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Moving to San Francisco – a Complete Guide

If you’re thinking about moving to San Francisco, you should expect a lot of diversity, as well as beautiful beaches and mountains. It offers a lot of entertainment in terms of museums, beach sports, the aquarium, the zoo, etc. In addition, low unemployment rates and plenty of job opportunities attract many people to settle in permanently and make the Golden Gate City their new home.

Known for its magnificent tourist attraction, the Golden Gate Bridge, the place also offers plenty of restaurants, green spaces, and a lively music scene with free concerts and other events all year round. Combined with mild weather, that is an attractive set of advantages for everyone’s taste.

Cost of Living and Moving to San Francisco

Before listing any advantages and disadvantages of living in the City by the Bay, you need to take a look at the cost of living in San Francisco. It was ranked as the most expensive city in the world in terms of rent prices. Of course, when moving to a big city, you can expect high prices. But SF is actually rather small when compared to some major US urban centers like New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago. Still, its population is constantly increasing as the town receives thousands of newcomers each year, which is just another proof of its unyielding popularity and attractiveness. It is spread in a limited amount of space – around 47 square miles, and that causes a competitive housing market, with constantly increasing home prices.

Even though the unemployment rate is below 2.4% and the personal income is booming, there’s a huge gap between the rich and the middle class in terms of income inequality. Living here is very expensive even more than in New York. For a four-member family, $110,000 a year would be considered a low income in SF, as half of it is spent on necessities. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in 2019 is about $3,400 and for a two-bedroom apartment about $4,400.

Make sure you see if the costs of living here fit your budget.


The highest percentage of the population is relatively young, aged 25-44, which is a consequence of the massive influx of new residents. Young people are attracted to SF because the job opportunities are solid, especially in the tech domain and for college graduates, and the entertainment venues are abundant.

However, according to some research, the technology boom has raised housing and other living costs significantly, which has discouraged people from having children. Because of that, SF is facing the lowest percentage of children when compared to other large US towns today. Other discouraging surveys indicate that nearly 55% of Californians think that it is much harder to succeed in California than in other states.

Costs of Finding a Home

As mentioned earlier, renting and housing costs are expensive due to the fact that there is a shortage of housing options combined with the massive influx of newcomers. And it is going to get only worse. Some statistics indicate that SF will have to provide more than 92,000 housing units and 191,000 additional jobs by 2040 to keep up with this trend. The median home price amounts to $1.7 million, and the median rent about $3,700, so even more expensive than in New York.

To cover the costs of living here, you can rent your old home when you move out. Move to a smaller home or an apartment at first until you get enough money to cover living costs here.

Competitive Market

Since it is surrounded by water from three sides, there is not much space for the town to grow rather than upwards. However, some residents are arguing against changing the actual image of SF by introducing skyscrapers into its skyline. The most expensive areas are South Beach, Pacific Heights, Dogpatch, to mention just a few. The less expensive but not at all cheap parts are Outer Sunset, Excelsior, Richmond District, Ocean View, and Central Sunset.

High Rent Prices

If you were to work there for more than nine years in a relatively good position in the tech industry, you might be able to save enough money to buy a house. However, renting is much more popular, even though it is also extremely expensive. Lower rents may be found west of the city’s fog line.

Homeless Problem

The mild climate all year round is favorable for staying outdoors, which has led a lot of homeless people to settle here, and there are many homeless encampments with tents sheltering that unfortunate population. It is a huge problem and demands serious consideration.

Finding a home can be expensive in this town.

Job Opportunities in International Companies

The proximity to Silicon Valley helped SF become a tech hub attracting the industry representatives such as Google, Facebook, Salesforce, and Twitter and creating job opportunities in this field. However, given the high living costs, it is best if you inquire about the potential opportunities and see if you can find a job before moving.

The unemployment rate is certainly below the national average, and besides the tech industry, there is a variety of other cultural and professional opportunities the town offers. Salaries depend on the professional field, but software engineers probably have the highest income. Deutsche Bank’s 2019 report claims that SF has the highest salaries in the world, with an average monthly income of $6,526.

There are plenty of job opportunities that will give you a chance to grow your career.

Getting Around SF and Getting to Know California

The most popular transporters are BART – Bay Area Rapid Transit, which is basically a metro system, and MUNI TRANSIT – a network of buses and cable cars. But, if you’re a fan of healthy living, you can easily get around on foot or by bike, notwithstanding the hilly landscape with steep streets.

Use a Bike

Bike-sharing systems are common in SF, and there is a prosperous biking community you can blend into. Biking will not only help you live healthier but also save you the trouble of looking for a parking spot, which can be quite a challenge if you decide to use auto transport services and ship your car here.

You Can Walk Everywhere

The hilly landscape of SF is an excellent work-out for those who want to stay in shape. It is small enough that you can get almost everywhere on foot and walking around will open your eyes to some beautiful views of the town.

SF Cable Car Lines

Cable cars are mostly used by tourists and are considered icons of this town. The system is operated by the SF Municipal Railway and comprises three lines, out of which the most popular one is the Powell-Hyde cable car line since it offers a view of some of the city’s most famous landmarks, such as SF Bay and Alcatraz.

