultural scene, love for outdoor activities, and community spirit. The appeal and culture of lifestyle contribute to the robust demand for housing and the vital need for ongoing Orange County property management.

Within Orange County, each city and neighborhood offers unique attractions and highlights. View our guide for the top 11 areas to live in Orange County for more insight into these different regions.

Whether you're an art enthusiast, a beach lover, or a foodie, Orange County provides a unique blend of experiences that make it a vibrant and desirable place to live.

An overview of Orange County's economy and employment

Orange County has one of the most dynamic and diversified economies in the United States. Orange County key industries range from technology and healthcare to tourism and entertainment.

Home to Fortune 500 companies and innovative startups, the region offers ample employment opportunities. This economic vitality positively influences the local real estate market, as solid job growth creates demand for housing and pushes up property values.

Fueled by established industries and innovative startups, the county presents robust employment opportunities influencing the local real estate market.

Key Industries

The county's economy is anchored by several key sectors. These include technology, healthcare, finance, and real estate.

One of the primary drivers of the Orange County economy is the technology sector.

The county is home to a bustling tech scene, with Irvine standing out as a hub for technology and innovation. Software, semiconductors, and telecommunications firms have a substantial presence in Orange County. Companies like Blizzard Entertainment, Broadcom, and Western Digital significantly contribute to the local economy.

Additionally, Orange County has a strong healthcare sector. With top-rated hospitals such as UCI Medical Center and CHOC (Children's Hospital of Orange County) and numerous healthcare firms like Edwards Lifesciences and Masimo, this sector employs a significant portion of the county's population.

Real estate and construction also play a crucial role in the economy of Orange County. The region's robust housing market has fueled growth in these sectors.

Lastly, the area is also famous for its tourism industry, given the presence of attractions like Disneyland, Knott's Berry Farm, and its renowned beaches.

Furthermore, Orange County has made a name for itself in the professional and business services sector, bolstering the local economy.

Education and Universities in Orange County, California

Orange County is known for its strong educational system, housing some of the top-rated schools and prestigious universities in the country. This includes the University of California, Irvine (UCI), which ranks among the top public universities in the United States and is known for programs in fields such as business, computer science, and engineering.

Chapman University, a private institution in Orange, is known for its programs in film and media arts, business, and health sciences. Other large universities include Santiago Canyon College and South Coast College.

In addition to these universities, Orange County is home to a number of community colleges, including Orange Coast College and Santa Ana College, which offer a variety of two-year programs and serve as pathways to four-year universities.

The presence of these educational institutions not only enriches the local culture and economy but also influences the real estate market, with areas near campuses often seeing high demand for rental properties.

Innovation and Startups

Orange County is home to a thriving ecosystem of startups, particularly in the tech space. The region has become a significant hub for innovative companies, contributing to the growth of high-tech jobs.

This surge in the tech sector has also influenced property values, with homes near tech centers often seeing increased demand and price.

Thriving business communities increase demand for commercial and residential real estate as employees seek housing close to their workplaces.

Moreover, successful businesses often revitalize neighborhoods, improve local amenities and infrastructure, and further enhance property values.

For example, the rise of tech startups in Irvine has led to an increased demand for housing in the area. As these businesses grow and draw in more employees, we can anticipate increased demand for both rental and owned properties.

This, in turn, will likely drive up rental rates and Orange County property values in the long term.

Employment Trends

The diversity of Orange County's economy helps maintain a stable job market. Pre-pandemic, the county had one of the lowest unemployment rates in California, a trend that likely will continue as the economy recovers and evolves post-pandemic.

Entering 2023, Orange County’s unemployment rate nears a 20-year low at 2.5% according to Costar, which is significantly lower than California’s state unemployment rate of 3.7%.

According to data from DataUSA, the number of people employed in Orange, CA increased by 1.66%, rising from 70,500 employees to 71,700 employees between 2019 and 2020.

The flourishing tech industry has been attracting a younger, highly skilled workforce to Orange County. This demographic often seeks out rental properties, leading to a robust Orange County rental market, especially in areas close to tech hubs.

The underlying economic factors that fuel Orange County is helpful for property managers and real estate investors when making informed decisions about property management and investment in Orange County.

Demographics of Orange County

Understanding the population and demographic trends of Orange County is vital for any well-researched real estate decision. As one of the most populous counties in California, Orange County is home to a diverse mix of people. Its population has seen steady growth over the years, primarily driven by its attractive climate, robust economy, and high quality of life.

Homeowner and renter demographics vary across the county, with a mix of single-family homes, luxury condos, and affordable apartments catering to a diverse array of lifestyle preferences and financial capabilities.

