The Bay Area is one of the most exciting spots in the world at the moment.
There is the revolutionary tech industry, which has single-handedly produced some of the most exciting and far-reaching innovations of the last decades. There is the rich diversity of cultures and cityscapes nestled in the valley. Surrounding it all is nature that ranges from lush redwood forests to rolling, grassy hills — all within a stone’s throw from the ocean.
The nucleus of this hub is San Francisco, a near-mythical icon in American culture. It sits shrouded in cool mist that flows off the Pacific, full of rolling hills and bustling streets and vibrant plant life.
However, those looking to move to the Bay Area often look at spots outside the city where rent is cheaper and housing more available.
We will examine all the details of living in the Bay Area — including not just practical tips on transportation and housing but tips for living happily in this beautiful part of the country. We will also include a cost and benefit analysis of living outside the city of San Francisco, which is one of the best ways to make a move to the Bay Area feasible.
Table of Contents
- Practical Tips for Moving to the Bay Area
- Should You Work Outside of San Francisco?
- Guide to Living in the Bay Area
- Why Is the Bay Area So Popular?
- The Pros and Cons of Living Outside San Francisco
Practical Tips for Moving to the Bay Area
The best place to start when wondering what to know before moving to San Francisco lies in everyday concerns. For those looking to move to the Bay Area, it is helpful to have a quick, functional guide for these concerns, like getting around, where to search for housing and more. Here are some day-to-day, practical tips on moving to San Francisco:
1. Get Comfortable Using Public Transportation in the Bay Area
Public transportation is not just an option in the Bay Area — it’s a necessity. Particularly if your commute brings you into the city, taking public transportation can save you time, money, energy and improve your quality of life.
Here are the various forms of public transportation available to those living in San Francisco:
- AC Transit: This company offers bus transportation between San Francisco’s Transbay Terminal and East Bay, where cities like Oakland and Berkeley lie.
- Bay Area Rapid Transit: Otherwise known as BART, this rail and subway system offers regional rides between San Francisco, Richmond, Pittsburg, Oakland, Dublin, Fremont, South Francisco and the San Francisco International Airport.
- Caltrain: This service offers rail transportation between San Jose and San Francisco, providing a convenient way to get into the city for commuters.
- Golden Gate Transit: As its name suggests, Golden Gate Transit ferries passengers over the famed Golden Gate Bridge. This provides service for commuters to the north of San Francisco in places like San Rafael, Tiburon, Santa Rosa and Sausalito.
- SamTrans: This company transports people between San Francisco and San Mateo County, which includes San Mateo, Redwood City and more.
- MUNI: This is both a bus and train system within San Francisco. Numbered lines represent buses, while letters represent below-ground trains. Take note: The F line is the famed trolley in San Francisco, which is sure to be crowded with tourists.
- San Francisco Bay Ferry: Crossing the water between different locations on the bay, this ferry service primarily services the East Bay and points north of San Francisco.
- Uber: When you don’t want to wait for the bus, subway or train, you can order an Uber through the company’s app, and a car will come to pick you up and take you to your destination. Riders make payments through the app, so you don’t have to worry about having cash. Several service tiers are available, from the lower cost UberX or UberPool shared rides to the premium UberBLACK, which uses professional drivers.
- Lyft: Like Uber, Lyft is a ride-share service that lets you order a pickup and drop-off using an app. Your car and driver will pick you up at your requested location and drop you off wherever you need to go. Lyft offers multiple service tiers, from Lyft Line, which is a shared ride, to Lux Black, which is the premium service. You pay for your car through the app, so you don’t have to exchange money with the driver.
- ZipCar: Maybe you prefer driving yourself, but don’t want to deal with the hassle of owning a car, finding a place to park it or paying car insurance. ZipCar is a car-sharing service that lets you rent a car on demand. Car sharing is ideal for times when you need to travel beyond the city limits or need to pick up or transport heavy or large items. You can book a car for a block of time using the service’s app or website. Once you get to the car, you unlock it using your keycard. When you’re done, return the vehicle to its parking spot, lock it with the keycard, and you’re good to go.
