Ruel Macaraeg, his wife, Dr. Michelle Tiu, and their twin boys say they have found their dream home in Orchard Hills.

One family’s housing journey in Irvine

by TOM BERG

See how the boys have grown? The family at their Stonegate home in 2013.

Strong home values in Irvine aren’t just a 2021 trend.

Historically, the city outperforms its neighbors by a significant margin, according to recent data from Zonda, a national real estate data firm. That added value gives Irvine residents move-up opportunities not always found in other communities.

Nationally renowned real estate economist and Irvine resident John Shumway agrees.

“In my opinion, there’s no better place to buy than Irvine,” he says. “Market trends change, but Irvine won’t. Families have always wanted the best schools and a safe place to live with parks, shops and jobs nearby. The demand for the lifestyle Irvine offers will always be strong.”

For 20-year Irvine resident Ruel Macaraeg, that reality has led to three new-construction homes – all in Irvine, each a step up the real estate ladder.

Starting a family in Quail Hill

Macaraeg and his wife, Dr. Michelle Tiu, are in Orchard Hills now. His first Irvine home was a townhouse in Quail Hill.

“It was 2002, and the housing market was strong in Irvine. The line to buy these homes was a mile long,” he recalls. “But I got the call from the builder and was ecstatic.”

He was a 20-something bachelor then. It was an exciting but anxious time – the $350,000 price tag was no small task for the recent graduate.

Macaraeg met Tiu – now a UC Irvine-trained optometrist – a few years later. They got married while living in Quail Hill. Next up?

“We had twin boys,” he says. They needed more space, and quickly.

The couple took advantage of the Quail Hill home’s appreciation to purchase a new house, this time in North Irvine’s Stonegate Village.

“There is a comfort level in buying new in Irvine,” he says. “Everything is planned out. There’s long-term value and opportunity. We saw it at Quail Hill and knew we could benefit from that same concept again.”

Stonegate was ideal for Macaraeg and Tiu. The kids’ future school was steps away. They remained connected to their old friends and church community. The commute to their jobs in Irvine Spectrum District and Kaiser Permanente was brisk.

 

Dreaming of living in the hills and among the orchards

However, they would occasionally peek up at Orchard Hills and get excited.

“I could see us moving up there one day,” Macaraeg would think to himself.

That day came earlier this year when they closed on a new home in Orchard Hills’ Ravello neighborhood.

“We watched our Stonegate home increase in value, and it became a no-brainer,” he says. “There are protections in investing in a new home. No doubt this was a big investment for us, but we have a ton of confidence in Irvine’s value.”

The investment is already paying off.

Macaraeg and Tiu sold the Stonegate home after it gained healthy appreciation. The Ravello home is already seeing strong numbers as well.

But they have no plans to move – they found their dream home in Orchard Hills.