Posted Sep 2, 2015

3 Things You Need to Know If You’re Moving to San Francisco

San Francisco is one of the most desirable places in the US to live. The booming tech industry has drawn a lot of people with good salaries to the City by the Bay. However, the relatively small geographic area (seven by seven miles) keeps the housing supply much lower than demand, and so moving to San Francisco can be quite an expensive endeavor.

3 Things You Need to Know If You're Moving to San Francisco

San Francisco is beautiful, charming, elegant, and is a city of distinct neighborhoods, each with its own personality. There are a lot of reasons why you might be considering a relocation to the Bay Area, but there are some key things you’ll want to keep in mind before you make San Francisco your permanent home.

In our recent Rental Market Report we looked at rents across San Francisco and in the most popular neighborhoods. City-wide, the median rental rate jumped by 10% in the past year. If you were looking for an apartment in the summer of 2014, the typical price you would have expected to pay would have been $3,450 per month. Today that number has climbed to $3,795.

If money is no object, congratulations, you have your pick of where to live. But for those on a limited budget, choosing a neighborhood to call home is more complicated than just figuring out which one best fits your personality. Here are some suggestions for the rest of us: 

1. Rent Control Matters

One of the ways San Francisco has attempted to keep prices affordable is through rent control. Landlords of older buildings can only raise rents on tenants by around 2% or less each year.

3 Things You Need to Know If You're Moving to San Francisco - Rent Control Matters

If you can find an apartment that’s rent controlled, you have some greater certainty that next year your landlord won’t increase your rent by hundreds of dollars. Even though older homes might not look as shiny and new as the high rises you see being built across the city, you won’t have to worry about neighborhood price increases.

And if you see yourself staying in San Francisco for awhile, several years from now you could find yourself paying much less than market rate for a good older apartment.

2. Look to Second-Tier Neighborhoods

Everyone wants to have it all. But to save money in an expensive city, you need to be ready to sacrifice on some preferences to find a place you can afford. That’s why a lot of savvy renters look to second-tier neighborhoods that are further away, such as The Sunset and The Richmond instead.

3 Things You Need to Know If You're Moving to San Francisco - Look to Second-Tier Neighborhoods

Adding some time to your commute is an easy way to save money on rent. And if you can find a spot that’s close to a transit stop, it will minimize the downside of living further away.

3. Cheaper Areas Downtown Are Rapidly Improving

While some of the neighborhoods closer to the Financial District and Union Square might not be the most desirable, they are being rapidly improved (Civic Center and the Tenderloin for example). In cheaper neighborhoods downtown, you get to be closer to everything, but you give up some of the solitude and safety of the cheaper neighborhoods further away.

3 Things You Need to Know If You're Moving to San Francisco - Cheaper Areas Downtown are Rapidly Improving

When moving to one of these downtown spots, if you’re extra savvy, you might be able to find a quieter block in an otherwise busy area. And as these areas of the city get improved, if you end up sticking around for awhile in a rent controlled apartment, you may find yourself living in an affordable place several years from now in a formerly sketchy neighborhood.

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Rachel LaCroix


Rachel LaCroix is from the Music City, but she now calls the Windy City home. In her spare time, Rachel enjoys writing, reading, seeing local bands, frequenting Chicago eateries, playing with her adorable schnauzer and, most of all, traveling. She's seen Costa Rica to Copenhagen and loves it all!

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