Sunset over the hills and a vineyard in Santa Ynez, California

Searching for a home in California can be tricky, but active adults can find excellent communities in these counties.

When it comes to purchasing a home in California, many quickly come to realize that this is no easy feat. The sticker shock can be especially distressing for those used to cheaper, out-of-state markets. Between the high-prices, competitive market, and vastly different neighborhoods, buying a home in California takes patience, research, and due diligence.

Luckily, there are some online resources to help potential homebuyers navigate the process of narrowing down exactly where to buy a home. One such resource is niche.com, where users can sort counties in California according to various criteria.

According to niche.com, their list of “The Best Counties to Buy a Home” is based on housing costs, property taxes, home values, homeownership rates, and real estate trends. As written on their website, the list is “A comprehensive assessment of the housing and community of an area at a county level. This grade takes into account key factors of a location’s housing market, including home values, taxes, crime rates, and quality of schools, in an attempt to measure the quality and stability of an area’s real estate market.”

Read on to discover more about the top five counties in California to purchase a home.

1. Lassen County

With a median home value of $177,500, Lassen County ranks #1 as the top county to buy a home in California. This rural Northern California county rests on the border of Nevada and has a population of roughly 35,000.

With relatively low home prices and above-average schools, Lassen County is an attractive area for potential homebuyers, especially for the 55+ crowd who are less concerned with employment opportunities and typically looking for affordable housing in a scenic area. Lassen County may be serene, with protected forests, scenic lakes, and a charming, small-town vibe, but it’s not far from the urban excitement of Reno/Tahoe and Carson City.

2. Mono County

Mono County boasts excellent school ratings and a median home value of $311,700, with a population of only about 15,000. Many residents of Mono County cite the rural, natural landscape—which surrounds the popular tourist destination Mono Lake—as a highlight of the area.

Mono County lies to the east of Yosemite National Park, on the border of Nevada. This county is perfect for those who wish to settle down in an area rife with natural outdoor beauty, plenty of privacy, and a friendly, small-town feel.

3. Placer County

Those looking to settle down in a slightly more “happening” area should consider Placer County, which has all the natural beauty of the two previous counties, but it contains a much larger population of around 375,000. Placer County also boasts top-rated schools and a median home value of $413,300.

This area is located west of South Lake Tahoe and includes larger, more popular cities such as Tahoe City, Rocklin, Roseville, and Auburn. Some of the more popular 55+ communities in the area can be found in Placer County, including Sun City Roseville, Springfield at Whitney Oaks in Rocklin, and The Club at Westpark in Roseville.

4. Mariposa County

Mariposa County is a popular area among retirees who enjoy the small population of around 18,000 and the beautiful surrounding nature. With a median home value of $259,500, Mariposa County offers active adults a slice of paradise at an affordable price.

Schools are above average here, and most residents own their homes. Inside of Mariposa County lies Yosemite National Park, and there's no end to the outdoor wonders and activities to be had in this coveted area.

5. Inyo County

Last on the list, Inyo County has above-average schools, a small population of around 18,000, and the average median home value is $243,100. East of Fresno, on the California/Nevada border, Inyo County includes Death Valley National Park and plenty of desert serenity, as well as lush, forested areas and miles of wilderness. Those who value wide-open spaces and an outdoor lifestyle will appreciate what Inyo County has to offer.