Why San Francisco Is for Mugs & Millionaires

by Robert SummersSeptember 9, 2015

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Has San Francisco Taken Manhattan’s Crown?

Manhattan has long been known as the most expensive city in the United States, but according to a study conducted last year, San Francisco is now the most expensive city for renters to live in, hands down.

What’s Behind the Bay Area Boom?

San Francisco has always been a cool place to live. First it was the epicenter of the gold rush. Then it was the hub of the Summer of Love. Soon after, it became the primary battlefront in the fight for LGBT equality, and the city is still a primary bastion of the LGBT movement. But it’s not San Francisco’s status as a counterculture capital that makes it so expensive, though the cool factor certainly contributes.

These days, it’s the tech industry that’s been driving up rents in the Bay Area. San Francisco is home to Pinterest, AirBnB, Dropbox, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Salesforce, just to name a few.

As you’d expect, employees at leading tech companies tend to earn pretty respectable salaries, so they’re willing to shell out more than the average renter for a desirable home that’s close to the office.

Due to San Francisco’s location on a peninsula, the city can’t really grow outward to accommodate rising demand, while building more affordable housing. In most cities, the solution would be to simply build up instead of out, creating residential high-rises.

But in much of the city, zoning laws don’t allow buildings taller than 40 feet, and residents in many areas are extremely resistant to amending these regulations. Remember there was once a catastrophic earthquake there, so it should come as no surprise. Thus, San Francisco’s rent prices have skyrocketed, and seem poised to continue to rise.

How Expensive Is San Francisco, Really?

Okay, so San Francisco is an expensive place to rent, but how much will it really set you back to live there? Make absolutely sure you are sitting down before reading what’s next.

The average one-bedroom in SF goes for $3,100 per month, compared to New York’s $2,995. To afford a comparatively spacious two-bedroom apartment in San Francisco, be prepared to plunk down more that $4,000 per month. In NYC, you can get a similarly sized apartment for $55 less.

On Experian’s Infographic “The Cost of Living in America,” San Francisco makes three expensive living lists, including Cities with the Highest Cost of Living, Most Expensive Housing and Most Expensive Miscellaneous Goods and Services.

The Crème De La Crème

The figures listed before were only averages. If you can afford more, then the landlords of San Francisco will be more than happy to help you spend it. Among the toniest neighborhoods in the city are picture-perfect Russian Hill, where a two-bedroom goes for $6,500, and super-trendy SOMA, where two-bedroom apartments start at around $5,000.

San Francisco for Bargain Hunters

Rents that might be astronomical in other cities are considered downright reasonable in San Francisco. Take up residence in the Tenderloin, and you might be able to nab a one-bedroom for a relatively cheap $2,200 per month. In far-flung Lakeshore, keep an eye out for anything under $2,500. It’s a steal. Hunter’s point is one of the poorest parts of San Francisco. There, a single-bedroom apartment can be had for the bargain-basement price of $1,700, and a two-bedroom will run you about $3,300.

It’s a Great Place to Live, If You Can Afford It

Obviously, San Francisco has a lot going for it. It’s an extremely fashionable city, it’s filled with lush parks and famous attractions, and it’s also a diverse place with a strong sense of community and a storied history. The job market is strong, and the housing market is even stronger, so it’s no wonder that San Francisco has become such a popular place to live.

Of course, you had better get a good job if you want to live the San Francisco lifestyle. Otherwise, you may have to look elsewhere to find a less expensive city to live in.

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Robert Summers

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