What's it like to live in San Francisco, CA?


Miriam Weiner

Profile written by local expert:

Miriam Weiner

A beautiful region filled with iconic landmarks, independently owned businesses and trendsetting residents, San Francisco has long followed the beat of its own drum. Morphed and molded by its communities, the California metro area has been the heart of the bohemian lifestyle, the epicenter of the LGBT rights movement and the launching point of the technology era. Today, San Francisco is a complete universe in and of itself: Each neighborhood exudes its own personality, from the historic streets of the Mission District to the grassy hills of the Presidio to the bustling piers along the Embarcadero. 

The metro area's multifaceted personality draws a variety of people, from innovative entrepreneurs to students to retirees. But a housing crunch has made it difficult for the San Francisco metro area to accommodate its population, driving housing prices and rental rates sky high and significantly increasing the cost of living. Metro area communities like Oakland and Brisbane have absorbed some of the overflow, but the constant influx of new technology workers has kept the pressure on the real estate market.

San Franciscans are bound by a strong sense of pride in their region; despite the sky-high prices, many residents will tell you that they can't imagine living anywhere else.

Rankings

U.S. News analyzed 125 metro areas in the United States to find the best places to live based on quality of life and the job market in each metro area, as well as the value of living there and people's desire to live there.

San Francisco, California is ranked:

#20 in Best Places to Live

#51 in Best Places to Retire

7.0

Overall

Scorecard

Best Places to Live

  • Desirability
    8.7
  • Value
    5.3
  • Job Market
    8.8
  • Quality of Life
    6.4
  • Net Migration
    7.1

Read how we rank places

San Francisco, CA Quick Stats

  • 4,577,530

    Metro Population

  • $69,110

    Average Annual Salary

  • 65.8° / 50.6°

    Avg High/Low Temps

  • 38.7

    Median Age

  • $790,233

    Median Home Price

  • 20.7 inches

    AVG Annual Rainfall

  • 3.3%

    Unemployment Rate

  • $1,567

    Median Monthly Rent

  • 32.1 minutes

    Avg Commute Time

What's the cost of living in San Francisco, CA?

Tough zoning restrictions and current residents' desires to stymie population growth has led to a drop in new housing units within city limits, causing San Francisco home prices and rental rates to rise significantly over the past several years. The lack of affordable housing options has caused the region's homeless population to grow. Necessary expenses like food and transportation aren't cheap, either. Basic groceries and gas generally cost noticeably more than the national average.

Value Index

Index Score: 5.3 /10

How we calculate this.


San Francisco offers a lower value than similarly sized metro areas when you compare housing costs to median household income.

Housing Costs this Year


San Francisco
$790,233

USA
$222,408

Housing Costs Over Time

Data sourced from Zillow median home sale price data series. Additional data provided by the Austin Board of Realtors, Houston Association of Realtors, Intermountain MLS, Omaha Area Board of Realtors, San Antonio Board of Realtors, and the Salt Lake Board of Realtors.

Buying or selling a home? Find top real estate agents in San Francisco, CA.

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What's the weather like in San Francisco, CA?

The rumors of fog are true, but San Francisco isn't always draped in a humid haze. For the most part, the weather is consistently pleasant, allowing for San Franciscans to spend time outdoors throughout the year.

Seasonal Temperature (Avgs)

51.3°F


Winter

57.1°F


Spring

63.5°F


Summer

60.8°F


Fall

Seasonal Rainfall (Avgs)

4.2 in


Winter

3.0 in


Spring

0.1 in


Summer

2.4 in


Fall

Monthly High and Low Temperatures (°F)

Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center.

What's the best way to get around San Francisco, CA?

You don't need a car to get around San Francisco; those living in the city proper often opt to walk or bike. The region's Municipal Transportation Agency, or Muni, operates buses, street cars and the famous cable cars that traverse the region's hilly streets. Those commuting in and out of surrounding areas like Oakland, Richmond and Daly City can rely on the Bay Area Rapid Transit, or BART, light rail system.

However, many Bay Area residents choose to drive. Of the new job prospects opening up in the Bay Area, only around 45 percent are within 10 miles of downtown San Francisco; the rest are located in areas like San Mateo County (home to tech giants like Facebook). However, this part of the Bay Area is also experiencing a housing crisis, forcing workers to look for housing outside the immediate vicinity of their workplace and causing an uptick in commute time.

Getting into and out of the San Francisco area is easy: The region is home to the San Francisco International Airport and is serviced by Amtrak and major bus companies.

Commuting in San Francisco, CA

Means of Transportation
Driving
69%
Below national average

Bicycling
2%
Equal to national average

Walking
4%
Equal to national average

Public Transit
17%
Above national average
Average Commute Time

32.1 minutes

6.0 minutes more than national average

Average Commute Times by Zip Code

Data sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

Who lives in San Francisco, CA?

San Francisco and the surrounding area attracts career-driven millennials, which lends a young vibe to the metro area even as the median age has gradually increased. San Francisco's burgeoning job market and exciting atmosphere have attracted new residents from all around the globe – particularly Asia.

San Francisco is a great area for meeting new people, as a large portion of San Francisco's population is single. The environment isn't nearly as conducive to families, however. The high cost of living has made it difficult for families with children to settle down in San Francisco. Experts estimate that a family of four needs to bring in $200,000 in annual income in order to live comfortably. Many families with children have relocated outside the metro area to communities like Antioch and Vacaville.

Age Distribution

Marital Status Breakdown


About the same number of single people in San Francisco as national average

Data sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

What is there to do in San Francisco, CA?

The reasons why tourists love visiting San Francisco are the same reasons why residents love living here. The area is home to dozens of award-winning restaurants, world-class museums and family-friendly activities that San Franciscans routinely take advantage of.

The bounty of green space – such as the expansive Golden Gate National Recreation Area – provides plenty of room for walking, biking, boating and other fresh-air activities.

The metro area's distinct neighborhoods also provide their residents with an identity that's celebrated at street fairs, pop-up markets and other community gatherings. 

Find out more about what there is to see and do in San Francisco, CA