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Living in Mission Viejo vs Rancho Santa Margarita

Real Estate Agent with Century 21 Award CalBRE 01730187

Living in Mission Viejo vs Rancho Santa Margarita 

Have you thought about buying a house in Mission Viejo or Rancho Santa Margarita - moving here, relocating… 

or you currently live here and are thinking of making a change? Well, in this video we’re going to talk about living in Mission Viejo versus Rancho Santa Margarita

Hi I’m John Alesi, And today’s I’ll be comparing living in Mission Viejo and Rancho Santa Margarita, two neighboring cities in South Orange County California. 


Just for perspective, Orange County has over 3 million people and is made up of 46 contiguous cities, so these are not isolated cities by any means.


As I begin talking about these two nearby cities, I just want to mention that there is a big difference in the population of these cities. Rancho Santa Margarita has 49,000 residents while Mission Viejo has more than double the population at right around 100,000. This alone will play a major factor in choosing the perfect location for your next home.


So let’s start by talking about the styles of homes in these two cities. 


Mission Viejo was one of the first planned communities to be built in Southern California and led the way for many other newer cities to come. Homes were built in phases with people waiting for days to get the opportunity to purchase a new Mission Viejo home. Most neighborhoods were created with single family detached homes although there are a few condominium communities.


It took over twenty years to fully build out the city so newer homes, of course, took advantage of the latest home technology. Many older homes only had electric appliances and some even had aluminum wiring due to copper shortages. All of the original homes have concrete slab foundations with copper plumbing running through the concrete which later proved to be an expensive repair when the pipes got old and began to leak.


The lots in Mission viejo are the largest of the newer cities with a typical lot being 6-8000 square feet with some larger than 10,000 sq ft.

This gives the homes a comfortable feel as the distance between houses and changing elevations give the homes a greater feeling of privacy.

The current average home price is $882,000 (90 days; 855 180 days) and the average condo price is $516,000. In Rancho Santa Margarita, the average price is similar with single family detached houses running $854,000 and condo units at $505,000.

Things are a little different in Rancho Santa Margarita. The first construction was in 1986 almost 20 years after the start of Mission Viejo. While the master builder was the same group that designed Mission Viejo, a different approach was taken with this new city. The house elevations are more homogeneous in Rancho Santa Margarita so every home looks nearly identical within an area. Different neighborhoods were built at different price points so there is still a variety of home sizes and prices. While Mission Viejo had a mix of housing styles in an area, Rancho Santa Margarita homes tend to all be in the Mediterranean style with clay tile roofs covering most homes and condos. There are also more condos complexes available in Rancho Santa Margarita than Mission Viejo. 


Both communities have gated neighborhoods. Rancho Santa Margarita has Rancho Cielo, Walden, built around a small lake and Dove Canyon which is built around the gorgeous Dove Canyon Country Club, the only Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course in Orange County.


Mission Viejo has its own private neighborhoods starting with the Tres Vistas homes on the Lake Mission Viejo waterfront, Canyon Crest and Stoneridge Built just off Alicia Parkway, and two 55 and over communities, Casta Del Sol and Las Palmas. There are also gated condo associations in both cities if you prefer a little more security. 

Another difference between these two cities is geography. Mission Viejo was built on hilly terrain and required extensive grading but Rancho Santa Margarita is built on a flat valley. You will see the difference in the streets as Mission Viejo has gently curving boulevards that are separated by planted medians with very few straight or grid streets. Also, most homes are built above street grade which helps with traffic noise control. In Rancho Santa Margarita the streets were straight and even and property lots are more level within a community. There are some hilly areas but not like Mission Viejo.




Both cities are served by the two school districts, Saddleback Valley Unified School District and the Capistrano Unified School District. Because of various school boundary mapping, students may find themselves attending a school that is not the closest to their home.


There are great award winning schools in both towns including Mission Viejo, Trabuco Hills, Tesoro and Capo Valley high schools, La Paz, Newhart, Arroyo Vista, Carl Hankey and Las Flores middle schools and elementary schools in all of the neighborhoods. Private schools include Santa Margarita Catholic High School in Rancho Santa Margarita and several religious and Montessori schools.



Home Owners Associations - Because of its age, many areas of Mission Viejo neighborhoods do not have HOA fees, although Lake Mission VIejo membership is about $40 per month.


Rancho, on the other hand, has an overall HOA assessed to every property of about $55 per month but local neighborhoods may have a secondary HOA that varies from about $75-350 per month depending on amenities.


Amenities - 


Parks - both cities have lots of parks and green belts throughout the communities as part of the master plan. Mission Viejo has about 50 parks and Rancho Santa Margarita has 13. 


In RSM - Four of the parks feature Jr. Olympic size swimming pools while the other parks have soccer and baseball fields, playgrounds, tennis and basketball courts, Bar-B-Qs and picnic tables along with lots of grassy areas and shade. Along with the parks are 9 trails for walking, hiking and recreation.


