Early this year, Kathy Bentley and her fiance, Richard Milton, decided to buy a new house. They wanted to leave the San Fernando Valley, but needed to remain nearby because Milton works as an aerospace engineer in Canoga Park.
Their new home would ideally be in a community that offered large lots, blue, smog-free skies, good neighbors and a hometown atmosphere.
Mission impossible? Not for Bentley and Milton, who found the home and community they were looking for in Acton.
Acton, population 8,000, is a rural unincorporated community about 50 miles northeast of Los Angeles. It is bordered by Escondido Canyon and Crown Valley roads, Soledad Canyon Road, the communities of Agua Dulce and Ravena. Primary access to the area is via the Antelope Valley (14)Freeway.
In May, Bentley and Milton moved into a 2,641-square-foot home with four bedrooms, a den, three baths and a three-car garage on a half-acre. Their home cost $360,000, and they share it with geese and chickens.
Although they have lived in the community for less than six months, Bentley feels at home.
"The shopkeepers here become your friends; they call you by name," she said. "Acton is laid back, you don't get a hustle-bustle feeling. Even the bank stays open late. I like the quiet atmosphere, and you can see stars at night."
A desire for a peaceful and quiet community also brought Pat and Gary Lelie to Acton 13 years ago. They moved to Acton from Canyon Country because, "There were too many concrete back yards in Canyon Country," Pat said. The Lelies own and operate the Acton Ace Hardware store, and Pat is president of the Chamber of Commerce.
The Lelies purchased their three-bedroom, two-bath, two-car garage home for $113,000 in 1977. Their 1,500-square-foot home sits on a five-acre parcel.
"People move to Acton for the open spaces," said Linda Kirk, a realtor with Wildwood Oaks/Better Homes and Gardens Realty. "They are independent people with a pioneer spirit. They are very involved in their community and have a "we can take care of ourselves attitude."
Buying a home in Acton today offers numerous options. Kirk said the current resale market offers almost 150 homes ranging in price from $178,000 for a 1,440-square-foot home with three bedrooms and two baths on one-third acre to $650,000 for a five-bedroom, five-bath home on five acres.
Most Acton residents own their own homes, and the rental market is extremely limited. "There is one apartment complex with 90 units," Kirk said. "But, I never hear of any vacancies." There aren't any condos in Acton, she added.
Prospective Acton residents who want a new home may choose from one of four major developments being built--Mountain Vista, Rancho de los Caballeros, Crescent Ranch and Griffin Sterling Ridge. All four developments are zoned for horses.
Mountain Vista, P & H Development, offers four- or five-bedroom homes on one acre lots from $379,950. Rancho de los Caballeros, Casden Properties, has three- and four-bedroom homes on half- to full-acre lots from $367,900. Crescent Ranch, Crescent Bay Developers, offers four- and five-bedroom homes on one-acre lots from $309,900, and Griffin Sterling Ridge, Griffin, has four- and five-bedroom homes on one acre lots from $339,000.
According to Eric Brown of the Meyers Group, the median home price in Acton is $296,000, and 99% of the residents are commuters.
"The Acton area is more desirable to some people than the Antelope Valley because the commuting distance is about 20 minutes shorter," Brown said.
Kathy Carroll, an emergency medical technician, and her husband, Dan, a set constructor, commute to the San Fernando Valley. Their drives usually take at least an hour each way, but they feel the time spent traveling is worthwhile. They have two young sons.
The Carrolls moved to Acton two years ago from Sepulveda to escape the Valley rat race. "We wanted to raise the children in a rural area," said Kathy Carroll. "The children are in a small school district rather than a large urban one. I also like the 4-H involvement out here."
The Carroll family lives with Kathy's mother, Kathy Wilmarth. Wilmarth, who is retired, bought their three-bedroom, 2 3/4-bath home in June, 1988, for $305,000. The home has 2,600 square feet and sits on 2 1/2 acres. Living with the Carrolls are ducks, kittens, Shetland ponies, a Welsh pony, Arabian horses, dogs, chickens and Pygmy goats.
Living in Acton is like being down on the farm for them. "We raise our own vegetables out here. Last year, we didn't buy one salad vegetable," Kathy Carroll said. "We also have fruit trees--pear, plum, peach, apple and almond."
But life on the farm has its downside, "If you want to live out here, be prepared to live with dust and flies, and the occasional snake that slithers across the road," Carroll added.