Rancho Santa Fe (downtown, shown left), in San Diego's North County, is a bucolic and affluent residential community on rolling hills filled with Eucalyptus trees and orchards (years ago thousands of Eucalyptus trees were planted to be used for the railroad, but the wood turned out to not be appropriate).
Located about 5 miles inland from the ocean (adjacent to and east of Del Mar, Solana Beach and Encinitas) and perhaps 20 miles from San Diego, the Rancho Santa Fe real estate market offers the best of suburban living but at a hefty price.
The town is unincorporated and covers an area of approximately 6.9 square miles. If you are seeking a luxury home in the San Diego area that is over-the-top, you will likely find it here.
Rancho Santa Fe real estate offers many large luxury homes and private estates, a host of exclusive gated communities, and a style of sophisticated living found in other expensive communities such as Bel-Air, Beverly Hills, and Malibu....but a more rural and less pretentious one.
A recent Forbes poll named the Rancho Santa Fe real estate market as the second most expensive zip code in the US, and a drive through the area will readily show you why this is so.
Rancho Santa Fe homes are very large (most are more than 5,000 SF), lots are often measured in acres, and the privacy (which is highly coveted here) and exclusivity due to the many gated communities and properties contribute to the desirability and priciness. Many residents live here less than full-time, having one or more homes elsewhere in the country or the world; it is estimated that 30 - 40% of the homeowners only live here on a part-time basis.
Rancho Santa Fe homes are among the most expensive in Southern California (RSF Market Report, see other recent market reports below). Styles tend to be Tuscan, Spanish or Mediterranean, but you will find a host of contemporary and traditional properties as well as some architectural styles that are difficult to classify.
There is new construction, all of it custom, as well as more established properties. The town has strict guidelines regarding building, landscaping and exterior alterations.
Many private homes are gated, and gated communities (with guards) are common - Del Rayo Estates, Fairbanks Ranch, The Bridges, The Rivers Estates, Del Mar Country Club, Cielo, The Farms, and The Crosby Estates are among these exclusive neighborhoods. (photo as left is of Rancho Santa Fe Inn)
The median price of a detached home in Rancho Santa Fe is now $2.5 million (average home price as of March 2007 was $3.343 million), and you will be hard pressed to find a detached home for less than $1.5 million, even a tear down. [as of April 24 there are 225 detached homes on the market, ranging from $1.1 million (only one at this price), then upwards from $1.575 million to $40 million; 14 attached homes are currently listed, from $475K to $1.8 million].
Attached Rancho Santa Fe homes are more affordable but the median price is still in the mid $700s (average price exceeds $800K) and there are a limited number of these types of properties. Many homes offer idyllic views of the surrounding countryside, and in some cases the ocean, several miles away, due to the hills. (some custom new construction shown at right)
If you are seeking a truly special luxury estate and money is no object, you will find it here. Got $10 million, $20 million or more to spend - not a problem. There are currently 20 homes on the market in excess of $10 million. If you are interested in a large equestrian property you will likely find several of these to choose from.
Don't expect to drive around and look at actual properties for sale - signs are not permitted, open houses are very rare, many neighborhoods are gated, and most sellers require that buyers be accompanied by the listing agent; for many higher end homes you will need to prove you are financially qualified to buy before you can preview the property. But the Internet will give you a great feel for what there is to buy in the Rancho Santa Fe real estate market, and is a great place to start if you are not yet working with an agent.
The Covenant is the original planned community in Rancho Santa Fe and includes the downtown commercial area. Much of the area was planned by Lillian Rice, a well known architect who has influenced the look and style of many of the homes and buildings in the area.
All residents have P.O. boxes rather than home mail delivery, and there are no street lights or sidewalks outside of the town area. Lots are at least 1 acre and prices tend to be higher in the Covenant than in other area of RSF. Most of the roads have Spanish names.
The other large area of RSF is Fairbanks Ranch, an unincorporated area (census-designated place or CDP) consisting of 2 gated communities.
Rancho Santa Fe is primarily a residential community but there are a couple of areas, including the town center, that offer a host of upscale shopping, fine dining, galleries and town offices. Mille Fleurs is an upscale dining establishment, located in the heart of RSF's downtown.
The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe also provides one with a great dining experience, indoors and out, in a quaint hotel (designed by well-known architect Lillian Rice) that also offers a range of lodging options (companies often host corporate events here).
Delicias is another highly-touted RSF restaurant, and the Rancho Valencia Resort also offers fine dining in their signature restaurant, Rancho Valencia Restaurant. The town has a wonderful art fair once a year in the center of town.
If golfing is high on your list, there are a number of private golf clubs in RSF, including the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club, the Del Mar Country Club, Morgan Run, The Bridges, Fairbanks Ranch Country Club, and The Crosby.
The Del Mar Race Track is located just a few miles away, offering horse racing (in 2007, July 18 to September 5), concerts, the annual state fair, and a host of trade shows and other events (home expo, antiques fair, etc.). (photo at left is of annual street fair in September in RSF)
Children may attend the elementary and middle public schools, up to grade 8 or a number of private schools (The Horizon School, Nativity School, and the Diegueno Country School, among others. Students in the higher grades attend the Encinitas Schools located just a few miles away.