What Is the Real Cost of Living in Malibu?

August 24, 2023

Malibu has long been one of the most glamorous and fabulous Southern California beach towns. At the northernmost point of the SoCal coast, Malibu is the gateway to all the seaside cities to come. High-class shopping, fine dining, hiking trails, and gorgeous beaches all rest within the city limits of this historic location. Malibu is home to highly sought-after real estate for good reason. The schools rank well year after year, the neighborhoods and downtown area are walkable, and the community is close-knit and friendly, welcoming to tourists and new residents alike.

Still, for all the benefits of living in Malibu, there is a cost. The city is tucked away along the Pacific Coast Highway, making the area hard to reach compared to other coastal spots. The real estate prices are high even for Southern California. And the expenses you’ll pay for food, utilities, and insurance may feel high to some. These factors are critical to consider when calculating the real cost of living in Malibu.

Cost of living in Malibu

Housing costs

The housing costs in Malibu are not just high compared to housing around the country. They are high relative to other communities within California and even within Southern California. The current median home price in Malibu is just under $3.5 million. That price puts Malibu housing more than 650% higher than the national average of just under $450,000.

The median rent in Malibu hovers around $10,500, out of reach for all but the most affluent renters in the world, and those renters are much more likely just to buy a house. These numbers explain why most homes in Malibu are owner-occupied, with very few renters in the city limits. Furthermore, those homeowners who do rent out their homes are shifting to short-term rentals, which makes much more sense. Malibu is a luxury city to live in and a luxury vacation location.

One of the benefits of these rising housing costs in Malibu is that they don’t seem to be slowing down. Projections see the value of homes in Malibu increasing by more than $100,000 in the next year and more than $500,000 in the next five years. This news is good for anyone currently holding real estate in the city or interested in investing. If you can afford to buy here, you are unlikely to lose money any time soon, and the odds are that you will make a tidy sum.

Extra expenses for utilities and insurance are a concern

Of course, a Malibu resident has to think of more than just the cost of housing. Utility costs are also much higher here than in other locations, by as much as 11%. These numbers could be based on the need for air conditioning, which has risen over the past decade as average temperatures have increased along the Pacific Coast. Winters can also get cold for those used to the warmer weather, so more heaters may be run on those slightly chilly, 40-degree Fahrenheit mornings. Furthermore, many of the properties in Malibu include pools, which only add to the utility bill for things like filters, pumps, and heating.

Insurance is another consideration in Malibu. With the increased risk of wildfire damage in Southern California, insurance premiums are now five times higher in Malibu than in other parts of California. Thus, you will have to factor homeowners insurance and natural disaster insurance into your monthly mortgage payment.

The cost of food is higher in Malibu

When it comes to the cost of food, residents of Malibu pay as much as 11% more than the national average, and that’s just for groceries. Restaurants and other eateries will be much more expensive in this coastal city than those in other cities in Southern California and around the world. The tradeoff for this higher cost, however, is an across-the-board higher quality. The food in Malibu is top-quality, with abundant organic produce, meat, and dairy, fresh farmer’s markets to wander, offering local goods, and tons of healthy options to choose from at grocery stores and restaurants alike. Malibu may have a more expensive food scene, but it is also a food oasis if there ever was one.

Transportation adds extra expenses

Unless you live and work in Malibu, you will also likely pay more for transportation than others in the country will. The price of gas is $4.36 per gallon as of the latest publication, compared to the national average of $3.52. If you’re commuting to Los Angeles for work, you’re looking at a 30-mile distance, which could take an hour with little to no traffic and twice that long during rush hour. That’s a lot of gas.

Still, the drive is a beautiful one, as you can take the shorter route through Santa Monica and up the Pacific Coast or take the 101 through Calabasas and the Santa Monica Mountains for suburban streets and canyon views. Either way, you won’t be bored.

The real cost of living in Malibu

In the end, you will certainly pay more to live in Malibu than you would to live in many other locales around the world, but you probably already know that. Fortunately, the prices you pay to live in this paradise nestled into a stretch of coastline are more than worth it. With ocean views from almost every angle, strikingly green mountains to explore, and excellent food and shopping to enjoy, you won’t regret your investment in Malibu real estate. 

The Brian Merrick Team is your Malibu Real Estate Team

The Brian Merrick Team offers Malibu clients the best possible real estate experience. At the helm, Brian Merrick has three decades of experience in building homes, real estate, and economics. He is a lifelong resident of Malibu, and he and his wife, Judy, who also works at the firm, are integral parts of this community. Together with the rest of their team, Brian and Judy are eager to serve clients interested in selling or buying a home in Malibu. Contact the Brian Merrick Team today.


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