East County San Diego real estate is loosely defined as the area that stretches from La Mesa and San Carlos along the I-8 Corridor to El Cajon. Also included are the neighborhoods South of I-8, including Lemon Grove and Spring Valley, and North of I-8, including San Carlos, Santee, and Lakeside. Of course, some residents of the coastal communities consider anything East of I-5 to be in “East County”, but they are oblivious to the beautiful and comfortable neighborhoods that are, by most people’s standards, just a short drive from the coast.
La Mesa (91941 / 91942): This community is one of the largest in San Diego County. Just 12 miles from the coast, the neighborhood still enjoys a temperate climate with breezes that blow through the I-8 corridor. Some houses in the hillside neighborhoods of La Mesa actually have ocean views. This is the second largest section of East County San Diego real estate. The 57,000 residents of the community enjoy a small-town atmosphere that is still within easy commuting distance from downtown San Diego, either across I-8 or along the less trafficked Highway 94. Houses and condos here are more affordable than similar homes nearer the coast, and the schools are above average, making this a good option for middle-income professionals.
San Carlos (92119): North of Interstate 8, and bordered by Allied Gardens on the West, La Mesa to the South, and El Cajon to the East, San Carlos is a mid-to-upper-middle class neighborhood with moderately affordable homes. Natural features such as Lake Murray and Cowles Mountain add to the beauty and charm of the area. Part of the San Diego Unified School District, the elementary and middle schools are in San Carlos, and the high school is the award-winning Patrick Henry High, shared with the adjacent neighborhoods of Del Cerro and Allied Gardens.
El Cajon (92019 / 92020 / 92021): Spanning three zip codes, El Cajon is the largest geographical area in East County. Approximately 100,000 people live in El Cajon. While the I-8 corridor continues to send ocean breezes to some neighborhoods here, the temperature is above average for San Diego, while still in the 80’s on average during the summer. Most of the community is low-to-middle class, although there are several upper-end neighborhoods in the area, including Rancho San Diego, in zip code 92019, where luxury homes surround the Steele Canyon Golf Course. Father East, El Cajon is also home to some large ranches and horse properties. The El Cajon zip code 92022 does not currently have any residential development.
Lemon Grove (91945): South of La Mesa, Lemon Grove is a low-to-middle income neighborhood, with extremely affordable homes by San Diego standards. There are sufficient basic services and restaurants in the area, with renewal and redevelopment likely in the future. Many investors find this to be a lucrative area to buy, fix and flip, or rent properties with positive cash flow. Lemon Grove zip code 91946 does not have residential neighborhoods at this time.
Spring Valley (91977 / 91978): Also South of La Mesa, East of Lemon Grove, Spring Valley is another affordable neighborhood for low-to-middle income earners. There are some middle-class neighborhoods that are quite attractive in the area, but services are somewhat lacking. Shopping and dining is mainly a short drive away in La Mesa or along the I-8 corridor. But here again, investors are finding good returns with low-priced fix-and-flip properties and rental investments.