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.
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. 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.
2. 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Los Gatos: Named for the lanky, 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.
- 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.
- Burlingame: Close to the international airport, this city offers more affordable rental rates than most. 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.
- 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.
- 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.
3. How to Find An Affordable Apartment in the Bay Area
Let’s be clear: Looking for housing in the Bay Area can be a challenge. When you have a place as special as this, it’s no wonder everyone is competing to live there. But with perseverance, you can find a great place to live. Here are some tips on how to find an affordable apartment in the Bay Area:
- Make a list of your desired living situation. Include things you would be willing to live with if the price were right. This 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 placed to live?
- Scour websites for listings. Craigslist is a great place to start an apartment search — though be wary of scams, which are prevalent 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.
Tips for 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
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 premiere 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.
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 Fransisco in the fall is virtually storm-free, made up of occasional winds and soothing and warm air.
3. How to Meet People and Make Friends
Meeting 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.
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.