What I would suggest is that we spend some time looking at homes in the different cities so you can see what your options are in your budget. I do this with relocation clients also. Once you get a feel for the price/size/location of different homes, you can narrow things down.
Sure Irvine has a nice reputation for it's schools....but my children went through the Mission Viejo schools and have been very successful....excellent educations. I have a son who just graduated from Pepperdine Law and my daughter went through the IB program in high school as a valedictorian. and just graduated from Cal Poly SLO.
The main thing is what are your family's needs and what appeals to you. As far as resale? if you think you need to sell in the next 5 years, then that's a consideration...but if this is longer term, then family enjoyment should weigh more...in my opinion.
I'd love to help you with this....and we can start by just seeing what's available in some different areas, go from there. If that would be something you'd like to speak more about, then shoot me a private email.
There are a lot of great areas besides Laguna Hills. If you find the right home, the future value won't be an issue. Sit down and write out the most important things in your home search and number them according to importance. Wake up every day for at least a week and re-write this list out of memory and re-number them. That will give you a very clear idea of what you really want and help to prevent any buyer's remorse.
Don't worry about "investment" you'll drive yourself crazy! Right now, your return will be better the longer you stay in this next home and less on which area you pick. Look at what you want out of it and enjoy it. There will be other people who will find the same important features you see in whichever area you pick.
When you purchase a owner-occupied residence, you're buying: the location, the price and the features.
- The price is defined by your financial situation, and what your lender approved.
- The features are personal taste and preferences (style, size...)
- The location however is a combination of lifestyle desires and obligations: is one single, or does one have a family and kids who go to school? Does one prefer to live in downtown or near entertainment, or does one like to be near the canyons for Sunday morning hikes and outdoor activities? What about the commute to work? ...
This is a difficult time to estimate whether a property will take value in the future or not. So perhaps you want to consider what is of value to you now and that will allow you to enjoy your new home? If you find a house that fits your needs and your budget, then this is a good deal.
In your dilemma, I recommend you write down your 5 MUST haves and take this list with you every time you view a property.
Irvine offers a better rated school district than all the others, but part of that equation is that in Irvine, you will usually get a smaller house, on a smaller lot, for prices comparable to L.H., L.F., or M.V..
If schools are your priority, then Irvine will probably be your choice. If kids aren't an issue, then go for any of the other communities.
As for long-term investment thinking, the same differences will likely be in place 5, 10, or 25 years from now.