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Why I Live In San Francisco, A City Where I’ll Never Be Able to Afford A Home

Updated on October 30, 2012

I choose to live in San Francisco, one of the most expensive cities in the United States and a place where I doubt that I will ever be able to afford to purchase my own home. I am likely doomed to be a renter forever if I choose to continue to live here. And although I believe that there are a lot of great reasons to own your home instead of renting it, I will probably always continue to live here even if it means that I have to rent. And even if it means that I will pay more in rent in five years than most of my out-of-state friends will pay for their entire mortgages on their homes.

San Francisco Real Estate is a funny thing. Last year, I watched from the sidelines as a young married couple that I know began to look for their first home to buy here. They waited until their thirties to get married which allowed them to establish their separate careers and start saving enough money to actually own a home in this expensive city. They started looking in the price range of about a half a million dollars. One of the places that they found in this price range was a wacky one bedroom which required them (and anyone else visiting) to walk through the bedroom to get to the kitchen. That wasn’t the wacky part. The wacky part was that their bathroom – in this home that they could have owned – was outside of the rest of the house and across a hallway. No, they didn’t buy the place. Yes, the place sold for almost half a million dollars.

I also watched a rental situation here recently when a friend moved from the East Coast and stayed with me while looking for a place to rent. She submitted application after application for a shared roommate situation but the highly competitive nature of renting an apartment here made it so that two months went by of daily looking for an apartment and getting nowhere. Eventually she sucked it up and moved into a studio by herself. She, too, has to go to a bathroom down the hall but hers is shared with the rest of her floor. Her kitchen doesn’t include a stove. Her sink is inside of her clothes closet. She pays $1000 per month in rent. And when I saw it, I really did think it was cuter and roomier than a lot of the places I’ve seen here.

And yet, this is where I choose to live. I snagged a great apartment with big rooms and bay windows and tons of light and even a dishwasher which isn’t too common here. I also pay a small fortune to live here. Let’s just say that I pay more in rent each year than I have ever paid for a new car. I pay more in rent each year than my mother paid to purchase her first home when she was my age. And although there are some great first-time home buyer’s programs here, I’m not sure that I’ll ever be able to move out of the world of renting and into the world of owning a home in San Francisco. But I choose to live here.

This choice might make sense if I was doing work in the city that came with a comparable difference in income than what I would earn elsewhere. Many of the people that I know who live here are making significantly more at their jobs in the San Francisco Bay Area than they would earn at the same job if they were working in Texas or North Carolina. The minimum wage is higher and even waitresses earn at least that before tips. The cost of living here naturally comes with a corresponding rise in income for most jobs. However, I work as a freelance employee from the comfort of my own home so I could theoretically earn just as much money from Podunk, Middle America as I could from San Francisco and the amount of money that I could sock away into my savings account would be significantly greater.

So why do I choose to make my life in this city? There are many very specific reasons. They include:

• I love it here. I absolutely love everything about living in this city and I’ve never felt anything like that in any other place that I have ever been. You would pay more to live with the person that you love wouldn’t you? That’s how I feel about San Francisco.

• Oddly, I earn more money here than anywhere else I’ve lived. I do the same work from my computer but the fact that I feel so vibrant and creative and alive in this city makes me more productive. I may spend more on rent but I also earn more.

• I believe that my quality of life here is better than it would be anywhere else even though I don’t have as much money in my savings account. I could move to Podunk and pay very little for my life but I wouldn’t have the same access to creative people, amazing performance art, unique galleries and the rest of the fascinating life that I have here.

• Everyone else here is in the same boat. I often say that one of the things I love most about this city is the fact that everyone who is here really and truly wants to be here. There are very few people who just ended up here and who gripe about the problems of the place. It’s not easy to live somewhere that costs so much and so the people who do it are people who truly love this place. That makes for a city where people are happy and that is a place that I want to live!

So yes, there are many reasons why I choose to live in San Francisco despite the exorbitant cost of living here. But ultimately what it boils down to is that I think that the life here is worth what it costs. So you can go ahead and own your home outright in Podunk and I’m glad that works for you but I’m willing to foot the bill for a life in a city where I’ll never really be able to afford the real estate because I think that the city itself matters more than the home that I live in.


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  • Doodlehead profile image

    Doodlehead 5 years ago from Northern California

    Well, I have the same feelings about the Santa Clara Valley and prefer it because it's WARMER! Great hub.

  • skgrao profile image

    S K G Rao. 5 years ago from Bangalore City - INDIA.

    I hope things have changed and Homes are now available.You must have purchased a House by now that is August 2012.

  • profile image

    Teodora 5 years ago

    I visited the city just ones and fell in love..!!!I live on the east coast but i really want to move to SF.SO I am planning to move there in 6 months and I can't wait:)I love this city even before I sow it!!!

  • profile image

    San Francisco Allen 5 years ago

    Home is where heart is. Living in San Francisco is what you love, then you must afford a lot for it.

  • satice_j profile image

    satice_j 6 years ago from via the Bronx, NY

    I can align myself with you in that I live in a town I love, moved from a generally big Florida city to the small town I live and I am staying despite family protests. I've been to San Francisco once with an uncle. Very hilly and I loved it. Continued success and growth to you! Thanks for a great hub!