- GetAround: GetAround is another car-share service, but with a twist. If you need a car, you can rent a car on an hourly or daily basis. If you own a car and are looking to make some extra cash or don’t always need to drive, you can rent your car out through the service.
- Zum: When your kids have lots of activities to get to, you no longer need to worry about transporting them yourself or escorting them on the bus or subway. Zum is a rideshare service in the Bay Area that specializes in transporting kids. Zum has a few more safety features than the average rideshare app, such as the ability to learn more about your driver before you trust your kids to them and the ability to track your kids as they travel to their destination.
- Kango: Kango is another rideshare program for children. Like Zum, the drivers for Kango must have a clean driving record and childcare experience. Use the app to order a ride for your kids and have the option of scheduling one-time rides or regular pickups and drop-offs, such as to and from school each day.
2. Learn How to Find the Best and Most Affordable Housing in the Bay Area
Knowing how to find an affordable apartment in the Bay Area is a great way to save time and money. Additionally, you’ll want to make sure you’re looking for housing in an area that is both affordable and vibrant to live. That’s where this list comes in handy (ranked in order from most expensive rent to least expensive):
- Cupertino: The famed Apple headquarters is an affluent place to be sure, but the rental market here is strong. There is nearly a five percent rental vacancy in Cupertino, meaning you have a better chance of landing an apartment compared to other locations. Average rents in Cupertino range from $2,620 for a studio to $3,810 for a two-bedroom.
- Palo Alto: With Stanford University at the core of Palo Alto, it’s no surprise this city caters heavily to renters, who make up 44.6 percent of all housing residents. If you are looking to rent in the Bay Area, this is one of the best places to do so. Average rents in Palo Alto range from $2,427 for a studio to $3,527 for a two-bedroom.
- Menlo Park: This city straddles land between I-280, Redwood City and Palo Alto. Though it does not have the lowest rental rates in the valley, it does have a good supply of housing available. Average rents in Menlo Park range from $2,170 for a studio to $3,360 for a two-bedroom.
- Burlingame: Close to the international airport, this city offers more affordable rental rates than other cities. It is also an excellent place for people commuting either to the city or South San Francisco, as it is less than a 30-minute drive to the city. Average rents in Burlingame range from $2,150 for a studio to $3,300 for a two-bedroom.
- Sunnyvale: Home to Lockheed Martin, Yahoo and other companies, Sunnyvale boasts a 53% rental rate — that is, renters occupy more than half of its housing. It is located just northwest of San Jose. Average rents in Sunnyvale range from$2,078 for a studio to $3,020 for a two-bedroom.
- Los Gatos: Named for the lean, watchful mountain lions that occasionally explore the city’s streets, this paradisical town is located on the southern extremity of the Bay Area and is nestled up to the coastal mountains. Renting in Los Gatos is 28 times less expensive than buying, making it a great place to look. Average rents in Los Gatos range from $2,035 for a studio to $2,955 for a two-bedroom.
- Fremont: Fremont is located in the beautiful East Bay and sits at the base of dramatic, grassy mountains. It is also a good spot for those looking to either buy or rent, as it has a fair amount of both available — average rents in Fremont range from $1,848 for a studio to $2,790 for a two-bedroom.
- Hayward: Hayward is in the East Bay, just across the San Mateo Bridge, and is home to two BART stations. It’s the ideal city for nature-lovers as it boasts several parks and hiking trails. It’s also the home of the first Japanese garden in California. Average rents in Hayward range from $1,463 for a studio to $2,208 for a two-bedroom.
- Jack London Square: Located in southwest Oakland, this hip, up-and-coming section of town is home to fantastic eats, lots of culture and accessible transportation options. It is a mere 30-minute drive from downtown San Francisco and is BART-accessible. Average rents in Oakland range from $1,447 for a studio to $2,185 for a two-bedroom.
