[Moving to SF] Just How Much Is the Cost of Living in San Francisco?

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San Francisco skyline

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San Francisco — the Golden Gate City — is the bustling cultural, financial and commercial center of northern California. Home to around 815,000 residents, it’s the 17th-most populous city in the U.S., although, with an area of around 47 square miles, it’s also the second-most densely populated urban center. And, with a GDP of almost $592 billion, the San Francisco metropolitan area has the fourth-highest economic output in the country.

The city boasts additional impressive stats, ranking as the highest-paying city in the U.S.. However, living here doesn’t come cheap and, as such, San Francisco also has some of the highest median home prices and rents in the world. In fact, SF is one of the priciest places in terms of monthly spending.

However, there are many factors to consider depending on your particular lifestyle and needs. So, if you’re seriously considering a move here, calculating an accurate budget is essential. In this guide, we’ll break down all costs of living in San Francisco — from housing to childcare to groceries and everything in between.


 
 

Housing

San Francisco neighborhood

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There’s no getting around the fact that California is among the most expensive states for buying or renting a home. And while real estate in San Francisco is also generally costly, there is a mix of neighborhoods and suburbs to suit various budgets.

What Is the Average Home Price in San Francisco?

The median price of a house in San Francisco is over $1.6 million — among the highest in the U.S. and even in the world. Notably, the figure is slightly lower across the Bay Area ($1.3 million), suggesting that homes are more “affordable” in the suburbs than in the city proper. As for SF condos and townhouses, the median price is about $1 million in San Francisco and $780,000 in the Bay.

The most expensive place in the Bay Area is Atherton, with house prices hovering around $7.5 million. Within San Francisco, the most reasonably-priced neighborhood is Western South of Market, where homes sell for around $880,000, while Russian Hill is the costliest, with a median house price of $2.5 million.

Typically, you can expect to pay around $1,100 per square foot if you want to buy an apartment in the city center. Outside of downtown, this figure drops to around $1,000. In addition, the interest rate on a 20-year, fixed-rate mortgage in San Francisco is about 5%, and the median housing costs per month are $2,200. This figure includes mortgage payments, utilities, home association fees and any other related housing expenses.

How Much Is Average Rent in San Francisco?

The average apartment in San Francisco is 740 square feet in size, and you can generally expect to spend around $3,600 per month on rent. And, while you may be able to find some lower rents around $1,000 per month, only 3% of rentals in San Francisco are priced between $1,000 and $1,500, and just 7% are between $1,501 and $2,000. The remaining 90% of San Francisco rentals are $2,001 or more, with average rents in more expensive neighborhoods just shy of $5,000 per month.

The average rent for a studio apartment in San Francisco is between $1,000 and $8,400, while a SF one-bedroom condo is between $950 and $9,300. You can also find two-bed rentals in San Francisco ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 and three-bed options between $1,000 and $15,100.

Granted, different neighborhoods offer drastically different prices. Some of the most affordable areas include:

  • Tenderloin ($2,700/month)
  • Van Ness – Civic Center ($2,700/month)
  • Downtown District 8 – North East ($2,700/month)

At the other end of the spectrum, the most expensive neighborhoods in San Francisco are:

  • Eureka Valley – Dolores Heights ($4,000/month)
  • Mission Bay ($4,200/month)
  • Presidio ($4,900/month)

For the most part, the most popular neighborhoods in San Francisco are among the most affordable:

What Is the Average Cost of Utilities in San Francisco?

On average, one person living in a 480-square-foot apartment can expect to pay $80 per month on basic utilities in San Francisco. This includes heat, water, electricity and garbage disposal. For two people in a 900-square-foot flat, that figure rises to $150 per month.

A monthly internet connection will typically cost around $70 monthly, while phone bills are usually $0.20 per minute for a local, prepaid mobile tariff with no discounts or plans.

