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What’s It Like to Live in Malibu in Southern California?

Cultural icon Johnny Carson, the late-night talk show host from the classical era of television, lived in Southern California and drove from Malibu to Burbank each weekday morning.

Carson did that daily commute for decades.


Because he enjoyed living in Malibu so much that the drive was easily worth his time and effort (in fact, he enjoyed the drive and used his time alone in the car to decompress from his job’s stresses. And yes, he drove himself; he did not use a driver).

Malibu is considered by most Southern Californians to be a coastal wonderland and is located along the north end of Santa Monica bay.

Carson first owned a home on Carbon Beach (“Billionaire Beach” as the locals call it) of Malibu and then later, in 1984, purchased a large contemporary one-bedroom home with 4-acres on Point Dume, on which he would later construct two guest houses and a championship tennis court to complement the grand estate.

Immortalized by artists and prized by the wealthy, few people realize that Malibu is not just beachfront – it also includes inland mountains.

Inhabited by surfers, celebrities and entertainment executives, this 27-mile long strip of paradise is among the most beautiful and inspiring beach cities in Los Angeles County, offering both spectacular beachside and land-side living.

Malibu is a Multi-Dimensional Experience

Drive along the Pacific Coast Highway and you will see gorgeous homes, gourmet restaurants, and exclusive boutiques that dot the landscape and draw you into the city.

You might also be impressed with how some parts of Malibu have the feel of a small country village

With a relatively small population of 16,000, Malibu is a self-contained community – with convenient amenities like shops, movie theaters, schools, parks, and of course, the beach.

Among the most coveted neighborhoods within Malibu is Malibu Road.

Most residents take particular pride in their quality of daily life. The atmosphere of this coastal enclave has been described as both unique and welcoming. The beauty of the area and the exclusive lifestyle it offers have been a draw for nearly a century.

Malibu offers a wide range of real estate – from modest, canyon homes to lavish beachfront and mountaintop estates. Property values are basically distinguished by their location (on the beachside or the land-side):

  • beachside home values vary widely depending on the lot width and depth and the quality of the particular beach in terms of sand, width, exposure, and convenience.
  • land-side homes are found mostly in the canyons and winding mountain roads.

A Typical Day Off in Malibu

Enjoy the Sunday sunrise over the Santa Monica Mountains as you arrive for a fresh hot coffee at Malibu Country Mart or the Starbucks at the new open-air shopping center at Trancas – depending on which side of Malibu you live.

Next up, a morning surf at Zuma beach might be the perfect ticket or jog the running trail there.

After your workout, pick up your week’s groceries and locally grown organic produce at the Civic Center Farmers’ Market.

Malibu in Southern California

Next up, fine-tune your grooming regimen at one of the nearby day spas, then return home to enjoy warm sea breezes and a good novel on your patio lounge recliner.

The sun prepares to set over the Pacific Ocean and now it’s time to get dressed to meet your friends for dinner at Nobu.

Owning a Home in Malibu

Incorporated in 1991, Malibu is divided by its geography into very distinct neighborhoods and has many exclusive, gated enclaves that offer added privacy and security.

Each neighborhood has a different feel and level of privacy – gated, non-gated, view of the mountains versus the view of the ocean – and not all are easy to assess on your own.

If you’re hoping to own a home in Malibu, you might ask yourself how close you want to be to the beach:

  • estate on the bluff?
  • luxury home near the beach that features a canyon view?
  • mansion in the mountains with unforgettable views of the ocean and sky?

7 Reasons People Keep Moving to Malibu in Southern California

I was born and raised in California and – having lived here since the 1960s – I can tell you from experience that every year more people move here, especially into the lower third of the state known as Southern California.

The running joke among those of us who have lived here for decades is that at some point the influx of people will stop once everyone realizes how heavy and intense the automobile traffic is.

But that never seems to prove true.

Lanes are added to the widened roads, trains are built underground and new natural-gas busses are added to commuter lines – and more people keep moving here.

Malibu Drive Times:

  • Downtown Los Angeles: 60 minutes
  • LAX: 45 minutes
  • Santa Monica: 20 minutes
  • Burbank: 70 minutes
  • Sherman Oaks: 60 minutes

During the last great recession, there was a momentary reprieve as more people moved out of California than into it (but even then, the births in the state outweighed the deaths) – and the same thing happened again in the pandemic year of 2020.

In the second quarter of 2021 home sales in the Malibu zip code of 90265 were up 158%, and the average sales price went up 27% compared to the same quarter the previous year.

Less often discussed is how many international citizens relocate into Southern California from other countries.

Californians already know that immigrants move here from Mexico, India, the Philippines, Vietnam, Korea, and Central America. What many people underestimate is the number of wealthy families investing in second (or third) homes here from China, Germany, UK, Canada, Sweden, and the Middle East.

Here are seven reasons that Southern California keeps growing.

1. Weather in Southern California

It’s hard to convey just how excellent the weather is in Southern California.

There’s no pushing your car out of a snowbank, or staying in bed in the morning because it’s too cold to put your feet on the floor, or staying in the shower because you’re afraid to turn off the hot water.

It’s almost always sunny and warm in Malibu. In fact, what we think of as “cold” for Southern California is actually “shorts weather” for people from Europe.

2. Careers

The Los Angeles area has jobs. A recent article in the LA Times revealed that, in 2021, employers are having to raise wages and reconfigure jobs in order to make positions more enticing to potential applicants.

Also, part of the Southern California subtext is that it’s perfectly acceptable to be an ambitious dream-follower. You’re less likely here to be shamed for assertively going after your personal or professional goals.

Though California is an expensive place to start a business compared to other states (parking regulations, taxes, permits, etc.), there are also more customers and clients here who unabashedly like to spend their money on products and services.

