In 1769, Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portola spent a July night in what would become Brea. He reportedly found the native Indians "dirty," but didn't realize they frequently smeared themselves with crude oil as medicine. In fact, while Portola slept at the mouth of Brea Canyon on his way to Monterey Bay, Brea's future bubbled beneath him.

Brea's early reliance on the oil industry has waned since the "black gold" rush began less than 100 years ago. But back then, the villages of Randolph - Brea's first name - and Olinda grew as oil-riggers and their families came to town. Today, Brea officials consider the city one of Orange County's most prosperous, with new housing, an expanded shopping mall and a large downtown redevelopment project.

Brea's future began in 1894, when landowner Abel Stearns sold 1,200 acres on the western edge of what then was Olinda village to the Union Oil Co. The first well was drilled a year later, and soon the surrounding hills were thick with wooden oil towers, according to "History of Brea, California: From Early Oil Field Days to 1950" by Purl Hardy. Randolph was built to the west of Olinda in 1908 for oil workers and their families. It reportedly was named for Epes Randolph, an engineer for the Pacific Electric Railway, which stopped at the little township on its Los Angeles-Yorba Linda route, Hardy wrote.

In 1911, the town's name was changed to Brea, Spanish for ‘tar'. By 1917 there were 732 people in Brea, and they incorporated as Orange County's eighth city. Brea now covers 10 square miles and has almost 40,000 residents. A $120 million expansion was completed a few years ago at the Brea Mall along with many other redevelopment projects.

Homebuyer Assistance Program

The city has in effect an Affordable Housing Ordinance, which requires most new residential developments to provide at least 10% of their units for sale at affordable below-market prices to qualified buyers. The city maintains a waiting list of people interested in this program. Completing and returning the Homebuyer Assistance Program application will place your name on the list for all affordable purchase opportunities, both current and future.

It is important to note that affordability covenants are place upon homes purchased through this program and if a program participant sells the affordable unit for a profit within 45 years, the city will be entitled to a portion of that profit.

Complete an application for the Homebuyer Assistance Program to be placed on the waiting listing for all current and future affordable housing opportunities. If you would like to have an application mailed to you, and for a list of current income limits- must include income of all persons in the household who are 18 year of age or older, please call Andres Morales 949-306-9260.

County Assistance

The County’s Mortgage Assistance Program (MAP) provides silent (deferred payment) down-payment assistance loans to assist low-income first-time homebuyers (FTHB).  Eligible FTHB’s annual income must not exceed 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI).  The loans are designed to help with the down payment to purchase a home.  The 3% simple interest, deferred payment loan has a 30 year term and a maximum loan amount of $40,000.  Homebuyers must occupy the property as their primary residence.  There is a 1% minimum down payment requirement for this program and the total sales prices shall not exceed 85% of the Orange County median sales price for all homes, which as of May 2013 is $459,000 (85% of $540,000).  All applicants are required to attend a homebuyer education workshop. 

Please contact Andres Morales at (949)306-9260 if you have any questions. You may also email directly

Based on information from California Regional Multiple Listing Service, Inc. as of Dec 5, 2023 7:58:pm. This information is for your personal, non-commercial use and may not be used for any purpose other than to identify prospective properties you may be interested in purchasing. Display of MLS data is usually deemed reliable but is NOT guaranteed accurate by the MLS. Buyers are responsible for verifying the accuracy of all information and should investigate the data themselves or retain appropriate professionals. Information from sources other than the Listing Agent may have been included in the MLS data. Unless otherwise specified in writing, Broker/Agent has not and will not verify any information obtained from other sources. The Broker/Agent providing the information contained herein may or may not have been the Listing and/or Selling Agent.