As a Temecula & Murrieta real estate broker, I probably spend atleast 20 minutes answering this question with every buyer. It comes up because everyone initially starts looking at Temecula since it has more national awareness. But then they come out here and realize that Murrieta is pretty big, very similiar and often has better pricing.
So what are the differences between Temecula and Murrieta? Well the funny thing is they are A LOT more similiar than different. Both are really bedroom communities. Both have great schools and low crime. And both offer great pricing when compared to the surrounding communities in Southern California. There are a lot of transactions and homes because people are coming from San Diego, Los Angeles, Orange County, Northern California and from plenty of other states now that prices are down.
You have to see how similiar they are before you can really pick out the differences, which in my opinion are: Temecula is more "organized" for one. There are many large, master planned communities with HOAs and community landscaping. Temecula real estate is certainly prettier in many organized communities such as Paloma del Sol, Paseo del Sol, Morgan Hill, Crowne Hill, Red Hawk, Chardonnay Hills and Vintage Hills. It isn't all HOAs but there are a lot of them. Temecula is also famous for its vineyards, tasting rooms, and overall sense of community.
Murrieta real estate is a bit more independent. There are a lot of single family homes. Actually, more than Temecula and the schools are every bit as good. Both cities are highly competitive with one another. But Murrieta is a bit looser and relaxed in terms of landscaping and HOA type communities. Ironically, I often find more neighborhood block parties and home owner driven events in Murrieta than Temecula. Temecula has a bit more city organized events.
Murrieta is a bit further north than Temecula. South and East Murrieta actually touch north Temecula. They meet right in the middle where the Promenade Mall and restaurant row is. Many kids sports programs such as soccer are completely intermixed. For instance, my family has breakfast with Santa Clause in Temecula but enjoy the Easter Egg hunt more in Murrieta. These are certainly not mutual exclusive communities in anyway.
Due to a higher density of housing and further push eastward, Murrieta prices are a bit lower for the same house in Temecula. Many of the builders were the same and so the homes are exceptionally similiar. You will get more square footage in Murrieta but higher values in Temecula. Many people choose south Temecula because it runs about 5 degrees cooler in the hot days of summer and is a shorter commute to San Diego. Many pick Murrieta because they get more space and is a shorter commute to Orange County and Riverside.
Temecula has more golf courses - Red Hawk, Temeku Hills, Cross Creek, and the new Pechanga Casino Journeys course. But Murrieta has more estate homes when consider La Cresta and Bear Creek. It also has huge horse breeders and a large equestrian community. You will find lots of 5+ acre homes in Murrieta as well.
So overall, they have very similiar stats but completely different feeling to them. After living here for 9 years, I think I would still have a problem choosing between them because I love them both for different reasons. What I often tell my clients is you are likely to see more BMWs with golf clubs in Temecula and more high-end Minivans doing family activities in Murrieta. However, they both have plenty of each and there isn't a large disparity between wealth or achievement in either.
Your best bet is to come with an open mind so you can see the differences and which appeals to you most. It happens very quickly. I have had people swear they want Temecula but quickly learn Murrieta is a better personality fit. And I have had people want West Murrieta and end up in South Temecula. Both are great and you will love it here!
Stefan West, Broker for Temecula, Murrieta, Menifee, and Wildomar Real Estate