Orange County demographics and population trends

In 2020, the city of Orange, CA had a population of approximately 139,000 individuals, with a median age of 36.2 years. The median household income in Orange, CA during that year amounted to $96,605.

The age distribution in Orange County plays a significant role in shaping the local housing market. A substantial portion of the population falls within the 25 to 44 age range, indicating a large workforce that boosts demand for rental properties.  

Orange County's population is relatively young, with a significant portion of the population falling into the working-age bracket. This younger demographic impacts the real estate market, often leading to a higher demand for rental properties, starter homes, and properties close to employment centers. Furthermore, the continued population growth could create long-term opportunities for real estate investors and developers.

Orange County also boasts a substantial elderly population, particularly in areas like Laguna Woods and Newport Beach. This trend signals demand for homes suitable for retirement, including single-story properties and communities with amenities geared toward seniors.

Predictions indicate steady growth in Orange County's population, although the rate of change may be slower compared to previous decades. This continued growth is expected to sustain rental and owner-occupied housing demand.

According to data from DataUSA between 2019 and 2020, the population experienced a decline from 139,887 to 139,322, reflecting a decrease of -0.404%. Conversely, the median household income grew from $91,793 to $96,605, indicating a 5.24% increase.

The five largest ethnic groups in Orange, CA are as follows:

  • White (Non-Hispanic) comprising 43.8% of the population
  • White (Hispanic) accounting for 24.8%
  • Asian (Non-Hispanic) representing 12.5%
  • Other making up 9.2%
The county is known for its cultural diversity. A rich mix of cultures contributes to a vibrant and varied community, influencing everything from local cuisine to arts, which can attract people from different backgrounds.

As of 2020, approximately 22.3% of Orange, CA residents (31,000 people) were born outside of the United States. This percentage is higher than the national average of 13.5%. In 2019, the percentage of foreign-born citizens in Orange, CA was 22.8%, indicating a slight decrease in the rate.

Homeowner and renter demographics and what they mean for property managers

Homeowner and renter demographics provide essential insights for Orange County property managers, homeowners and real estate investors.

According to data from DataUSA in 2020:

  • The typical value of properties in Orange, CA stood at $680,300, while the rate of homeownership was recorded at 59.2%.
  • The rate of homeownership in Orange, CA stood at 59.2%, indicating that 59.2% of the housing units were occupied by their owners. This percentage experienced growth compared to the previous year's rate of 57.9%.
  • Typical property value in Orange, CA during 2020 was $680,300, which is approximately 2.96 times higher than the national average of $229,800.
  • From 2019 to 2020, there was a 3.69% increase in the median property value, as it rose from $656,100 to $680,300.

For properties targeting families, property managers might focus on ensuring a safe, quiet environment, maintaining outdoor spaces, and possibly working with local schools. Property targeting younger professionals might emphasize modern amenities, provide high-speed internet access, and foster community within the property.

Housing stock and types of housing in Orange County

Orange County offers various housing options to suit different preferences and budgets. You'll find everything from luxurious oceanfront properties to charming suburban homes and modern urban apartments.

Orange County offers diverse housing stock to meet its residents' needs and preferences. There's a home for every lifestyle, from high-rise apartments in bustling downtowns to single-family homes in serene suburban neighborhoods.

View our Orange County property management guide for more insights on the different types of homes you’ll find in Orange County.

Most popular and up-and-coming neighborhoods for renters and homeowners

For renters, downtown areas with a thriving social scene and proximity to work centers, like Irvine and Santa Ana, are trendy. The Anaheim area also sees high rental demand due to its proximity to major employers like Disneyland Resort.

Up-and-coming neighborhoods for renters include Costa Mesa, known for its arts scene and a growing number of tech companies, and Fullerton, popular among students due to its proximity to several colleges and universities.

Among homeowners, the family-friendly neighborhoods of Irvine and Mission Viejo are top choices due to their high-ranking school districts and safety. Newport Beach and Laguna Beach continue to attract those seeking a luxury coastal living.

For those seeking more affordable homeownership options, areas like Garden Grove and Westminster are gaining attention due to their relative affordability and access to amenities.

Please read our guide to the best places to live in Orange County for more insight into these neighborhoods.

Trends in housing styles and what renters and homeowners are looking for in Orange County

Contemporary design and open-concept living are popular housing trends in Orange County. Renters and homeowners alike appreciate spacious layouts, modern kitchens, and outdoor living spaces. With more people working from home, features like home offices and high-speed internet connectivity are increasingly sought after.

