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$800k in Turtle Rock vs. University Park

Posted: 12 Jan 2012 03:59 AM PST

You’re ready to buy a house. You have $800,000 in your pocket (give or take), and you’re looking to purchase a place in either University Park or Turtle Rock in Irvine. Since the housing market took a dive, you figure $800K is going to get you into something decent. It’s a large chunk of change and a relatively big commitment, so you want to make sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck. So what exactly will $800K get you in Turtle Rock? The answer is: not much. University Park however, comes with a less expensive price tag—around a couple hundred thousand dollars cheaper. So what’s the difference and can I get a Turtle Rock house on a University Park budget? Well, let’s take a look.

Current listings in the Turtle Rock area are upwards of $900,000 with the majority of properties beginning in the $1 million dollar range. It’s not surprising. Turtle Rock is one of Irvine’s most prestigious locales. But don’t let the large price tag bum you out. If you know what you want, do your homework, and have patience, the stars might align and you could end up in a Turtle Rock neighborhood. There are lower priced options in the area, but you’ll have to make sacrifices on size. But before you let that $800K burn a hole in your pocket, let’s take a step back and make an informed decision about the housing in Turtle Rock. We need to know what’s available, and what we’re getting for the price.

The two villages are divided by University Drive. Turtle Rock sits further back from the 405 freeway against Shady Canyon.  Turtle Rock can offer more picturesque views. While still close to UCI and Concordia, Turtle Rock has a separate feel to it. The deeper you go into Turtle Rock, the less you feel the presence of the universities. Turtle Rock has a mixture of housing and condo communities, combined with a great outdoor atmosphere. If I had to choose between the two areas just based upon location criteria, I’d choose Turtle Rock. But let’s be realistic. A great location is definitely on my “must have” checklist, but I also want to make sure I’m maximizing my money.  

If we take a look at square footage alone—Turtle Rock would be king. On average, the residences are larger and can range anywhere from 1,600-4,000+ square feet. The properties in University Park, on the other hand, are typically mid-sized ranging from 1,100—2,000+ square feet. So we’ve resolved our first mystery in the price disparity between the two areas—square footage.

What about the number of bedrooms? As you have surmised, the number and size of the bedrooms has a direct relationship to the square footage. You can easily find 2-5 bedroom places in both University Park and Turtle Rock. University Park can offer you 4 and 5 bedroom properties below your $800K budget. If you’re married, with two children and need a home office, University Park fits your price range. If you want 4-5 bedrooms in Turtle Rock, you’re putting yourself in the red, or a very tiny living space. Don’t fall into the trap in thinking that more square footage equals larger bedrooms. That’s not always the case.

Let’s do some comparisons. Here’s a property that just sold in University Park:

Address: 2 Almond Tree Ln
Sale price: $635,000
Residence Type: SFR
Square Footage: 2,234
Bedrooms: 4
Bathrooms: 2.5
Year built: 1973
Lot size: 5,000 square feet
Price per square foot: $284

Here’s a property that just sold in Turtle Rock for around the same price:

Address: 18692 Paseo Cortez
Sale price: $640,000
Residence Type: SFR
Square Footage: 1,450
Bedrooms: 3
Bathrooms: 2
Year built: 1969
Lot size: 4,200 square feet
Price per square foot: $441

It’s obvious that the University Park property offers more bang for your buck based upon the price per square footage ratio. The University Park property also has a bigger lot.

When I look at homes, I imagine myself standing in 1 square foot. In that square foot is the $/sq ft price tag. Each time I take a step into another square foot, I’m subtracting cash out of my wallet—paying the price for each square foot. If I can continue to walk in the house, stepping on each square foot, feeling my wallet become thinner without regret, I know that I’ll be happy with my purchase. I can step on each square foot and feel comfortable that I’m paying a fair price.  Personally, I’d rather come in under budget with a larger interior square footage. I can’t imagine stepping on a $441 square foot in a house that only offers me 1,450 square feet of living space. I’m feeling over crowded just thinking about it! In my opinion, it’s not worth the price.

Ultimately, there are many factors to consider when buying a home. The purchase price and size are not always the determining factors. Both University Park and Turtle Rock are excellent communities. I’d live in either one. Now that you’re informed you can choose what’s right for you. Remember: It’s your decision. You have to live in it.  What would you do?  What factors matter most to you?

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