4 Things to Know About Moving to San Francisco

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Anthony Bourdain once said, “Anyone who doesn’t have a great time in San Francisco is pretty much dead to me.” What Bourdain might not have realized, however, is that it’s hard to have a great time moving to San Francisco. 

Although the global pandemic and its accompanying economic slump have softened the San Francisco rental market, which decreased about 11.8 percent from last year (a historic slide for the City By the Bay), the median rent price for a one-bedroom apartment is still over $3,000, and the median list price of a home is a cool $1.3 million, making it one of the most expensive cities to live in the world. 

But if you dream of a place where the city meets the ocean, where there’s a deep history of social movements and cultural landmarks, and the weather is always slightly on the edge of being gloomy, San Francisco just might be your ideal landing spot—given you can afford it. 

Yes, San Francisco is expensive—but renters have a lot of agency 

The first thing you have to know before you move to San Francisco is that it’s not exactly a bargain to make a life there (there’s a good, budget-friendly reason why Uncle Jesse and Uncle Danny moved into the Tanner household). Entering the San Francisco real estate market is not for the faint of heart. 

“The real estate market is very aggressive,” says David Healey, a real estate agent in the Bay Area with Remax Gold. “It’s not unusual to get multiple, multiple offers on a property. [Buyers] don’t often get their first offer accepted.” 

On the other hand, the rental market, while unforgivably expensive, does have its advantages: Tenants have a great deal of protections under the Rent Ordinance of 1979. So, if a tenant’s building was constructed before June 1979, they have the right to rent control, they can gain interest off the rental deposit, and it’s extremely difficult to evict a renter from a unit unless there is just cause (things like nonpayment or refusing the landlord access to the unit)—almost making that painful rent check worth the price. 

You’ll have to pay a premium for parking

Like any other large metropolitan area, parking in San Francisco is considered a luxury that few can afford (sensing a pattern here?). 

“A lot of [homes] don’t come with parking. In the past two or three years it’s gotten worse. We’re losing more and more streets to bicycle lanes or they’re only for taxis or buses,” says Alina Laguna, a real estate agent for Remax Futura in San Francisco.  

If you’re moving to SF, don’t be surprised if parking is not included with a rental or even with a home you purchased, Laguna says. 

“New construction will sometimes sell a deeded parking space in addition to the unit. It’s probably like the price of a house in Ohio,” says Healey. 

Because parking can be a challenge, many who live in the city either walk everywhere (getting shapely legs on all those hills), take the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), or ride their bikes. For those who work for tech companies, shuttles are often provided to take you to campus—though this has rapidly changed in the era of Covid, where companies like Twitter and Facebook have transitioned to a remote workforce. 

The architecture is unbeatable

Though the Painted Ladies are the most iconic example of old, picturesque architecture in San Francisco, the city is inundated with charming Victorians with details you just won’t see in many other American cities—like bayed windows with decorative trim, colorful painted exteriors in various Easter egg shades, and scalloped roof shingles. 

“Everything is old in San Francisco. Some people like SF because of the charm—but a lot of people don’t like anything that’s not up to date and it has to be the latest and greatest,” says Laguna. “For those clients, I tell them they need to move into the high rises, but it comes at a high price.”

The city is lively—and dog friendly 

Beyond the expensive real estate and controversy over tech companies moving in and changing the city, San Francisco remains one of the most unique cities on the planet, with beautiful beaches, access to unparalleled urban hiking at Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and a strong sense of place in American history—being both the epicenter for the counterculture movement of the ‘60s and for being the first openly LGBTQ+-friendly city in the country. 

In addition to its natural beauty and its many cultural offerings (why yes, you really should visit Chinatown and see that iconic Golden Gate bridge), San Francisco is a city filled with dogs. Named the No. 1 most dog-friendly city in America, SF has plenty of dog parks and dog-friendly restaurants for you and your pooch to enjoy. Now, if they could only split your rent with you.