The fastest-growing cities in Southern California

Soon-to-be homeowners looking for real estate in Los Angeles want to be certain that their property investments will pay off. After all, in an uncertain marketplace - and even in a stable one - deciding to purchase a home is a massive decision that requires careful consideration and research.

One way for homeowners to make sure they're choosing a neighborhood that will hold its value is to look into towns and cities that are experiencing a surge in popularity. Fast-growing neighborhoods are often in the process of gentrification, meaning property in these areas is on the upswing. Getting in on the ground floor, so to speak, of a neighborhood resurgence is a great way to make your real estate investment work for you.

In a mature urban city like Los Angeles, many popular neighborhoods have already reached capacity. However, there are always alcoves where the population continues to boom. If you want to grab a slice of some of LA's hottest neighborhoods, here are a few of the Southland cities experiencing the most growth right now.

Palmdale
Located about 40 minutes north of Los Angeles and nestled in the San Gabriel mountains, Palmdale is a desert oasis for those looking to live life at a slightly slower pace than downtown might offer. A paradise for outdoor and equestrian enthusiasts, Palmdale has tons to offer those who want all the convenience of a city with the beauty of a rural landscape.

Palmdale's population has grown 29 percent since 2000, due in part to its natural beauty, affordable living costs and good public education. The average home price in Palmdale is $149,000 - a figure that's within budget for many Angelenos. If gorgeous desert living appeals to you - and you don't mind a lengthy commute to the heart of the city - then Palmdale could be just the city you've been looking for.

Azusa
Home to the highly-regarded Azusa Pacific University, the city of Azusa, California, is the perfect place to buy a starter home in Los Angeles. With a population of less than 50,000, Azusa has a small-town feel - but it's still located only 30 minutes from the heart of downtown LA. According to the LA Alamanac, Azusa has enjoyed some of the most growth of any city in the Southland area - enjoying a population boom of nearly 13 percent since 1990.

This desert town has a uniquely Californian feel, featuring beautiful Spanish revival architecture, tall palm trees and the natural majesty of mountain trails and creeks. Known as "the Canyon City," Azusa is located at the foot of the San Gabriel mountains - offers miles of hiking trails, biking paths and campgrounds.

Santa Clarita
The city of Santa Clarita has experienced an astounding 59 percent growth in population since 1990, according to the LA Almanac - and when you take a peek at its gorgeous landscape, bountiful shopping and abundant real estate, it's easy to see why. Located minutes from the scenic Pico Canyon, Santa Clarita may feel rural, but it's actually only 40 minutes from the center of Los Angeles.

With affordable home prices and gorgeous parks shaded by majestic oaks, Santa Clarita is a great option for potential home buyers who want to be sure their investment pays off.