3. Lifestyle in Southern California

Because the weather in Southern California is year-round pleasant, going outdoors is always an option and this has helped to create a culture of fitness. In fact, the Malibu area is arguably one of the fitness capitals of the world.

Additionally, many people tend to relocate to Southern California to reinvent themselves, to follow their dreams, and to live their daily lifestyle in the most idyllic way possible – this has also helped to make Southern California a fitness mecca.

Southern California Malibu

In this geographical region of the US, gyms are often bustling throughout the day and the parks and nature trails are brimming with joggers, bicyclists, and athletes-in-training.

Southern Californians lead a more outdoors-ish lifestyle:

  • An 80-degree evening in mid-November means family dinner can be served on the patio.
  • A sunny February afternoon means an office worker can go for an outdoor run during his lunch hour.
  • Weekend mornings can be spent bike riding or hiking or taking the dogs for a long walk, followed by a stroll through the neighborhood farmers market to stock up with next week’s groceries.

This type of thing doesn’t just happen in Spring. It happens all year long.

4. Attitude

The idea of the professional business suit was first born in London, where a wool jacket, a starched shirt, and sturdy shoes made sense in that damp and chilly environment.

In Southern California, dressing is more casual because starched and wool clothing just doesn’t make as much sense here.

This casual attitude permeates almost all areas of daily living – not just clothes.

Californians tend to have a more live-and-let-live attitude. Many people migrate to Southern California to reinvent themselves, and so people here are less interested in family pedigree and traditional class status.

5. Culture

There’s just so much to see and experience in Southern California. Restaurants, gallery exhibits, theater, and just about every outdoor activity you can think of.

6. The Diversity of Southern California

This is my favorite thing about living in Los Angeles. Your friends and colleagues come from anywhere and everywhere – providing your life with a rich tapestry of meaningful experiences and adventures. If you throw a small party at your home, you’ll likely have people from a variety of races, religions, political parties, and romantic preferences. Don’t believe me? Move here, and throw a dinner party one year later. Look around the table and you’ll see how fun and diverse your life has become.

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7. Investing in Malibu

The primary purpose of this article is for entertainment purposes only – to provide inspiration about experiences and locales that offer a higher quality of life, including information about luxury estate homes. Please do your own due diligence when making significant decisions about real estate, relocation, or investing. This article is not intended to provide financial advice; you are encouraged to consult with your own professional advisors.

Many savvy investors from across the nation still consider Southern California – and Malibu in particular – to be one of the most strategic places in which to add to their real estate portfolios. Even foreign buyers are getting in on the action.

Chinese investors, for example, consider homes in California’s coastal cities to be comparatively inexpensive and Chinese investors surpassed Canadians in recent US house purchases.

The American real estate market has become a favorite destination for Chinese outbound capital, last year alone reaching an estimated $10 billion.

The U.S. market is very attractive to Chinese investors as they look to expand their global operations and diversify their portfolios by adding U.S. assets” – Phil Marra, U.S. Real Estate Funds Leader

The National Association of Realtors reports that international buying in the US is at an all-time record high. $92.2 billion foreign dollars were recently invested in US real estate, with a sizable portion of that total invested in Southern California.

Foreign Investors Buying Up California Real Estate

International real estate activity within the state of California continues to be robust in recent years:

  • reports that foreign investors represent a whopping 8% of total existing homes sales (dollar volume) in the US.
  • Foreign buyers pay almost double the national average per house.
  • The four US states that account for over 50% of international sales are California, Florida, Texas, and Arizona.
  • 7% more Realtors reported working with international investors (compared to previous years).

David Findley

Certified International Luxury Property Specialist

PHONE: (1) 310-345-6911

International Home-Buying Activity is Up

NPR podcasting reports that Los Angeles is becoming a global market like Manhattan.

Among the home buyers from other countries, China investors continue to be among the most active.

Los Angeles is an insiders’ city. Many aspects of day-to-day living in the Los Angeles area are not easily apparent to foreign investors – unless they’re already living here full-time. If you have specific questions about the Los Angeles lifestyle and its real estate, phone David Findley at 310-345-6911.

Foreign Investors are buying real estate in Southern California.

Foreign Investors Paying Cash for Second Homes in Southern California

The majority of foreign investors intend to use the home they purchase in the US as either a vacation home or a rental investment property:

  • Most are established investors who pay for the extra home in cash.
  • They choose the home primarily for its location. California and Hawaii are perceived as particularly desirable locations (for the US state of Hawaii, the Japanese top the list of foreign buyers – investing over $70 million in Hawaii residential real estate in 2015 – in only the first half of the year).
  • Most of the buyers have their “first homes” located in either Canada, Asia, or Europe.
  • What’s different today compared to years past in that a significantly larger portion of foreign real estate investors are coming from South America.

Malibu Realtor

Malibu is a unique community with a complex and layered housing market. Consider having an expert in your corner – someone with an immense amount of experience in transacting luxury lifestyle properties and estate homes. I’m a real estate specialist who can navigate you through the Malibu real estate market.

So many factors go into buying a home (beyond asking about what’s the biggest, the newest, or closest to a celebrity). From the beach to the canyons, there are many facets of this area’s properties that one should be aware of. Ask about the neighborhoods, from Decker Canyon, Malibu Bowl, Malibu Beach Road, Topanga, Vera Canyon, and the famed Malibu Colony.

Malibu offers homes where your first step out will be in sand, or, to as far away from the ocean as possible; this means you can find everything in between – from estates on the bluff, luxury homes near the beach that feature a canyon view, to mansions in the mountains that have unforgettable views of the ocean and sky.