Tips & Tricks for Finding An Affordable Apartment in the Bay Area
Although affordable apartments are out there, looking for housing in the Bay Area can be a challenge. When you have a place as unique as this, it’s no wonder everyone is competing to live here! But with perseverance, you can find a great place to live and maintain reasonable cost of living expenses. Here are some tips on how to find an affordable apartment in the Bay Area:
- Make a list of what you want from your living situation. Include things you would be willing to live with if the price were right. Your list will help you narrow down your search. For instance, will you be living alone or coming with a roommate? Are you alright with sharing the home with new roommates? Do you want a studio, one-bedroom, or multi-bedroom place to live? Do you want to live near the city center or would you be comfortable with a longer commute if it meant living just outside San Francisco?
- Scour websites for listings. Craigslist is a great place to start an apartment search — though be wary of scams, which do exist on its platform. Look at other websites as well, and ask anyone you know for recommendations.
- Find a dedicated property management company. Work with a company that understands your budget and is committed to helping you find the right spot to live in the San Francisco Bay Area. At Marcotte Properties, we are acutely aware of the challenges of relocating to the Bay Area. We’re here to help make it as seamless as possible.
3. How to Find a Job in the Bay Area
Finding an affordable place to live if just part of moving to the Bay Area and making it your home. You also want to find a place to work, so that you can pay your rent and cover your other living expenses. The great news is that the economy in the Bay Area is booming, thanks to Silicon Valley and the presence of many established tech companies and startups. The unemployment rate in the area is just 2.5% as of March 2019. Jobs in the area are particularly plentiful for people looking for entry-level positions or for jobs that don’t require a college degree.
Here are some tips for finding a job in the Bay Area:
- Think about the type of company you want to work with. Do you want to work with a big established company (like Facebook or Google) or would you rather find a job with a boot-strapping startup? You’re going to see different cultures and most likely wildly different benefits packages at each type of company, so carefully consider which is the best fit for your style and needs.
- Use your network. Sure, you could find a job by simply sending in a resume and cover letter. But it’s more likely that you’ll get your next gig through someone you know or a friend of a friend. Don’t be shy about telling people you’re looking for a job in the Bay Area. Use LinkedIn and other networking opportunities to get yourself out there and find your new career.
- Look beyond salary. Salary is essential (especially in the Bay Area where living costs are high), but it’s not the only thing that matters. If a company offers a high salary but has no work/life balance or expects you to be available 24/7, you’re likely to be miserable in the job and have a poor quality of life.
- Nail the resume. Even if you know someone at the company or a friend recommends you for a position, you still have to get past the resume readers and HR. Make sure your resume is error-free, and be sure to use the right keywords based on the job you’re seeking. Many companies use software that looks for specific words and phrases in resumes or cover letters. If yours doesn’t have those words, it’ll get tossed on the “reject” pile, no matter how connected you are.
- Prep for your interview. You’ve got the interview! After a bit of celebration, it’s time to get down to work. Do more research on the company, practice answering standard interview questions with friends, and make a list of questions to ask your interviewer.
Should You Work Outside San Francisco?
Although San Francisco might be the heart of the Bay Area, it’s not the only city with jobs. Depending on where you end up settling in the area, it might make more sense to find a position closer to home. That way, you can save time and money on commuting to and from work. Driving across the bay bridge to get to work each day might be exciting at first, but it can get tiring after a while.
Plenty of companies are located outside of San Francisco. For example, Hayward is home to more than 12,000 companies and has more than 95,000 local jobs, making it one of the best places to work outside Silicon Valley. Among the companies that have factories in Hayward is Tesla Motors.
Even if you moved to the Bay Area to work in San Francisco, you might find that you end up happier working at a company outside of the city.
Guide to Living in the Bay Area
The Bay Area is many things at once.