Renters, particularly younger professionals, seek properties that offer convenience and lifestyle amenities. This includes properties within walking distance of shops, restaurants, and entertainment, as well as those offering communal spaces like fitness centers and pools.

On the other hand, homeowners, especially families, prioritize safety, good schools, and community feel when choosing a property. Features like ample storage, functional outdoor spaces, and proximity to parks are often high on their list.

By understanding these housing trends and preferences, Orange County property managers and real estate investors can better cater to their target market. This knowledge can guide renovation decisions, marketing strategies, and long-term investment plans.

Orange County real estate seasonality

The desirable Southern California climate, coupled with access to beaches, entertainment, shopping, dining, and cultural events, draws a broad range of residents, from young professionals to retirees. This steady demand underpins the strength of the Orange County real estate market and presents opportunities for savvy property managers and real estate investors.

Like many other markets, real estate in Orange County exhibits seasonality, with trends and patterns that vary throughout the year.

These trends play a vital role in Orange County's real estate market and can greatly impact homebuyer decision-making.

The Orange County rental market and Orange County property management industry also experience significant seasonality.

Spring and Summer

Typically, the spring and summer months see a spike in real estate activity as buyers and renters take advantage of the warm weather to house hunt. The peak home buying and selling season typically starts in spring, specifically around March, and extends through summer.

This is when inventory and demand tend to spike, with homeowners looking to capitalize on high buyer interest and buyers hoping to move during the summer school break.

For Orange County property managers, the higher turnover rate during the summer may require increased attention to tenant acquisition and property maintenance.

For renters, the increased summer demand can mean more options but also more competition, potentially leading to higher rental prices.  

Winter months

The winter months tend to be slower, presenting unique opportunities for savvy investors and renters. Both buyer and rental demand decreases, and inventory follows suit.

Those willing to buy in the off-peak season might find less listngs, but they might also find motivated sellers willing to negotiate.

Understanding these seasonal dynamics can help inform your property management, rental, or buying decisions.

A closer look at Orange County property management

Being a property manager in Orange County involves a range of responsibilities, from marketing vacant properties to maintaining rental units and handling tenant relations. A deep understanding of local laws and regulations surrounding rental properties is crucial.

We have a full overview of what goes into property management, as well as a guide on how to choose the right property manager for your home.

Doorstead: a modern solution to Orange County property management

Working with a great property management can bring many benefits and cost-savings to homeowners and landlords.

By integrating technology, data, and excellent customer service, Doorstead serves the Orange County property management market, providing peace-of-mind to homeowners, investors, and tenants.  Learn more about how Doorstead works.

Doorstead provides an upfront rental guarantee, regardless of occupancy, assuring owners of a steady rental income. Read about recent customer’s success stories with the Doorstead Rent Guarantee. This feature is particularly relevant in Orange County's competitive rental market, where fluctuations occur frequently.

Doorstead focuses on maintaining high property standards, which aligns with the preferences of many Orange County tenants. They offer 24/7 support and handle all maintenance requests promptly, ensuring that properties stay in excellent condition and tenants remain satisfied.

Doorstead’s digital-first approach resonates well in a tech-savvy region like Orange County.

From digital leasing to online rent payment, Doorstead is catering to a new generation of tenants and property owners who value convenience and efficiency.

Key considerations for Orange County real estate investors

Given its strong market fundamentals, investing in Orange County's real estate market can be rewarding. However, successful investing requires a sound understanding of local market conditions and trends, a well-defined investment strategy, and effective property management.

Finding the right Orange County property management solution  plays a crucial role in maintaining rental property value, ensuring steady rental income, and providing a positive experience for tenants.

Please check out our investor's guide to the Orange County real estate market for specific tips and insights to thrive in this market.

Orange County real estate: a thriving and well-supported market

The diverse economy, high quality of life, strong rental demand, and consistent property value appreciation makes Orange County real estate a prime market. It's a place where the sunny beaches meet a thriving economy, where bustling downtowns meet serene suburban neighborhoods.

Orange County's real estate market offers significant opportunities for property managers, real estate investors, homeowners, and renters. By understanding the market dynamics, demographic trends, and the local economy, you can make informed decisions and thrive in this exciting market.

Whether you're an investor seeking profitable opportunities, a property manager aiming for success, a renter looking for a place to call home, or a homeowner considering your next move, we hope this guide has hopefully provided valuable insights to navigate your journey.

For more resources on Orange County property management and related topics, please visit the Doorstead blog.


Ally Gong
Ally Gong
Content Specialist

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