Incomes & Taxes

SF

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While housing prices and rental fees are certainly higher here than most other parts of the U.S., people living in San Francisco also generally earn above the national average; a booming economy and a wide array of jobs in various sectors ensure plenty of opportunities for well-paid employment. Furthermore, the tech boom in the area and proximity to Silicon Valley certainly contribute to higher wages, and the sector employs a large percentage of the population. Recent studies indicate that you can earn more in San Francisco than anywhere else in the world.

However, taxes in San Francisco are a mixed bag. While, for the most part, residents enjoy lower-than-average property taxes, sales taxes are actually among the highest in the country.

What Is the Average Salary in San Francisco?

San Francisco residents earn a monthly net salary of around $6,500 after-tax, which is well above the national average of $4,000. Meanwhile, the median household income in San Francisco is $119,000 and the average figure is $168,000.

Employing nearly 16% of the workforce, the management sector is, by far, the largest in San Francisco. Wages in this sector average around $138,000 per year. Along the same lines, around 10% of the workforce is employed in business and financial operations, with average salaries of $84,000 per year. Those working in sales and related jobs — the third-most common occupational sector — generally earn around $38,000 per year. Computer and mathematical jobs are also common, with an average annual salary of about $120,000.

What Is the Income Tax in San Francisco?

California has a progressive income tax system with lower rates for those earning lower salaries. Specifically, there are nine brackets with rates ranging from 1% for the lowest earners to up to 12.3% for the highest earners. Additionally, people with a personal income of more than $1 million per year must pay an additional 1% tax, which goes toward the Mental Health Services Act. So, the maximum income tax you have to pay here is 13.3%, the country’s highest.

Notably, only adjusted gross income — the remainder after all deductions and exemptions have been subtracted — is subject to tax. What’s more, numerous tax credits are also available for expenses and financial events, including childcare, purchasing an electric vehicle, buying a new home, installing solar panels and more. Large businesses in San Francisco are also required to pay an additional gross receipts tax, levied on payroll expenses.

What Is the Sales Tax in San Francisco?

At 7.25%, California has the highest base sales tax in the nation, and San Francisco levies an additional 1.38% sales tax, bringing the total to 8.63%. This tax is paid on most items you purchase, although there are some exceptions, such as prescription medication, most groceries and utilities. However, some items may have additional taxes levied.

How Much Are Property Taxes in San Francisco?

In California, the maximum allowable property tax rate is 1% of the home’s assessed value per Proposition 13. This law also ensures that a property’s assessed value cannot increase by more than 2% per year unless it has undergone construction or changed ownership. As a result, property taxes in California are typically lower than the national average. Even so, because of high home prices overall, households in the San Francisco County end up paying more than $6,000 in property taxes each year.

Transportation

San Francisco bridge

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Transportation in San Francisco is generally pretty good, with many options available, and car ownership isn’t always necessary for many residents. In fact, more commuters use public transportation (32%) to get to work than those who drive alone (31%). Plus, with easy access to Silicon Valley by both road and light-rail, getting around is a breeze. Indeed, with an increasing number of smaller, local startups cropping up in the city, walking and cycling to work is relatively common.

However, on average, commuters spend almost 33 minutes traveling to work, with only about 4% of them regularly experiencing a super commute above 90 minutes. But, while commutes may be a drag, the city also enjoys an excellent walk score and is also great for cyclists.

What Is the Cost of Owning a Car in San Francisco?

If you plan to purchase a private vehicle in San Francisco, expect to pay around $29,000 for a Volkswagen Golf 1.4 90 KW Trendline (or equivalent), or just under $24,000 for a Toyota Corolla Sedan 1.6l 97kW Comfort (or equivalent). Additionally, a gallon of gasoline will typically cost around $6.

Street parking is pretty affordable in San Francisco, especially if you purchase an annual residential parking permit, which is around $165 for standard passenger vehicles or $83 for motorcycles. Street parking is managed by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), which operates numerous parking meters throughout the city. These function on a demand-responsive parking rate that encourages drivers to use under-utilized areas by offering lower rates. Rates range from free to $7 per hour and average out at $2.5 per hour.