It is a region of stunning natural beauty juxtaposed by one of the most densely populated metropolitans in the country. It is extremely liberal yet home to fierce corporate competition and capitalistic endeavors. The areas surrounding the bay are eternally balmy and pleasant, while San Francisco proper — its capital — stays chilly through summer.
Here are some tips for moving to the Bay Area:
1. Things to Do and See in the Bay Area
You can spend a lifetime in San Francisco and not run out of things to do and places to see. Whether you’re living it up in the city or out experiencing nature, don’t limit yourself. You can reap the benefits of urban and natural activities year-round in San Francisco.
Here are some of the premier destinations to visit in San Francisco:
- Muir Woods: North of San Francisco lies Muir Woods, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. It is home to pristine, one-of-a-kind nature and the gentle giants of the west coasts, redwoods.
- The Castro: This historic San Francisco neighborhood was one of the first openly gay and gay-friendly neighborhoods in the United States. Today, its legacy lives on with lively nightlife, excellent cuisines and scenic walking areas.
- The Bay: The eponymous bay makes for beautiful scenery and boat watching. Take a stroll along one of its many shorefront parks, ride the ferry across its waves and enjoy all its azure waters.
- Oakland’s Chinatown: San Francisco’s Chinatown is a sight to behold, but the Oakland counterpart is far less touristy, offering a more authentic experience.
- Hawk Hill: Touristy as it may be, the Golden Gate Bridge is a sight to behold. Sit on Hawk Hill and watch the fog roll by like a slow-motion train, as the lights of San Francisco twinkle and glow in the background.
Best Places to Eat in the Bay Area
Hungry or thirsty? Here are some of the best places to eat or drink in the Bay Area:
- Chez Panisse: If you live in the Bay Area, you need to go to Berkeley’s Chez Panisse at least once. The restaurant that started it all when it comes to slow food and the farm-to-table movement in the U.S., Chez Panisse first opened its doors in 1971. Downstairs you’ll be offered a prix-fixe menu while upstairs gives you the option of dining a la carte. Monday through Thursday, meals are cheaper than on weekends. Whatever you do, don’t forget to make a reservation.
- The Progress: The Progress is a destination restaurant located in San Francisco. It has one Michelin star and an ever-changing, inventive menu.
- Drake’s Dealership: The restaurant and bar of Drake’s Brewing Company, a craft beer company based in Oakland, Drake’s Dealership is located in the service center of an old Dodge dealer. If you want to avoid the crowds, visit the brewery on a Sunday or early in the week.
- Miss Ollie’s: Miss Ollie’s is a Caribbean restaurant in Oakland that’s been called a “down home delight.” It’s open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday and is available for booking private events.
- Lois the Pie Queen: Oakland might be evolving, but Lois the Pie Queen has remained the same for the past three decades. Stepping into this classic diner is like moving back in time. Everything at the diner is made from scratch. If you don’t mind a crowd, you can’t miss the Sunday dinner, served in the middle of the day. Breakfast is also a must-try at Lois the Pie Queen.
Live Like a Local in the Bay Area
You’re a new transplant to the Bay Area. You’re not a tourist! So it’s time to start living like a local and finding not-so-touristy things to do on the weekend. Peak tourist season tends to be in the summer, although savvier visitors have learned that the fall is just as lovely, and a little less crowded.
Here’s what the locals do in the Bay Area:
- Visit Billionaire’s Row. Tourists visit San Francisco to see the iconic “Full House” house. Locals take a stroll down Broadway between Fillmore and Lyons to check out the domiciles of real-life billionaires.
- Spend a Thursday night at the museum. The California Academy of Sciences hosts “NightLife” every Thursday from 6 to 10 p.m. Open to adults only (21+), the evening features a rotating program of events.
- Climb to the top of Grizzly Peak. For breathtaking views of the entire bay, locals recommend taking a hike up Grizzly Peak.
