Natomas – Aside from the flood risk, is it really so bad?

You may have read something about the housing market lately. Sellers are up a creek because prices have tanked thanks to myriad factors.  We may have hit bottom though: dozens of news articles are highlighting crazy good deals on foreclosed homes and from otherwise desperate sellers.  Supposedly, once you read that we’ve hit bottom, we’ve already hit it an passed.  Homes seem to be selling more quickly now and – in a twist of logical reasoning – saying it is so might just make it so as things even out.

We’ve been house hunting for quite awhile now. In fact, we may be the only buyers who can’t close a dang deal in this buyers’ market.  We have exacting tastes and we’re good at remaining true to our budget and our wish list.  Accordingly, we’re still enjoying the good life in Midtown in our lovely rental that – thanks to even-in-a-bad-market-insane-California-mortgage-land is still far less than what we’d be paying to own a place. And our landlord fixed busted lightbulbs and windows. Not a bad situation.

A week or so ago we ventured where we swore we’d never go, though . . . . Natomas. Eek! Don’t write me off as an evil suburbanite just yet.  I know all the arugments against Natomas: McMansions, big box stores, irresponsible sprawl, shoddy construction, high-five-ably close neighbors, no character, and, the most important, you better have a driveway that can accomodate an ark because, brother,  it’s only  a matter of time.

But,  you know, East Sac and Midtown – or most desireable locations – won’t be high and dry when the river busts free.  Some parts of Natomas will be extra underwater, true, but does anyone have the REAL scoop on flood protection progress and which neighborhoods are slightly less screwed? Because here’s the deal: for literally $200k LESS we can buy 1400 MORE square feet than you’ll find in East Sac – where most homes in our price range spread over a generous 1000 square feet.  We don’t need 2400 square feet.  Yet.  But maybe we will someday. At what point does it stop making sense to crap all over Natomas’s interpretation of the American Dream come-to-life with granite slap countertops, too much ceramic tile, and enough family, great, and formal living rooms so that you’d never have to spend time with your least favorite family members again?

7 Comments so far

  1. ucdjoe on June 3rd, 2008 @ 7:54 pm

    As recent transplants to Sacramento we started out looking in Midtown, East Sac, and Land Park. However, the numbers really didn’t make sense. Twice the price for half the home plus a pricey remodel. While we didn’t really want a giant home in the burbs, we didn’t want a giant mortgage and a termite infestation either. We started out searching in Natomas, but some shady real estate agents, Elk Grove-like traffic on Truxel, and a strange something-isn’t-right-here-feeling in Natomas Park led us to Southport. I remember West Sac 10 years ago, so I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of a home off of Jefferson, but found a great quiet, crime-free, diverse neighborhood near the Nugget. Every time we drive the the airport both of us say, "I’m glad we didn’t end up in Natomas."


  2. cd (cndn) on June 4th, 2008 @ 11:03 am

    Thanks for sharing your experience – I think that’s really good to know. We were just in Southport for a graduation party over the weekend.

    I do like parts of West Sac as well (especially since some parts of West Sac are closer to downtown Sac than most of Natomas). My one sticking point: I don’t want to leave SMUD territory – especially if we’re going to have so much more home to heat and cool. I like being in the City of Sac, though West Sac has fine leadership and has grown by leaps and bounds.

    The Truxel side of things does leave me with a distinct "nice place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there" feeling. The only part of Natomas we’re looking at is over in what I think the flood maps call the "Gateway Oaks" section. The west side of 5.


  3. ucdjoe on June 4th, 2008 @ 2:19 pm

    Leaving SMUD was one of our concerns also. However, our PG&E bill on a new house was lower than our SMUD-like bill on our previous older home. Property taxes are also lower in Yolo County and some sections of Southport behind the Nugget have no HOA or Mello Roos. After factoring this in with the mandated $1200 per yr flood insurance in Natomas (its $350-ish in voluntary W Sac), the cost of ownership was much lower. The Gateway Oaks area is pretty nice. We looked there too. Good luck!


