Living in San Marcos Pros & Cons

San Marcos, a sunny town, lies tucked between rolling hills in North San Diego County.

For years, San Marcos has attracted residents because of its laid-back culture, family-friendly amenities, and affordable costs of living in California.

However, does San Marcos live up to its reputation? This town has various pros and cons, ranging from lake activities and community events to traffic jams and limited shopping.

Our unbiased look at San Marcos can help you decide if this SoCal oasis is worth escaping to. If moving to San Marcos sounds appealing, let our team of experts find your dream home. Contact us today to get started.

Pros and Cons of Living in San Marcos

Pros Cons
Affordable housing Few shopping destinations
Planned living No nightlife
Safe and secure Traffic congestion
Plenty to do High population density
Warm, sunny weather  
Strong sense of community  

Pros of Living in San Marcos

Affordable Housing

San Marcos lacks the appeal of a coastal town but offers luxurious living at an affordable price, as we'll explore in terms of San Marcos real estate. Half as much as coastal cities, the average home value is $721,000. Yet San Marcos homes for sale offer plenty of amenities for far less.

Lots in San Marcos are more spacious than lots in most coastal communities, averaging 8,650 square feet. Luxurious kitchens and expansive master suites are standard features in roughly 70% of houses built after 2000. Even townhomes and condos cost $350,000 on average, cheaper than those on the coast.

Modern designs are offered at prices below average in more than 60% of the homes developed this decade. In summary, the lower housing costs and spacious lots make San Marcos appealing.

Planned Living

Another appealing aspect of San Marcos is the availability of planned communities that provide spacious homes, resort-style facilities, and a natural setting. Golf courses, tennis courts, pools, parks, and trails are available in communities such as Rancho Santa Fe Vineyards, Lakeside, Wood Glen, and San Elijo Hills.

Depending on the neighborhood and type of housing, home prices can range from $400k to over $3 million. Buyers looking for a single-family home with the advantages of a community with plenty of amenities may find the master-planned model appealing.

Is San Marcos Safe?

Compared to other parts of San Diego County, overall crime rates are low. Violent crimes in San Marcos are rare but some neighborhoods have higher incidents of property crime.

Key facts:

  • According to FBI data, San Marcos has a violent crime rate of 2.1 per 1,000 residents. The national average for violent crime is 3.9 per 1,000 residents.
  • At 0.2 per 1,000 people, homicide rates in San Marcos are half as high as the national average of 0.5 per 1,000.
  • Property crime rates of 8.9 incidences per 1,000 people are comparable to the national rate of 8.0 incidents per 1,000 people in the US.
  • The safest neighborhoods in San Marcos, based on crime rates, are San Elijo Hills and Twin Oaks Valley.
  • Active neighborhood organizations promote safety and security.

Summary of crime in San Marcos:

Crime Type San Marcos Rate per 1000 National rate per 1000
Violent crime 2.1 3.9
Homicide 0.2 0.5
Property crime 8.9 8.0

By the majority of objective standards, San Marcos is a haven for those seeking peace and security, especially for a growing family.

Things to Do in San Marcos

Beyond affordable housing and safety, San Marcos offers plenty for residents to enjoy, as we'll explore next. From outdoor adventure to small-town charm, San Marcos has a lot to see and do.

Neighborhood highlights include:

  • Lake Marcos, with kayak, paddle board, and sailboat rentals, offers a popular destination for water sports.
  • San Marcos is a sanctuary for outdoor aficionados with more than 70 miles of trails for hiking and biking.
  • Golf enthusiasts can access two renowned 18-hole disc golf courses—Mission Canyon and Palomar College—which regularly host competitions.
  • Every year, San Marcos plays host to several community events such as Summerfest in June, Taste of San Marcos in September, and Movies in the Park all through the summer.

From outdoor recreation that takes advantage of the city's vast natural spaces to events that build a sense of community, there is plenty to see and do in San Marcos.

Sunshine and Warm Temperatures

Complementing affordable housing and outdoor activities, San Marcos enjoys warm, sunny weather, reflecting the laidback SoCal lifestyle.

Key facts:

  • The average high temperature is between 67°F and 93°F.
  • San Marcos' inland location allows for 284 sunshine days a year for the region.
  • From December to March, there is an annual rainfall of about 10 inches.
  • Given the area's low elevation of 350 feet, snowfall is uncommon—it occurs once every few years.
  • The hottest months are July and August, with highs of 93°F, while the coldest months are December through February, with highs in the mid-60°F.
  • In the fall, Santa Ana winds—hot, dry blasts from the interior—can happen.

