Moving to San Francisco: Everything You Need to Know

Moving to San Francisco: Everything You Need to Know

Thinking about moving to San Francisco? It’s a unique city that has its good, bad and weird.

San Francisco is filled with contradictions and surprises, ranging from microclimate weather to the obvious unequal distribution of wealth. Even though San Francisco is home to tech giants (they call it Silicon Valley for a reason), the city still is still plagued by the lack of affordable housing and homelessness.

It’s easy to see how San Francisco can be misunderstood.

san francisco california

San Francisco overview

San Francisco is a lot smaller than you think — the city is only 46 square miles but has plenty to offer.

Technology is king in the Bay Area, with nearly 50 Fortune 500 companies located in San Francisco and further south in Silicon Valley. Between job opportunities and outdoor activities for the whole family, San Francisco is a great place to settle down.

  • Population: 881,549
  • Population density (people per square mile): 17,179
  • Median income: $112,376
  • Average studio rent: $3,205
  • Average one-bedroom rent: $4,144
  • Average two-bedroom rent: $4,930
  • Cost of living index: 194

san francisco neighborhoods

Popular neighborhoods in San Francisco

San Francisco has about 36 official neighborhoods to choose from, each with its unique characteristics and vibe. Here’s an overview of some of the most popular:

  • Nob Hill: Sitting on top of one of San Francisco’s hillier areas, Nob Hill offers incredible views of the city. Lined with old mansions and the atmosphere of an elegant, deep historic background, Nob Hill offers Michelin-starred restaurants, art galleries, historic landmarks and home to Grace Cathedral and the Fairmont Hotel. The steep neighborhood is accessible by cable car, but if you’re familiar with the city’s trolley system, it’s expensive (at $7 a ride) and usually packed with tourists.
  • Mission District: This neighborhood was named after the Mission Dolores and the locals know it mostly to be the spot in the city to grab a tasty burrito. With its hipster vibes and gritty atmosphere, the Mission is a great place to go for a stroll, order from an old-school taqueria or enjoy a scoop or two of gourmet ice-cream. On a beautiful day, venture out to Dolores Park and people watch — you’ll never be bored.
  • North Beach: It’s close to the water, but doesn’t have an actual beach. North Beach is a hot spot for Italian restaurants, bars and neon-lit strip clubs. Back in the day, North Beach was filled with saloons and brothels, but today, you can go there for a delicious slice of pizza and craft beer. One thing to note about North Beach is that public transportation may be difficult to get to. BART, which is San Francisco’s equivalent of a subway, doesn’t go to North Beach. However, North Beach is close enough to the Financial District to walk or bike.
  • Dogpatch: This area is located along the water and is known for its artsy design culture and industrial warehouse buildings. Dogpatch may be the place for you if you want to live in an artist’s loft or want to be close to an artist community. It’s also close to the Chase Center and adjacent to Potrero Hill. Dogpatch is also relatively flat, which makes it perfect for bikers.
  • Mission Bay: A sprawling neighborhood in the northern part of San Francisco, Mission Bay is popular with young professionals and young families. From Mission Bay, you can catch CalTrain, which is a double-decker commuter train that connects residents from the Peninsula (i.e., Palo Alto, Redwood City, San Mateo) to the city. Mission Bay is known for its newer buildings and condo developments.

san francisco weather

The pros of moving to San Francisco

Moving to San Francisco means you’ll be a part of the city’s transplants. If cultural diversity is important to you, San Francisco is the spot — the city welcomes people from all backgrounds and walks of life. From the endless variety of food and restaurant options, cultural events and outdoor activities, San Francisco is a true melting pot with tons to do.

The weather

This is a pro or a con, depending on your taste. If you enjoy crisp, sunny, and chillier climates, moving to San Francisco will be a pro for you. If hot weather or the four seasons is more your thing, you may be disappointed. San Francisco is full of micro-climates, so it might be cold and foggy in one part of town while the other is sunny and warm. Locals always bring an extra layer or two, and San Francisco doesn’t get too hot in the summer. Expect 70-degree weather during the summer months.

Gorgeous scenery and outdoor activities

Although walkability is high in San Francisco, there’s plenty to do that’s just a short car ride away, including breath-taking hikes, kayaking, surfing (or stand-up paddleboarding) and camping.

Cross the Golden Gate Bridge to plenty of hikes near Stinson Beach or drive south to Pacifica for scenic views of the ocean and peninsula. For the more adventurous types, Yosemite National Park is only a four-hour drive away, and Lake Tahoe is about three and a half hours.

Public transportation

This can also be a pro or a con, depending on your patience for public transportation. While it’s not perfect, it’s still an inexpensive and relatively quick way to get around town, if you don’t have a car.

BART, which is Bay Area Rapid Transit, can get you around the city and connects to the East Bay. MUNI is the city’s above and underground tram system, plus there are also buses, e-scooters and bikes throughout the city at your disposal.

san francisco traffic

The cons of moving to San Francisco

With any big city, there are disadvantages. The most obvious for San Francisco is the expensive price tag. Whether you rent or buy, the cost of living is high, especially compared to other large cities in America.

Just how expensive is it?

San Francisco is one of the most expensive cities in the nation. The high cost of rent, coupled with other cost-of-living expenses such as dining out, services and taxes — it can quickly add up and bust your budget.

The good thing is that Bay Area salaries are adjusted for the cost of living and there are also places within the Bay Area that are generally more affordable than San Francisco, such as the East Bay.

Traffic and parking

Even though San Francisco is a relatively easier place to have a car, compared to other cities such as Manhattan, you’ll still have to deal with constant stop and go traffic, pretty much everywhere you go.

Nothing is more energy-zapping than being stuck in a traffic jam of buses and commuters that need to get in or out of the city. The Bay Bridge, which connects San Francisco to the East Bay, eventually merges into one lane. The freeways around the city aren’t any better.

Parking is also expensive, with garages around the downtown area typically costing $35 a day or more and parking tickets costing around $76 to $110 or more.


While San Francisco is known for its extreme wealth due to the tech boom, the income disparity is real and the lack of affordable housing still plagues the city. San Francisco has one of the highest populations of unsheltered homeless residents in the country.

While most of San Francisco is generally clean and safe, you may turn a corner and find yourself surrounded by a homeless encampment or walk through a sidewalk lined with trash and discarded needles.

How to get started on your move to San Francisco

Moving to a new place is exciting, but can also be stressful and uncertain. Sure, San Francisco is expensive, but it also has tremendous perks that make it special and potentially worth checking out.

If you’re ready to get started on your move, visit the Moving Center to get free quotes and more information about how to plan your move.

Rent prices are based on a rolling weighted average from Apartment Guide and’s multifamily rental property inventory of one-bedroom apartments. Data was pulled in October 2020 and goes back for one year. We use a weighted average formula that more accurately represents price availability for each individual unit type and reduces the influence of seasonality on rent prices in specific markets.
Population and income numbers are from the U.S. Census Bureau. Cost of living data comes from the Council for Community and Economic Research.
The rent information included in this article is used for illustrative purposes only. The data contained herein do not constitute financial advice or a pricing guarantee for any apartment.

Published at Fri, 23 Oct 2020 13:00:49 +0000