Think outside the grid

A friend recently tweeted a listing for a new Midtown loft: A sparkling new one-bedroom, one-bathroom spread across 676 square feet.

The asking price? A gasp-inducing $352,000. That's $521 per square foot. And the sale is pending. This means someone is ponying up the money to squeeze into a space smaller than my mid-'90s-era Midtown apartment—a large two-bedroom flat for which I paid $425 monthly.

Granted, that was 20 years ago, and much has changed on the grid since then. In the last few decades, the area has evolved from a sleepy enclave for artists and college students—a place that seemed to virtually shut down on weeknights and weekends—to the hippest place to live, eat and drink.

And while that $352K price tag may be an extreme example of Midtown's ongoing gentrification, it is also evidence that many may soon find themselves priced out of the area.

It's also a little bit laughable just how much value some put on a ZIP code. Midtown may be the city's cultural epicenter, but it's not the only great place to live. Just as in similar cities such as Portland, Austin and Nashville, Sacramento's central city is only minutes from affordable, older neighborhoods. These aren't suburban big-box centers with cookie-cutter homes, these are walkable areas rich with homes that burst with character.

Oak Park, Hollywood Park, Elmhurst, Tahoe Park and West Sacramento are all within walking or biking distance of Midtown. Better yet, they're all economically and ethnically diverse with mom-and-pop shops, restaurants, etc.

Priced out of Midtown? No worries. Think outside the grid: There are plenty of affordable, spacious options that don't compromise comfort, character and charm for a so-called cool factor.