- Sing along at the Castro Theatre. The Castro Theatre hosts monthly sing-alongs to favorite musicals. The songs in the movies have subtitles, and everyone in the theater is invited to join in and sing.
- Visit the Albany Bulb. Officially, the Albany Bulb is an old landfill. Unofficially, it’s a home for outsider art and is full of magnificent sculptures and graffiti.
Get Away from the Bay Area
Although the Bay Area is beautiful, there might be times when you want to get away from it all and explore a new part of the state. Whether it’s a long weekend or you want to get away for an overnight trip, here are a few destinations within a few hours’ drive:
- Napa Valley. If you love wine, then a visit to the wineries that dot the Napa Valley is a must. The even better news is that the valley is just an hour’s drive from the Bay Area.
- Mendocino Coast. Mendocino and its beautiful beaches are about a three-hour drive away from the Bay Area. Once there, you can enjoy miles of sandy beaches and breathtaking sunsets.
- Lake Tahoe. Lake Tahoe — and its iconic skiing — is about a four-hour drive from San Francisco and the Bay Area, meaning this trip is best for a long weekend getaway. Although it’s known for skiing, the area offers plenty of things to do during the warmer months.
- Big Sur. Although Big Sur itself is a must-visit for anyone who loves hiking, the drive alone might be worth it for some people. The trip takes about three hours from the Bay Area and takes you along the Pacific Coast Highway.
Things to Do in the Bay Area in the Spring
In the spring, the Bay Area starts to shake off the remnants of winter. New growth starts to appear and flowers begin to bloom. The best way to welcome spring to the area is to head to the North California Cherry Blossom Festival, which takes place in the middle of April. Festival events include performances, tea ceremonies and calligraphy lessons. It all wraps up with a grand parade on the last day.
Things to Do in the Bay Area in the Summer
Summer is baseball season, and what better way to show your spirit than to go to a Giants’ game at Oracle Park? If baseball isn’t your thing, there are plenty of ways to get outside and enjoy the beautiful summer weather in the Bay Area:
- Visit the California Shakespeare Theater in Orinda.
- Attend the San Francisco Jazz Festival.
- Watch a movie in a park.
- Catch an outdoor concert at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley.
Things to Do in the Bay Area in the Fall
The Bay Area is known for having “Indian Summer,” meaning that although temperatures are dropping pretty much everywhere else, the weather remains nice throughout the fall. There are several fall music festivals in the Bay Area, including the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, which is free and takes place in October. Another favorite fall festival, also in October, is the Treasure Island Music Festival, past lineups of which include an eclectic mix of hip-hop, electronica and indy artists.
Things to Do in the Bay Area in the Winter
Although the weather in San Francisco doesn’t get super cold in the winter, that doesn’t mean that locals don’t love to lace up their skates and hit the ice. Several ice skating rinks pop up during the winter months across the Bay Area. In Palo Alto, you’ll find the Winter Lodge, which is open seasonally. In Union Square, a holiday ice skating rink is set up from November to January of each year.
2. What the Weather and Seasons Are Like in San Francisco
Though the Bay Area stretches only about 50 miles from top to bottom, it is home to a very distinct yet varied set of weather patterns. The whole Bay Area is classified as a Mediterranean climate, though summertime in San Francisco may come as a shock to those expecting the warmth of Sicily.
Winter in the Bay Area is a season of rain, with December being home to the most storms. These storms consist of rain and wind — the thunderstorms experienced in other parts of the country are exceedingly rare for the Bay Area. Yet winter also carries mild patches of calm, with the temperature rarely dipping below 55 degrees.
If you’re not a fan of snow, the Bay Area will feel like paradise. If you do like snow, though, fear not: The Sierra Mountains are a couple-hours drive to the east.
Spring sees the tapering of rainy weather and is a truly invigorating season in the Bay Area. The lush mountains are emerald green, the flowers bloom and the sun comes — and stays — out. In San Francisco, the storied fog begins to roll in through the Golden Gate during spring. This fog is due to a weather effect known as inversion, a pattern where a cold layer of cloudy mist lays below warmer, clear air above. As the spring progresses, this inversion fog grows thicker.