There are also numerous garages and parking lots available. Some of these offer free parking for customers (usually those within park-and-ride stations or malls). However, prices typically range from $3 to $40/h.

What Is the Cost of Public Transportation in San Francisco?

With more than 32% of commuters using public transit to get to work, San Francisco has one of the highest transit ridership in the U.S., provided by SFMTA. Specifically, the “Muni” — a combined subway and light-rail system — secures most routes in and around the city. A standard single ride on Muni services costs $3 (or $2.50 if you use the “MuniMobile App” or a “Clipper Card”) and allows 120 minutes of travel with transfers included. A monthly pass costs $81 and includes unlimited access to all Muni services.

Alternatively, you can pay $98 to gain unlimited access to Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) services within San Francisco. BART connects San Francisco to the East Bay Area, San Jose and Silicon Valley.

Taxi fares in San Francisco start at around $4 on average, plus $3 per mile.

Healthcare & Childcare

Healthcare in SF

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While healthcare costs are generally higher than the national average, they’re not excessive, and over-the-counter medicines are more or less in line with national averages.

However, childcare is costly in San Francisco, and families spend tens of thousands per year providing quality care for their children. In fact, chilcare costs have increased by a whopping 81% in the city between 2014 and 2021. The main issue is a dwindling number of daycare centers and providers in the city, with owners and workers forced out by increasing housing costs and, more often than not, low salaries.

How Much Is a Visit to the Doctor in San Francisco?

If you need to visit the doctor in San Francisco, expect to pay around $150 for a 15-minute visit. Dentist and optometrist fees are about the same at around $140. A pack of antibiotics generally costs $11 for 12 doses, while six days’ worth of cold medicine is around $9.

What Is the Average Cost of Childcare in San Francisco?

Childcare costs can multiply quickly in San Francisco as demand soars and supply dwindles. For instance, full-time care for an infant up to 2 years old averages at more than $29,500 per year in an outside daycare center, or around $20,800 at an in-home provider.

Meanwhile, preschool costs for children between 2 and 5 years old are slightly lower at $22,600 per year in a daycare center and $20,400 at an in-home provider. Annual admission for a private primary school in San Francisco is generally priced at about $36,100.

Food

Seafood in SF

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San Francisco has a thriving food culture and is home to several world-class restaurants. Here, fresh seafood is always on the menu, with specialties such as Dungeness Crab, Bay Shrimp and Sand Dabs. Local produce is also readily available and, with nine farmers’ markets in the city, daily specials are common in the city’s cafes and restaurants. They’re also a great place to grab your own ingredients and cook up a tasty, affordable treat at home.

How Much Does It Cost to Dine Out in San Francisco?

Eating out in San Francisco doesn’t have to be pricey, and there are some fantastic budget choices and food trucks to enjoy. You can expect to pay around $100 for a three-course meal for two in a mid-range restaurant. Meanwhile, a standard lunchtime meal deal, including a drink, averages out at just under $20, while you’ll normally pay around $5 for a coffee at a cafe. Additionally, a 12-ounce bottle of Coke will typically cost $3 at a restaurant, while a small water bottle should be about $2.

How Much Does Food Cost in San Francisco at the Grocery Store?

Grocery prices in San Francisco are slightly higher than they are in other parts of the U.S. In general, you can expect to pay around $4 for a loaf of fresh white bread, $5 for 12 eggs, $7 for a pound of chicken fillets and about $6 for a gallon of milk.

Similarly, a pound of common fruit and vegetables — such as onions, potatoes, apples, bananas and tomatoes — will typically cost between $2 and $3. Finally, a 1.5-liter bottle of water is around $2.