  4. Steveo (steveo) on June 5th, 2008 @ 3:49 am

    Ahhh, Natomas. My experience has been that Natomas is very much about appearance with very little substance backing that up. This comes out in many ways, one of which being the homes that look like mansions in the pictures and are huge, with tiny little backyards and windows of your neighbor about 5 feet from your own. I think this attitude of appearance over reality has translated into a group of people very interested in this concept. People who for the most part are very interested in themselves and not so interested in their communities and making them a better place.

    When I stayed briefly in Natomas I found vandalism and petty crime to be extremely high, the streets were littered with cars that were to support the large amount of people that went in together to buy these overpriced homes, neighbors who generally had no regard for each other and mostly didn’t want anything to do with each other. Neighborhoods so cookie cutter and devoid of individual expression that they were more reminiscent of an egg crate than a cookie cutter.

    Compare that to the small house I currently rent in the McKinley Park area, its way too small, in need of some repairs and with some really outdated fixtures and I love it. The backyard is huge and big enough for a barbeque with everyone I know. The neighbors ALL know each other and have each others phone numbers, there is an active neighborhood watch that works closely with the local police department, kids play freely on the street and the biggest concern that people seem to have is suspicious door to door salesman. I’ll trade that kinda life for a granite slab countertop anyday.

    Having grown up in Sacramento and spent my life here getting to know the areas and the people of our community, you can’t pry me away from the older communities like McKinley park area, Poverty Ridge, Boulevard Park, or even older Folsom. People are invested in their homes and communities as they have been passed down from family to family over years and have so much more value than you can really write down on a sales receipt.


  5. Eric (sac_eric) on June 5th, 2008 @ 7:59 pm

    With regard to floods in East Sacramento and Midtown: They’ll blow the levees in Rancho before they allow downtown/Midtown to flood. Too much infrastructure, too much government in downtown.

    Also, do you really think Ross Relles is going to let his house go underwater?


  6. inthepieces on June 8th, 2008 @ 12:23 am

    If I could afford to buy right now…or whenever that is the case…I couldn’t bring myself to live in Natomas. I agree with Steveo. There isn’t a lot of substance. I have friends who live in Natomas and they have a nice house with a pretty good-sized back yard for their 2-year old…but there is something vacant about the area. Something missing that makes it a neighborhood and a community.

    I admit my bias, I moved here from San Francisco and live in Midtown on Q so my tastebuds prefer a different flavor. That said, Natomas is like watered down coffee. It looks good sitting in the pot and might do the trick in a pinch, but it will never wake you up and send your tastebuds dancing like any real coffee-flavored community should.


  7. J (unregistered) on October 26th, 2010 @ 12:25 am

    I live in Natomas, and I know all my neighbors, have a great relationship with the folks that live in the apartments nearby too. I am walking distance to a grocery store, coffee shop, some excellent restaurants, and even a pack and ship and haircut place. I get to live on a lake — yea one that might be 16′ over my house some day — but I get to go fishing and kayaking in my backyard every day.

    It’s definitely not mid-town, but I feel like I live better than most of my friends in mid-town — I didn’t buy a huge house, but 1750 sq feet is awesome. Having to take the kids out of Natomas for school every day is not — that’s probably the biggest downer about this area. The school system, frankly, is a #fail.

    Beyond that, we’ve been pretty happy to live here, and it’s done great things. And I was even able to take the money I saved and build a successful company that supports us. All in, I think there’s a lot of hate, but until you try it, you don’t know. This place definitely needs some culture though — we need more things to do from a walking perspective, and I think the architecture is lacking.

    To me, Natomas looks a lot like many places East of here… many, many developments that look like something out of Weeds. But it was definitely good to us.

    Call me *after* the great flood of 2XXX and I’ll probably be telling you a different story. ;)



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