If you have wanted to move to the City for a long time but feared the high cost of living, among other things, now might be your window of opportunity to take the plunge. The City is not a cheap place to live by any stretch of the imagination, and even after the 1989 earthquake, home prices only dropped 5%. However, during this particular period in time, rental prices and home prices, at least for condominiums, have dropped considerably.
Additionally, there are currently rental and home sale vacancies throughout the City, which is also a new phenomenon. Usually, some neighborhoods have some vacancies, while others are maxed out. Added to this situation is that hotels are also at historically low rates, which means you can camp out in your hotel for a few days or a couple of weeks while you find the home you want. Such an event had never occurred in San Francisco before. In my experience, as both a tenant and a homebuyer in San Francisco, I was always in a rush to find something fast because there were multiple rental applications for every rental on the market, as well as multiple bids for home purchases. Now you can take your time.
And when you do start looking for a new home, you will want to consider the following factors:
- Schools and recreation: if you have children, you will want to look for a new home near the school that you want your child (or children) to attend; regardless of whether it is a public or private school (you can read about schools in San Francisco on this website.) In addition, and especially if you are buying a condo or renting an apartment, you will want to consider access to local parks, playgrounds, swimming pools, and other child-friendly areas.
- Weather: believe it or not, even though the City and County of San Francisco are only seven miles long by seven miles wide, there are noticeable microclimates. For example, the western part of the City, which is anything west of an imaginary north-south boundary that traverses the top of Twin Peaks, will be fog-bound much more often than the City’s east side. The Sunset District is notorious for having year-round fog, which equates to gray skies. However, the Mission, Bernal Heights, and most areas along the Bay have much fewer fog days.
- Public Transit and/or traffic: whether you plan to walk, bike, drive or ride public transit, it is best to plan ahead and determine how well you will be connected to the rest of the City and/or Bay Area before you select a neighborhood to live in. Many websites provide “connectivity” ratings, which will give you an idea of how easy it is to bike, walk, drive, etc. to other destinations. However, you will want to make sure you research those options. For example, I like to ride my bike and, therefore, look for bike lanes. However, you may have a bike lane right in front of your new home, but it is on a very steep street. Transit is another option, but some people like using BART or the trolleys, but not busses. The following webpage provides great information on how to get around the City: https://www.sfmta.com/getting-around-san-francisco.
- Business Corridors: San Francisco, like other urban cities, is blessed to have a business corridor in most neighborhoods, which is great for buying groceries without having to get in your car, walking to a neighborhood restaurant for dinner, having a local cleaner, café hardware store, etc. conveniently located within walking or biking distance. So, for the most part, this will be available to you; however, there are areas in the City where this is not a given, such as in most of the Presidio and the Sunset District.
- Culture and Identity: as I wrote before, the City is rather small area-wise; therefore, you can be in any other neighborhood within minutes. However, some people may want to seek out neighborhoods with which they identify, such as the Castro for LBGT people; the Mission District for Latinx, though this district is a magnet for young hipsters; or Chinatown for the Asian community. These last two districts, for example, have schools with immersion programs in Spanish and Mandarin, respectively, though these types of schools can be found in other City districts.
Wherever you end up living in San Francisco, you will find something special about each district and its residents. In the end, like most things, it will come down to a “feeling” that tells you this is home.
Jorge Romero, a principal at PM Workshops, is currently living in Barcelona with his family, but has lived in San Francisco in the past and still calls it home.