  • jacqui2011 profile image

    jacqui2011 6 years ago from Norfolk, UK

    I too am renting. I did own my own home at one time, but chose to move to a semi rural location which costs more to rent a two bed place than my mortgage for a 3 bedroom property. I really don't mind because this is where I want to be. I would love to visit San Francisco one day. Thanks for sharing. Great hub.

  • profile image

    The Outdoor Fire Pit Guy 6 years ago

    I also heard how expensive the home prices are in San Fransisco. Living in L.A. I can kind of relate but even so I think the average home price is higher there.

  • KenWu profile image

    KenWu 6 years ago from Malaysia

    Thanks for sharing your life experience in San Francisco. Has never been to this beautiful city but I'm planning one.

  • profile image

    Jazz and Blues Festivals 6 years ago

    San Fran has some great blues music in downtown. Found a place about a year ago that I absolutely love.

  • profile image

    Jeff 6 years ago

    I love San Francisco. It is one of my favorite places to visit. The food and entertainment there is tops.

  • bgamall profile image

    Gary Anderson 6 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

    Interesting read. But if I were in the bay area I would live in Mountain View. I think it is gorgeous and may be cheaper than the city. Of course if you don't have a car that would make a difference.

    I bought a manufactured home with 1500 Sq. Ft., paid cash, and live in Reno for $540 per month in a nice park with mountain views. I just can't see paying a price that is absurd, without some skin in the game.

  • bridgetriley profile image

    bridgetriley 7 years ago from San Francisco

    loved reading about another writer madly in love with the city! i moved here about 2 months ago and have learned that a lot of the young people who come here eventually leave, much like NYC. but SF is a million times better — a topic deserving its own hub. go giants!

  • Anita Koppens profile image

    Anita Koppens 7 years ago

    There's a lot to be said for renting. You never have to worry about repairs (unless you have an unresponsive landlord). I would be happy to live in San Fracisco, homeowner or not as urban living offers much more opportunities to connect with people.

  • Kind Regards profile image

    Kind Regards 7 years ago from Missouri Ozarks - Table Rock Lake

    Kathryn Vercillo, I loved living in San Francisco. You are so right. I lived out by Ocean Beach and The Cliff House, so quiet and peaceful. Then I lived in Pacific Heights and loved the views and the dog parks. Kind Regards

  • profile image

    Luba's San Francisco Real Estate Blog 8 years ago

    Just wanted to say thank you for the link love! :-) And apologize for discovering the link so late. And you're right - living in San Francisco is worth making a sacrifice here and there!

  • awsydney profile image

    awsydney 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia

    Nice hub Kathryn and I thought Sydney was expensive although both cities share a lot of similarities. I have been to San Francisco twice and I really like the harbour areas which is why I enjoy living in Sydney. There are a lot of people in Australia who are in the same boat as you ~ renting either by choice or otherwise. I am looking to invest in real estate in the US but am not sure how to go about it. Guess I'll just stick to this end of town for now. Have a great day!

  • profile image

    Pepe 8 years ago

    I visited San Francisco twice, like 8 years ago and its a great city. Not sure how good transport links into the city are. But how can people on low wages (like waiters, cable car drivers etc) afford to live in such an expensive place? do they live outside the city?

  • Fawntia profile image

    Fawntia Fowler 8 years ago from Portland

    My mother-in-law has promised that if she wins the powerball jackpot, she will buy my husband and me a home in San Francisco. So that is what we're hoping for. :)

  • The Real Tomato profile image

    The Real Tomato 8 years ago

    you said .."the fact that I feel so vibrant and creative and alive in this city makes me more productive."


  • hot dorkage profile image

    hot dorkage 8 years ago from Oregon, USA

    You & everyone else. My friends in the bay area chose to live out side SF because of lower housing costs but the number 1 reason was according to them the SF public schools are the worst kind of suckage. So add private school tuition for your kids if you choose to reside in SF and have kids.

  • SoManyPaths profile image

    SoManyPaths 8 years ago from West Coast USA

    Renting is not all that bad. I read some interesitng stuff a few years back on about why it is better to rent in San Francisco than buy. a slong as you are living your life comfortably, have some type of privacy then I see not to much difference except savings from home repairs and loss of "potential assets" of not owning..

  • BristolBoy profile image

    BristolBoy 8 years ago from Bristol

    This is a very interesting hub.

    Isn't there a major decrease in house prices in America, or is San Francisco affected less than elsewhere? Won't this improve the chances of being able to buy? Or is it like teh situation in America and whilst house prices have fallen it is harder to get a mortgage?

  • Mighty Mom profile image

    Susan Reid 8 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

    No doubt about it: Your heart is in San Francisco, and home is where the heart is! I totally understand the allure of living in SF. Owning real estate isn't necessarily the be-all and end-all of life.

    Glad you have so much good in your life. Enjoy! MM

  • fishskinfreak2008 profile image

    fishskinfreak2008 8 years ago from Fremont CA

    The foreclosure crisis is hitting all over the world EVEN CHINA although they will never admit it

  • Princessa profile image

    Wendy Iturrizaga 8 years ago from France

    San Francisco is a place I have not yet been, it never looked very interesting to me. But after reading your hub it makes me wonder and I feel is a place that I must visit at least once. If you love it so much it must be for something!