The weather in San Marcos is ideal for people seeking pleasant temperatures, low humidity, and a variety of outdoor activities.

Strong Sense of Community

Despite its size, the warm weather combines with several other factors to foster a strong sense of community in San Marcos.

Some of these factors include:

  • High levels of civic participation, with around 30% of people volunteering.
  • More than 100 community organizations work with kids, the arts, the environment, and veterans.
  • A lot of families with kids live in over 60% of their homes.
  • A bustling downtown with neighborhood stores, eateries, and services.

Although San Marcos is part of a large metro area, these features help in nurturing a sense of neighborhood and small-town feel.

San Marcos Unified School District

Building on the sense of community, the school district in San Marcos delivers a top-notch education, further contributing to the appeal of the city.

Serving over 15,000 students, the San Marcos Unified School District is one of California's top school districts. Test scores are higher than state averages and graduation rates are good for students.

Measure San Marcos State Average
English standard test scores 69% 51%
Math standard test scores 60% 40%
Graduation rate 94% 83%

The district provides options including magnet schools for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), the arts, and international education. Additionally, there is a dual immersion program. As evidence of the district's emphasis on college readiness, more than 80% of graduates satisfy UC/CSU standards.

San Marcos Demographics

San Marcos's demographics show two different realities. Whereas the median age of 35.1 is slightly higher than the national average, more than 33% of residents are under the age of 20, compared to 23% nationwide.

Demographic Measure San Marcos National/State Average
Median age 35.1 years 38 years
Population under 20 years 33% 23%
Median household income $83,137 $75,235
Poverty rate 11.8% 13.1%

The population is rapidly becoming more diverse. The percentage of white citizens fell from 71% in 2000 to 49.5% in 2019, while the Hispanic population increased from 26.8% to 38.4% during the same time.

Families make up the majority of households, with 61% of them having children under the age of 18 compared to 42% nationally.

Although the median household income of $ 83,137 is higher than the state average, 11.8% of people live in poverty, which is slightly less than the 13.1% state average.

Cons of Living in San Marcos

Limited Shopping and Entertainment

Though San Marcos is growing, locals say it lacks the variety of stores, restaurants, and nightlife of nearby coastal towns. There are only two large shopping malls and two supermarkets.

Furthermore, a small number of taverns with no significant clubs in sight serve San Marcos' population of approximately 70,000 people. Young professionals looking for nightlife frequent coastal San Diego, Carlsbad, and Encinitas.

Businesses are starting to expand as San Marcos grows, but for those looking for more coastal-level amenities, progress is still slow.

Traffic Congestion

Though less congested than big towns, traffic is a growing problem for locals in San Marcos.

Key facts:

  • The average commute time in San Marcos is 24 minutes, which is slightly less than the state average of 27 minutes.
  • Congestion and delays are common on major thoroughfares including I-5, SR-78, and SR-56, especially during rush hour.
  • Because of heavy traffic congestion, accident rates are higher than the state average and often occur in clusters on key thoroughfares.
  • There are few bus connections to neighboring cities and zero train service.

To fix the traffic quagmire, the city requires a combination of road enlargement, transit system upgrades, alternate modes of transportation, and demand management techniques.

Population Pressure

Although many inhabitants are drawn to San Marcos because of its accessibility to jobs and affordability, a dense population may pose problems. Over 92,000 people live in the city, which has a high population density of 3,171 people per square mile in its 29 square miles.

Chronic traffic congestion, noise pollution, and strain on the infrastructure and public services can result from such high densities. What's more, there is a tepid association between population density and an increase in violent and property crime.

Unlock a Hidden SoCal Gem

To wrap up, while San Marcos has its drawbacks, residents can still make the most of its many advantages.

These include:

  • Stylish, spacious homes that cost far less than those at the coast.
  • Safety is on par with or better than national averages.
  • A plethora of outdoor activities and neighborhood events year-round.
  • An effective educational system with a variety of programs.
  • A friendly vibe and sense of community despite the city's size.
  • Ideal SoCal weather with plenty of sunshine and mild temperatures outside.

San Marcos has many pros, but sustainable growth hinges on managing its cons well. Looking to join the San Marcos community? Feel free to contact us today if you would like assistance finding a suitable home and neighborhood in San Marcos or anywhere in San Diego.

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