Mission Viejo has two public swimming options at the Montanoso and Sierra recreation centers and the Marguerite Aquatic Center, home of the Nadadores Diving Team, which has a membership program. 


Both cities have a lake that is only open to members of the community but that’s about where the similarities end. Lake Mission viejo is a 125 acre recreation area that features beaches, boat rentals, fishing, club house, playgrounds and grassy fields. They also have a full calendar of classes and activities as well as summertime concerts and movies on the lake. 


Rancho’s lake is much smaller at 11 acres and not open to swimming but you can rent small boats, kayaks and water trikes . There is however, shoreline fishing with no need for a license. The Rancho Santa Margarita lake has a one mile perimeter walking path close to the shore line which is extremely popular with locals as a great place to get some exercise. You’ll see runners, walkers and babies in strollers at all times during the day. This lake has a members only beach club which recreates a resort style waterfront with swimming, picnic tables, covered patio, restrooms and concessions. 

If you’re a golfer both cities have some great courses to play. In Rancho Santa Margarita there’s Tijeras Creek golf club and Dove Canyon Country Club while Mission Viejo has the  Mission Viejo Country Club, Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club and Casta Del Sol Golf Courses. All are well maintained with play available every day of the year. You’ll also find food, beverages and banquet facilities at all of them. 



Because both of these cities are basically suburban bedroom communities, there is really no downtown or main street area as you might find in older cities. In Mission Viejo, shopping is concentrated in well planned strip malls with a mix of retail, services and restaurants surrounding huge parking lots. These centers are concentrated in areas that divide the housing tracts. Mission Viejo, on the other hand, has a large regional mall called the Shops at Mission Viejo, with 150 shops and restaurants plus many more retail centers throughout the town similar to Rancho Santa Margarita. There is also a medical district anchored by Mission Hospital with over 500 beds as well as nearby medical offices and suites.


Now let’s talk about restaurants. 


While Rancho Santa Margarita is a newer city, the restaurant scene is not so good. Due to its location near the foothills, the available population is small and more isolated. There ARE a few exceptional restaurants such as Hannah’s, Tutto Fresco, The Blind Pig, Carmelita’s, Yamame sushi but for the most part, choices are fairly limited with the standard franchise and fast food joints making up your dining choices. 


Mission Viejo, because of its size, age and proximity to a larger population center has a wider variety of great restaurants in all categories. You’ll find Italian, Asian, Mexican, Middle Eastern, and casual dining choices throughout the city.


There are of course the typical fast food choices but there are also many mom and pop and ethnic restaurants to enjoy. You can try Antonucci’s Italian, Casa Franco Mexican, Pub 32 - a local gastro pub, High Park Tap House and Brew Pub, Diho Siam Thai food and The Cheesecake Factory at the Mission Viejo Mall.

There are also great smaller joints like Big O to Go for pizza, Albertacos and Taco Mesa mexican, Aloha BBQ and L&L Hawaiian BBQ, Stack’s Pancake HOuse and the infamous Santoro’s Hot Wings. 

So if you’re considering a move to southern California and specifically, Orange, I hope you found this video informative. If you have any questions just leave them down below in the comments.


You know, we’re talking to people every day about moving to the 

Southern California lifestyle right here in Mission Viejo and Rancho Santa Margarita and we’d love to hear from you.


Just give us a call, send us a text or email and we’ll connect. - whether you’re buying or selling or just want some more information. We can help! 

If you found this information helpful, give it a LIKE or Thumbs up and SUBSCRIBE to my channel. If you have any comments or questions, or have another city you’d like me to cover in an upcoming episode, just leave me a comment.

And I’ll see you on the next one.





Click this to see all the MLS listings for MISSION VIEJO


Read about Mission Viejo La Paws Dog Park


Read about the 10 Best Coffee Shops in Mission Viejo


Watch My YouTube videos about Mission Viejo

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John Alesi - REALTOR®


CENTURY 21 Award

Search for homes at: Your OC Home Search website

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CalBRE# 01730187

Copyright 2018 by John Alesi. Text and images may not be copied with out consent.

Anthony Acosta - ALLATLANTAcondos.com
Harry Norman, REALTORS® - Atlanta, GA
Associate Broker

Good morning John Alesi 

Thank you for sharing the comparison between living in Mission Viejos versus Rancho Santa Margarita. This information will help consumers looking to purchase home in these two areas. 

Sep 23, 2020 06:55 AM
John Alesi
Century 21 Award - Mission Viejo, CA
(Orange County California Real Estate)

Anthony Acosta - ALLATLANTACONDOS.COM - Thanks for taking time to check out my blog post.

Sep 23, 2020 04:20 PM
Debb Janes
Nature As Neighbors - Camas, WA
Put My Love of Nature At Work for You

Nice job with this one John Alesi - I'm guessing this a big consideration for buyers. 

Sep 24, 2020 07:58 AM