Is California dreamin' finally within your reach? Five beachfront communities that may be affordable

california coastline (OK, so it's central Cali and not Socal. Who'll know?)
california coastline (OK, so it's central Cali and not Socal. Who'll know?)

There's a reason celebrities and just about everyone else want to drop anchor on Southern California's coast. Miles of sun-bleached beaches, year-round great weather, and now, more affordable homes beckon those with cash to spare.

Keep in mind, however, that "affordable" in Malibu isn't the same as "affordable" in, say, Mesa, Ariz. But there are bargains to be had on the golden strand of the Golden State if you look hard enough.

Here are five hard-to-resist SoCal beach communities, with home prices ranging from "I can do that" to "you're kidding, right?":

  • Huntington Beach, Calif., is a good place to start coastal house-hunting. An eight-mile stretch of sparkling beaches helped turn the city, formerly an agricultural area and oil boom town, into "Surf City U.S.A." In the 1960s, biker hangouts, surf shops and penny arcades attracted young people who rented cottages for $75 a month. But let's not look back that far and get depressed. The median price of a single-family home in Surf City in August was $631,634, according to San Diego research firm MDA DataQuick. A good deal, considering it was $825,000 at the peak in January 2007.