Retirement Search: First Up is Vista

Previous Posts in this series:
Thinking Ahead: Retirement Property
Retirement Search: Initiation
Retirement: If Wishes Were Horses

Yesterday was spent on the road, checking out three north county cities. We started in Vista, which was listed as the seventh-best place in the United States for family life, based on factors such as jobs and business opportunities, education, climate, and cost-of-living in a 2008 review. Vista is a hop, skip and jump from Highway 5, via the newly paved Highway 78. The terrain is fairly flat, with some gently rolling hills around the edges. There is a diversity in neighborhoods, running from apartments to small post-war ranchers to larger elaborate mini-mansions. Strip malls abound, and we never did locate a proper “downtown” (despite using a brand new GPS system). They are building a new civic center, at the corner of Eucalyptus and Escondido, which is slated to be complete in the summer of 2010.

vista-sign.jpgSome basic stats on Vista:
Population: 89,527 (based on the sign leading into town)
Median income (2006): $50,162
Below poverty line: 15%
Cost of Living Index: 121 (US Avg = 100)
Weather: Warmest Jul/Aug/Sept – low 80s Coolest Dec-March – 68
Crime: FBI crime stats show 50 per 10,000 residents (consistent with my current suburban location)
Miles from ocean: 7+

Because this is just a scouting trip, to see if we like SoCal, we have not contacted an agent to see listings. Our plan is to check out a few homes that fit our criteria, based on MLS listings, and then drive neighborhoods, visit downtowns and see what a city has to offer. My initial search turned up 12 properties of over an acre and under $600,000. As is typical of this area, many listings did not have addresses, and were listed as Undisclosed. In some cases, if I liked the look of a home, I would note the cross street and visit the neighborhood to see if it was of interest.

In Vista, we drove by three listings. The first, at 125 Kilby Lane sat amongst streets of palm and fruit trees. The home itself had no landscaping, was very vanilla in character, and overlooked an empty lot and a major thoroughfare. I had chosen this house because it came with 3 other parcels, had a pool, and had dropped in price from $1,196,000 to $519,900. Additionally, there were architectural plans for a second home. Unfortunately, it did not appeal to us.

As we drove around in a neighborhood on another side of town, we ran into 960 Phillips. A newer home, there were no flyers to check out, but we thought the neighborhood was nice. An added touch was the two peacocks strutting their stuff about 100 feet down the road. Turns out that the home is only on 6/10 of an acre (on 2 parcels), although it does have a pool. It’s in the price range at $485,000. Not quite what we are looking for, but nice nonetheless.

The neighborhood we liked best was off E. Vista Way. This was a very nice area, quiet, nice homes of varying sizes, all well-kept and landscaped. All seemed to be on generously sized lots with views of either the hills or the canyon. The home that brought us to this neighborhood is a newer French Normandy custom home on 1.18 acres. Unique, and all on one story, there were a number of high-end amenities in this listing and room for a pool or separate studio. Originally listed at $950,000, this home at 1925 Vista Grande is now priced at $625,000.

Next Up: Escondido

  • Richard

    Hi. We just bought a house in Vista in July (quite a bit cheaper than what you’re looking at). That third house is indeed in a nice area, known as the Warmlands, I think.

    One question, though…you couldn’t find a downtown? One of the things we like about Vista is that it does have a downtown which people actually use.

    Look around Vista Village drive, north (the older section) and south (the newer section) of Santa Fe. It’s mostly shopping, but there are also local theaters and businesses.

  • susan.brady

    Thanks Richard. We drove around Vista for a couple of hours but somehow missed the downtown. Next time I’m down I will check it out.

  • TCSwan

    Brother what a bust… I thought this article was going to be about Windows retiring that error prone system, ” VISTA “.. As to California, with the likes of Pelosi, and the degradation of San Francisco by sub-humans , I wouldn’t be caught dead in that state…. St. Francis must be turning over in his Crypt…