Summer can be downright bizarre in the Bay Area. Southern portions like San Jose, Sunnyvale and Fremont experience nearly unbroken sunshine, San Francisco itself is treated to chilly fog during the morning and evening. This inspired the famous quote attributed to American author Mark Twain, that “the coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco.” This unusual summer fog is blocked from the rest of the Bay by coastal mountains, but the Golden Gate allows it to pour into San Francisco.
Finally, there is autumn, the calmest month in the Bay Area. San Francisco in the fall is virtually storm-free, made up of occasional winds and soothing and warm air.
Although San Francisco might be known for its fog (lovingly nicknamed Karl by the locals) and cool summers, other parts of the Bay Area do have more welcoming, sunnier weather. Hayward, over in the East Bay, has more than 250 sunny days per year, and an average temperature in the summer of around 76 degrees. Some people might consider that the “perfect” weather.
3. How to Meet People and Make Friends in the Bay Area
Meeting new people in the Bay Area is not too hard if you have the right attitude and know how to get started. Here are some suggestions on jumping into a vibrant social life when new to San Francisco:
- Ask friends on Facebook if they know anyone in San Francisco you could meet up with as a newcomer.
- Check out local coffee shops, bars and nightclubs to socialize.
- Join the city’s many social organizations like the Urban Adventure Club, which organizes activities for new people in town.
- Find a group on Meetup or start your own, such as a book club, cooking club or knitting circle.
- Volunteer with an organization such as a local food bank. You’ll get to meet people while helping others — that’s a win-win. Local food banks or programs that feed hungry people include the SF-Marin Food Bank, Food Not Bombs, Foodrunners and Project Open Hand.
- Find another cause you believe in and volunteer with it. Nonprofits in the Bay Area are always looking for help. A few local Bay Area organizations include Seva, Children Now and Global Exchange.
Why Is the Bay Area So Popular?
Why do so many people relocate to the Bay Area? Well, it’s the combination of a lot of things.
First, the Bay Area is the center of an incredible employment boom. As the home to major corporations like Tesla, Apple, Yahoo, Facebook, Google, Netflix and many more, this place is the hotbed of revolutionary and tech-industry employment. Additionally, these jobs tend to reward long, strenuous hours with high paychecks and other cool office perks.
Second, the Bay Area’s weather is unquestionably beautiful. With lots of sunshine, moderate temperatures year-round that are never too hot or too cold, it’s hard to imagine a more temperate place to live.
Third, living near San Francisco means you are within driving distance of some of the coolest places on earth. To the south are Los Angeles, San Diego, Mexico, Death Valley and the vast sand dunes. To the southeast is the mighty Yosemite Park and the giant Sequoias. To the east are incredible ski resorts, including those around Lake Tahoe. Then to the north are massive redwood forests and Napa Valley. In all, it’s difficult to get bored living in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The Pros and Cons of Living Outside San Francisco
Don’t be discouraged if your budget has you looking outside the central city. Here are the pros of living outside of San Francisco:
- Lower rent.
- Less traffic.
- Public transportation that eases commutes.
- Less fog and warmer weather.
- Easier parking.
- More disposable income for leisure activities.
- Easy access to enjoying all the perks the city has to offer.
Likewise, take into consideration some functional cons:
- Longer commutes into the heart of San Francisco.
- More reliance on your car for transportation.
- Lower rent, but still relatively high cost of living.
You can manage these tradeoffs by choosing a location that provides an easy commute to the city and other ideal locations. You can also choose from many different options regarding your budget, allowing you to find the apartment that works best for you.
Living in the Bay Area is the chance of a lifetime. Let us help you make that chance a reality. Contact Marcotte Properties to schedule a property tour or learn more about our properties in and throughout Hayward and the East Bay Area.