Shopping

Woman shopping

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San Francisco is a shopper’s paradise and there truly is something for everyone. Here, you can find everything from internationally acclaimed luxury department stores to a veritable treasure trove of small, independent artisan boutiques. Plus, the pedestrian-friendly Union Square is one of the largest, most diverse shopping districts in the nation, filled with bustling boutiques, vibrant marketplaces, luxury stores and energetic cafes. Or, head to the Marina to catch the latest fashion trends, run down to Japantown for unique imports or stop by Haight Street for the hippest local trends.

What Is the Cost of Clothes in San Francisco?

A pair of new jeans will cost around $60 on average, while a summer dress from a chain store will be about $40. You can expect to pay approximately $110 for a new pair of quality running shoes, while a pair of men’s leather business shoes will typically cost around $190.

How Much Do Personal Care Products Cost in San Francisco?

Once again, the price you pay to stay groomed in San Francisco is slightly higher than the national average. For example, a bottle of shampoo should cost about $8, while a roll-on deodorant will be around $4. Expect to pay $5 for four rolls of toilet paper and $3 for a tube of toothpaste. A trip to the barbershop will generally cost around $40 for a standard men’s haircut in San Francisco.

Leisure

San Fran park

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There are plenty of free things to do in San Francisco, which is home to more than 220 parks. In fact, it was the first city to feature a park within a 10-minute walk of every resident. Plus, most parks are packed full of facilities and amenities that can be enjoyed free of charge, such as sports fields, gym equipment, picnic areas, playgrounds, grills and hiking trails.

There are also numerous beaches within the city, most of which are encompassed within the Golden Gate National Recreation Center. In particular, Ocean Beach is a local favorite, with plenty of opportunities for surfing and other water sports.

Besides outdoor activities, San Francisco also has a vibrant arts scene and is home to various galleries and public art displays. Numerous theaters and concert venues can also be found within the city, providing daily doses of entertainment. Culturally rich and with a long and exciting history, you can find a wealth of museums in San Francisco, while numerous annual events celebrate the city’s diversity.

How Much Does Entertainment Cost in San Francisco?

With so much to do in San Francisco, it’s hard to know where to begin. So, keeping it simple, a classic night at the movies will cost around $30 for two tickets to the latest blockbuster in one of San Francisco’s many cinemas. Or, if you’d rather catch a show, musical or opera, you can expect to pay just under $250 for two tickets in the best seats in the house.

Moreover, many of San Francisco’s major attractions are free to visit, including the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, Lombard Street (the most crooked street in the world) and Golden Gate Park. Or, a ferry trip and tour to the famous Alcatraz Island is just under $40, while a ride on one of the historic streetcars is $2.25 for adults and $1 for kids.

How Much Is a Gym Membership in San Francisco?

Staying fit in San Francisco is easy, and there are plenty of outdoor activities to keep you going. However, if you prefer the gym, a monthly membership will generally cost about $100. There are also numerous tennis courts in the city, which are typically around $20 per hour to rent.

With fantastic weather throughout much of the year, there’s plenty of time to enjoy the great outdoors and explore some of the many hiking trails in and around the city. In particular, the Presidio of San Francisco is great for hiking, swimming and cycling, offering superb views of the bay.

Methodology

The information on this page was compiled using data from the following sources:

  • California Association of Realtors, Realtor.com and PropertyShark.com for home prices
  • RENTCafé for rent stats
  • Point2 San Francisco Demographics page for housing costs and household incomes
  • Numbeo and Expatistan for utility costs, transportation costs, healthcare and childcare spending, food, shopping and leisure costs, home prices, mortgage interest rates and wages
  • Parkopedia and SFMTA for parking and transportation costs
  • Data USA for incomes, tax, employment and commute information
  • SmartAsset for tax data
  • NerdWallet for healthcare costs
  • ChildrensCouncil.org for childcare costs
  • MIT Living Wage Calculator for wage ranges — Glasmeier, Amy K. Living Wage Calculator. 2020. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. livingwage.mit.edu



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