San Diego’s Luxury Market Attracts Younger Buyers To Its Golden Shores

The La Jolla coastline.
The town of La Jolla within the city of San Diego, California, sitting on rocky cliffs along the Pacific Ocean.

San Diego’s demographics continue to skew younger, as more and more life sciences, technology and telecommunication companies are choosing to locate in San Diego and expand operations.

Qualcomm, the multinational telecom and semiconductor manufacturer headquartered in San Diego, employs a force of young well-paid engineers and computer science grads with advanced degrees. The University of California, San Diego (UCSD) Jacobs School of Engineering is rated one of the top engineering schools in the country. UCSD is also highly ranked for its computer science program. The pipeline of well-educated young professionals means many are staying after graduation for the wealth of opportunities available. That’s in addition to the area’s coveted lifestyle.

la jolla cove condominium with ocean views willis allen real estate linda daniels

For San Diego’s young professionals entering the luxury market, prices start at around $3-4 million. This ocean-view condominium in La Jolla Cove is listed for $2.65 million. (Willis Allen Real Estate)

San Diego is a major hub for companies in the life sciences sector. Consider that Pfizer has a 25-acre campus in La Jolla. With over 16% of the country’s biotech and pharmaceutical companies, it’s no surprise that San Diego is now ripe with young well-paid homebuyers.

A leading group of current buyers is younger entrepreneurs starting, growing, and selling their companies. They hail from various industries, including fitness, lifestyle, health and beauty, fashion, food and beverage, and tech.

Shawn Rodger, a top-producing agent at Willis Allen Real Estate’s Del Mar office, has sold luxury coastal properties for close to 20 years. She is a fourth-generation San Diego resident. Rodger’s current listings range from a modern coastal property in Carlsbad listed at $4,350,000 to a $14,975,000 beachfront residence in La Jolla.

newly built contemporary home for sale in carlsbad at 5080 Carlsbad Boulevard, CA 92008

San Diego’s younger buyers often favor newer, move-in ready construction such as this $4.35-million contemporary in Carlsbad. (Willis Allen Real Estate)

“I’m working with younger buyers in the $3-million-plus range. Some entrepreneurs have started and sold all types of companies who love the coastal areas of La Jolla, Del Mar, and Carlsbad,” Rodger observes. Her Carlsbad listing with its contemporary design appeals to that younger buyer. It’s open-concept living with 1,700 square feet of outdoor decks for entertaining. “When you reach the $11 million-and-above above price range, the people buying are older,” Rodger confirms.

“I do have a number of biotech clients that are under 40,” she adds. Rodger often receives strong referrals from clients in YPO (Young Presidents’ Organization), the global leadership community with 30,000 members—all chief executives. The cutoff age for membership is 45. Rodger reports she has recently sold luxury properties in the $3- to $4- million range to buyers who founded successful clothing and beauty companies. “The biggest growth in my book of business right now is from younger entrepreneurs,” Rodger confirms.

rooftop deck with indoor-outdoor living at a newly built carlsbad home 5080 Carlsbad Blvd

In-demand features among San Diego’s younger homebuyers include indoor-outdoor living space and flexible floor plans. (Willis Allen Real Estate)

Like many parts of California’s Southland, San Diego’s luxury markets have seen incredible growth over the last year. Here’s a snapshot of market fundamentals. The Greater San Diego Association of REALTORS’® July 2021 data shows San Diego’s s average sales price rose from $932,709 in July 2020 to $1,157,308. That’s a 24% year-over-year increase. Inventory is constrained. Homes for sale for all properties fell by 41% in July 2021 compared to a year ago.

Vincent Crudo, an agent in Willis Allen’s La Jolla office, grew up in La Jolla and says the demographic is trending towards “new money.” “I recently sold a $25-million oceanfront La Jolla Shores property to a younger buyer.” He points to entrepreneurs in biotech selling their companies for hefty returns. “The luxury coastal markets also are attracting buyers from San Francisco who see the value here.”

swimming pool and stone patios at a luxury rancho santa fe home at 14741 Rancho Santa Fe Farms Road

Large-lot estates in Rancho Santa Fe are in high demand. This 2.4-acre property at 14741 Rancho Santa Fe Farms Road is listed for $6.75 million. (Willis Allen Real Estate)

Rancho Santa Fe, an inland luxury market with large equestrian properties, has seen sales pick up since the pandemic began, according to Crudo. “Those buyers want large properties with space and seclusion.”

Stroll around La Jolla’s restaurants, cafes, and coffee shops on any weekend you’ll see an abundance of younger customers enjoying their best life San Diego-style.


I have covered the business of real estate (both residential and commercial) for over 25 years, including more than a dozen years working in the Forbes Los Angeles bureau reporting and writing about as I call it, Adventures in Real Estate. From the first tear-downs turning into mega-mansions in Beverly Hills to luxury condos as investments in Las Vegas, I follow the ups and downs of real estate markets around the country just for the fun of it.