First-Time Home Buyer's Guide to Old Town Orange

Written by Posted On Wednesday, 28 May 2014 15:48

What is it like living in Old Town Orange?

Old Town Orange has a bustling small town feel and is located right smack dab in the middle of Orange County. It’s a great place for first-time home buyers to check out because the prices are affordable plus there are tons of other perks like a family friendly atmosphere and all the fun and charm of the Orange Circle. I have several friends who live in the area and they love it because they feel safe enough to take the dog out for a walk at night plus all the benefits of having a downtown within walking distance.

Old Town Orange lies at the center of Orange County and spans out approximately 3 blocks in each direction from the Orange Circle. The area includes 1,300 homes and other buildings. Old Town Orange is unique because several old houses in the area have been converted into businesses within the Orange Circle and it is not uncommon to see a vintage home in town picked up and moved to a quieter street nearby.


Mike Hampton, manager of the First Team East Orange Regional Office located in Tustin, gave me the low down on the unique Old Town Orange real estate. Most of the homes in the area were built in the early 1910’s to the 1930’s, ordered from a Sears catalog (that’s right, they used to sell more than just kitchen appliances and vacuums) – think Ikea but a much bigger scale. These prefab homes typically had 2 bed, 1 bath and a porch and they were sold for around $1,000 each. Most of the pre-built kit homes have been added onto to accommodate modern buyers while still maintaining the original beauty.


Today, Old Town Orange real estate ranges in price from the $400,000’s to just about $1Millon (listings are rarely over $1Million). Old Town Orange features several different architectural styles including Craftsman Bungalows, Spanish Colonial, Victorian and Prairie. Each home is unique and several have been remodeled and refurbished by current or previous owners.


Because Old Town Orange is designated an historic area there are restrictions on exterior modifications i.e. paint colors must be approved and homeowners have to stick to the original styles (electric updates and other interior updates aren’t restricted). There’s a tax break in it for homeowners too, under the Mills Act homeowners can get a 40-60% reduction on their property taxes if they maintain the historical façade of their homes.

Old Town Orange has a convenient location with its own exit off of the 22 Freeway at Glassell. The Orange Circle is also just a seven minute walk to the Metrolink Station and has a Walk Score of 74/100 classifying it as very walkable. Old Town Orange is a great mix of small town appeal and convenience with a bit of old world charm. There is also the Old Town Orange Farmers and Artisan Market every Saturday from 9am-1pm which brings the community together.

For more statistics on the area like demographics and a cost of living index, do a Lifstyle Search on for Old Town Orange.

Schools in Orange

Old Towne- Orange is a served by the Orange Unified School District. You can check out school ratings and more for these homes at Schools near Old Town Orange include:

  • Cambridge Elementary School
  • Sycamore Elementary School
  • West Orange Elementary School
  • Yorba Linda Middle School
  • Portola Middle School
  • Orange High School
  • Richland Continuation High School

Downtown - The Orange Circle




The Orange Circle is known as “The Antique Capital of Southern California” because it used be entirely antique, collectible and specialty shops. Today the Circle has more restaurants and eateries plus several original antique shops and of course a few vintage boutiques as well. The Circle is one of my personal favorite sports to pop some tags at thrift stores with my friends and enjoy a lazy Saturday afternoon.


The center of the Circle features a fountain, lush plants and tons of benches so you can sit in the shade and people watch. The area lives up to its historic roots as well including treasures such as Watson Drugs and Soda Fountain which houses the oldest soda fountain in Orange County and The Filling Station which is full of delicious foods and quirky décor. Last time I ate at the Filling Station at the circle I was seated in front the brick fireplace inside next to a vintage stove top!


The Orange Circle is the perfect place to enjoy an afternoon stroll plus there is an active night life as well. Several restaurants in the area have a full bar and there are three bars in the circle: The District lounge for the dancing crowd, Paul’s Cocktails for a cheap drink with a casual atmosphere (my personal favorite hangout spot) and O’Hara’s Pub which is your classic Irish dive bar. The crowd is a good mix of college kids from Chapman University and locals.

Mike lives in the Orange area just minutes from the Circle and shared some of his recommendations of where to go in town. His favorite restaurant is Citrus City Grill which serves French and Italian cuisine. The restaurant also has a Corona location and has happy hour specials every day of the week.


Another one of Mike’s favorite restaurants and my recommendation for any foodie or aspiring hipster is Haven gastropub. It’s a great place to taste craft beers and delicious gourmet food – their homemade ketchup is amazing! You can sample their beers on tap or choose from dozens of bottled brews on the menu.

If you’re not quite ready to invest in a house but you’ve fallen in love with Old Town Orange, consider renting a place in the Circle. Several of the shops and restaurants have second levels which have been converted into apartments.

First-Time Home Buyer Tips

As a long time resident and real estate expert in Orange, I asked Mike for the most important tips for first-time buyers in the area. So listen up! Here’s his advice for you…

“Remember these homes need upkeep.  Homes for sale in Old Town Orange are just that – old. Most homes were built at the turn of the 20th century between the 1910’s and 1930’s. While the foundation and structure of these homes was built to last, the electric and plumbing was not. If you purchase a home that hasn’t been updated then you will have to do these repairs and renovations yourself. While a home may look cute and quaint with a new paint job, there are likely other repairs that will need to be done in time like a new roof or updated fixtures."

“Pay close attention during the home inspection. When you’re buying a home in Old Town Orange it’s easy to get swept away in the vintage styles, cute paint jobs and overall charm of the homes. However, first-time buyers have to remember to look past the paint and under the surface. Many homes are sold “as is” which means what you see is what you get and sometimes you don’t see everything that is going on with the home. That’s why the home inspection is crucial and why extra time and deliberation should be put into going over every finding afterwards.”

“Historic homes like those found in Old Town are not required to be up to current codes, they simply have to be up to code based on when they were originally built. No matter where you buy your first home you need an inspection but when it comes to buying in a historic area, it’s even more important to understand what problems lay ahead if any.”

We've given you highlights and most important facts, now it's  your turn to dig a little deeper. If you’re interested in learning more about Orange real estate, first-time home buyer programs in the area and more then contact the experts at the First Team East Orange Regional Office located in TustinCall 888-870-1142 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we’ll connect you with an agent to give you your own personal tour of Old Town Orange and all the best areas in town for first-time buyers.

First Team Tustin Office
17240 E 17th St
Tustin, CA 92780
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