Terrible Traffic

Being a small town with a rather large number of residents, SF is bound to face traffic congestions. Those who are prepared to spend more time stuck in traffic will drive their own car, but other people use public transport to avoid traffic jams.

You can use buses or cable cars, or just walk anywhere.

Things to Know When Moving to California

One of the most important things to know before deciding to hire California cross-country movers to get you there is the fact that it is situated in the turbulent area in terms of earthquakes. Southern California is hit by 10,000 earthquakes of various magnitudes each year, mostly smaller ones,  but approximately 15-20 are over 4.0 magnitude. Tsunamis are rare, but not impossible. According to some research, there’s about a 76% chance the 7.0 magnitude earthquake can hit San Francisco in the following 30 years.

California offers a lot of natural wonders, among which are

  • Napa Valley Wine Country, a paradise for wine lovers
  • Lake Tahoe with its turquoise coves and both summer and winter resorts and other scenic sites.
  • Death Valley National Park, a desert with salt fields, sand dunes, and below-the-sea-level lake
  • Sequoia National Park, with the largest trees on Earth more than 2,000 years old
  • Redwood National Park with giant redwoods, the tallest trees on the planet, dating back to the Jurassic Period
  • Joshua Tree National Park displaying these specific trees in a lunar-like landscape

And let’s not forget the Disneyland amusement park and Universal Studios Hollywood, a movie studio displaying sets from famous movies.

If you are a fan of the outdoors, you’re going to enjoy living in California.

There is a Neighborhood for Everyone

When searching for a place to live in, you’ll be looking at the best neighborhood in San Franciscothat will fit your needs and means. The prices will definitely play a major role in deciding where to settle, and the general rule is that the west part is more affordable, but also foggier.

The Marina is a popular post-college yuppie residential area while the Mission is home of Latinos and hipsters. Noe Valley is a pricy neighborhood featuring Victorian and Edwardian houses for families and SoMa, short for South of Market, is a favorite of tech professionals who cherish the urban feel.

More affordable neighborhoods are further west, such as Outer Sunset and further south, such as Visitacion Valley. Bernal Heights, also known as Maternal Heights, is a suburb for raising families as it offers good schools and green spaces, just like Outer Sunset, with its great public schools and parks. Other good options are West Portal, Glen Park, Central Richmond, Sunnyside, and others. Everybody will be able to find the best place to live in San Francisco that will fit their needs. Just make sure you check how safe your neighborhood is.

Look for an apartment or house in some of the more affordable neighborhoods.

SF is Pet-Friendly

People say that this town has more dogs than children. True or not, the fact remains that dog owners take their pets everywhere, but there is a limited number of spots they can be walked without a leash. The dog-friendly areas include parks and beaches, such as Golden Gate Park, Baker Beach, Ocean Beach, and Fort Funston. If you’re looking for a place to move with your dog, SF might be the place for you.

Food Heaven

There are a lot of great restaurants in San Francisco, including vegetarian and vegan options, and quite a number of them with Michelin stars. The checks in the inexpensive restaurants range from $13 to $20. Coffee can cost somewhere between $4 and $5, and the average tip in a restaurant is 15-18% of the total amount.

Find Good Schools in San Francisco

Private schools are rather pricey, so good public schools are popular to the extent that people move to their neighborhoods, such as the Bay Area, to make it easier for their children to attend. And there are plenty of San Francisco high schools for every child to attend.

The SF has a strange lottery system for getting admitted to schools in which the submitted applications are drawn from the lottery pool, so students may end up in schools out of their neighborhoods.

Climate and Weather Expectations

The climate is mild but foggy, especially the western part. Frequent changes in weather can be puzzling for a newcomer, especially as the fog brings a chill with it. The temperature differences can happen several times during the day, whereas nights are rather cold. There are no particular seasons, but one mild spring-like season with a warmer period in September and October. The gloomiest and the foggiest periods are June, July, and August when other places usually enjoy their summer.

You should prepare for frequent changes.

Layers (of Clothes)

To overcome the sudden weather changes, you have to wear layers. And night-outers have to be extra prepared to face cold. Get used to carrying a lightweight jacket to beat the temperature variations.

Outdoor Activities You Can Enjoy

This is the place where you don’t have to pay for gym memberships as you’ll find plenty of outdoor spaces for recreation in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. There are also plenty of outdoor events like the annual Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass non-commercial music festival. If you decide to get moving services and relocate to this area, you will have plenty of things to do in San Francisco.

Prepare for the Next Stage of Your Life

SF is full of surprises, starting from the strange weather to its hilly landscape and vintage houses that defy modern skyscrapers, but also huge income disparities and insane living costs. But, as other newcomers did before you, you will adjust if you give yourself some time and invest some effort to blend in.

Keep in mind that the Golden Gate City is the highest-ranked US city in the prestigious Mercer Quality of Living Survey. But don’t trust the statistics, move to San Francisco and see for yourself what’s so special about this place.