Why are prices so low in the Clearlake area?

13 Replies


I live in Norcal, and everywhere is priced really high as we know. However, there are tons of property around the ClearLake area that are very approachable. I have not yet had a chance to drive up there myself, but before I do I was wondering if anyone was familiar with that area, and could give me some insights about why prices are so low compared to the rest of NorCal!

Thank you very much in advance.


I  do not want to over generalize, but there are a lot of drug problems, more specifically meth, in the Clearlake area. I drove up there once expecting a nice lakeside community, it is definitely not that! 

Middletown is much nicer and quite a few people are moving there from the St Helena/Calistoga area due to the increased cost of housing in the Napa Valley. 

I would definitely recommend driving through the area before thinking real estate looks like a good deal!

@Rachel Bier   your spot on with your initial assessment of Lake co.  And humbly speaking I am an expert on that My dad was one of the largest developers there .

Clearlake is the largest natural Lake in CA and also the oldest lake in the entire north American continent still within its historic boarders.. as such it also has Indian artifacts that date back 12,000 years.. 

So when San Francisco was being developed and the Gold rush was happening..  Napa Sonoma and Lake County were the play lands of the rich and famous..  Lake county because of the lake and Napa Sonoma because of proximity to SF.

The original resorts were all mineral bath type resorts .. and thoroughbred ranchs and in fact even though not in Lake Co Seabiscut lived and died right up the way in Willits.  The very wealthy of SF used lake county for 75 years from the gold rush to about the great depression as the go to place.. there were resorts all over the lake and in the moutains ( the aforementioned mineral bath resorts) and many burnt down over the years.. 

in 1900 to 1930 ish through out CA and the WEst was the hey day of land developers platting wide swaths of CA and literally creating towns.. platted lots with no streets.. we see these today everywhere throughout the west.. 

Lake county was no different and the towns on NICE Lucerne Clear lake Oaks and Clearlake / Clear lake park were all platted in 1922 to 1926.. the lots in those days were given away in green stamp type programs  as bonus's for going to the movies etc etc.. so then the lots started to get traded at tax sales since they were not buildable.

enter the 50. 60 70.. my dads attorney started acquiring 100s to thousands of them in the late 50s my dad started working with him mid 60s and by mid 70s he had done well over 4,000 lots in that county and owned half of Nice most of Clearlake Oaks and probably 1/10 of city of clearlake.. My dad would pop the roads in  ( but in those days you just bulldozed them you were not required to pave them.. He would start a water company and run water to them.. then you used a septic and as homes were built or MH PUT on them PGE would run power.. 

WEll that led to lots of weekend trailers which was the thing it was a weekender spot.

Then about mid 80s as real estate started to sky rocket these cheap areas became spots for retirees looking for cheap retirement.. 

And so it never really blossomed like it could have or should have.. at least the East side of the lake. ergo the cheap by today standard property and no question meth and other social problems and it gets it share of Parole dumping.

the West side of the lake though is a different Story Lakeport were I lived for 8 years was / is the county seat and that city developed with paved streets and no MH zoning so building stock is nicer.. and in the Kelsyville area you have the Riverias which were built in the mid 60s and all the lots had paved roads etc. with no zoning for MH.. this is were konocti habor inn is located that just sold. 

and then you have the rural acreages like you talk about in Middle town and you have Hidden valley lake which was one of 27 large masterplan community Boise cascade built throughout CA in the 60s.

so I have been going there lived there worked there since I was 5 or 6 years old.. and I am older than that now.. LOL.

get in the right spots rentals can be fine.. get in the wrong spot and you are going to deal with the meth druggies no doubt.

Spring valley out east a little bit is a nice little area .. newer stuff.

Upper lake is really cute and the down town has been made over nice.. we owed a 1,200 acre ranch that I grew up on when my dad was working the subdivisions and spent most of my summers there from 66 ish to 75ish.. 

its an eclectic place but it is regional with in the county some place icky some great.  My kids were born there as well LOL

Originally posted by @Rachel Bier :

@Jay Hinrichs That’s awesome, love your connection to this area!! You really do have to pay us a visit :)

 I will.. we drove every weekend from Cupertino to Lake co.. for 25 years 29 to Silverado trail and up and over the mountain. 

My very first sale of an improved property as a broker back in 75 was the sale of a store front in Calistoga.. old commercial building on main street.. sold it for 24k.. its now a boutique.. 

ONLY negative these days about Napa and north bay is traffic other than that one of the best places in the world that I have ever been to or had the privilege to live.. my 10 years at Silverado was off the charts wonderful. 

When was the last time you were in St Helena? The commute traffic south is insane, property prices are though the roof making it hard for working families to get by, over 500 Napa wineries. I love the community and am thanksful for an incredibly well funded school district, but according to my local friends it’s very different to the 70, 80’s, 90’s etc

@Martin Cozzi thanks for starting this thread.  And @Jay Hinrichs thank you for all of the interesting background!  Very cool that your dad played such a big role in developing that community.  I live in Napa and have been poking around there just on the internet, so great to have this information.  Interesting history!

That drive is about the same as a flight out of oak to the midwest lol...

Side note, when I was a kid I was very confused why clear lake was full of NASTY green moss lol. No clue if that applies to modern day.

Originally posted by @Matt K. :

That drive is about the same as a flight out of oak to the midwest lol...

Side note, when I was a kid I was very confused why clear lake was full of NASTY green moss lol. No clue if that applies to modern day.

its algae and its seasonal.. worst months happen to be August sept in the heat of the summer when most tourist think of going to a lake.

it was caused mainly by the run off from the pear orchids  ( fertilizers) that were not native..

and you hit it at the wrong time and yes its bad.. but not as bad as it used to be.. now a days its actually clear for a good part of the year. but a shallow natural lake like this will have a lot of plant growth.  We tend to compare things to all the reservoirs coming out of the Sierra's and those are man made and pretty sterile lakes.. Or Tahoe which is a one of a kind.

the other thing with Clearlake is that its average depth is only 10 feet.. with the deepest points to the south at 35 to 40 ft..

the north bowl of the lake which is 8 to 10 miles wide gets no more than 15 feet deep..

Also wanted to state that up until the WW 2 there was a scheduled TWA flight into a strip up on the East side of Cobb Mountain.   they would fly DC 3 in there for folks that would leave Crissy field in SF going up to the resorts there.

even within the methy areas, you will see pockets of nice... but dang.  Would be super tough to hold rentals.  problem with these areas is that even if your block or neighborhood isnt bad, the one right next door is garbage... and those people are at your prospective tenants schools, stores, doctors offices... stealing non stop etc...  one of my main rules of thumb is that I dont buy anywhere I wouldnt go at night without a gun.

Clearlake is where the walking dead go to sleep. It's the poorest city in the entire state of California, with some of the highest unemployment and crime per capita. Buy the worst in the best, not the best in the worst.

Some great info on this thread. My 4 cents:

1) crime is still pretty low overall since it's a rural area...

2) Mt Konocti is still considered to be an active volcano - seems dormant but could blow like Mt St. Helens any decade - but has not erupted for 11000 years

3) There is a former mercury mine and superfund site at Sulphur Bank Mine that has contaminated the lake

4) Lakeport lakefront area tends to flood in the winter...