Moving to San Francisco

San Francisco

Our rating

5 out of 5

  • Affordability 2 out of 5

  • Safety 4 out of 5

  • Healthcare 3 out of 5

  • Traffic Flow 3 out of 5

  • Property affordability 3 out of 5

  • Climate 5 out of 5

  • Environment quality 5 out of 5

San Francisco is a city of opportunity and optimism surrounded by the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, one of the most visited areas of the National Park System in US.

Living in San Francisco

The city limits form a “seven-by-seven-mile” square, surrounded on three sides by water and, home to a population of 837,442. Of this population more than a third were born outside of the US and over 44% of adults within the city limits have a bachelor’s or higher degree. The city has a reputation for being smart, cultured and diverse.

Out of all of the US cities, San Francisco is considered the most LGBT friendly. Home to the first lesbian-rights organisation in the US; the first openly gay person to run for public office; the first openly gay man to be elected to public office; the first openly lesbian judge and the first transgender police commissioner.

The LGBT population has created and sustained political activism in the city for decades and San Francisco hosts one of the largest and oldest gay prides.

Throw into the mix world-class cuisine and wine, literary heritage, beautiful Victorian and modern architecture and of course the much-loved cable car. What’s not to like about San Francisco?

Well, the high cost of housing, the threat of earthquakes and the foggy summers should be taken into consideration before relocating to San Francisco. But all in all it’s a distinct and cultured global city on par with the likes of London and New York.

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Before your big move to San Francisco, it’s wise to think about medical cover for when you’re out there.

That way, you’ll be prepared for the US’s slightly labyrinthine system by the time you arrive.

Job market

It’s no secret that the tech industry is driving the economy in San Francisco with giants like Google, Twitter and Salesforce amongst the top employers.

San Francisco is currently beating Silicon Valley on growth in jobs and is ranked number 11 on Forbes 2014 list for Job Growth. It is ranked 18th by Forbes for Best Place for Business and Career.

The unemployment rate in San Francisco is currently 4.5%, which is still under the national average. The average salaries for jobs postings in San Francisco are 35% higher than average salaries for job postings nationwide. The average monthly disposable salary is $4,486.58.

Transferring money to San Francisco

If you’re thinking of moving to San Francisco, you’ll probably need to convert some of your British pounds into American dollars.

That’s why we’ve teamed up with Wise, an easy-to-use online international money transfer service which uses the real exchange rate, and charges low fees.

How much could you save? Well, its service can be up to 8x cheaper than high street banks.

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Property information

According to Trulia, the real estate website, San Francisco is the single least affordable housing market in the US. Rent prices are approximately 67% higher than in Los Angeles and 74% more than San Diego.

The median home value in San Francisco is $993,100; the average rent price in San Francisco is $3,750. According to Zillow, San Francisco home values have gone up 15.6% over the past year, and are predicted to rise 4.8% within the next year.

The threat of earthquakes has played a role in the city’s infrastructure development, but some neighbourhoods have still been built on areas of landfill. These areas include Marina, Mission Bay and Hunters Point. Such land is prone to be unstable during earthquakes so you might want to consider this risk before relocating to these areas.

Schools and education

There are 112 public schools in San Francisco and they are run by the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD). According to Great Schools the enrolment process is “fraught with confusion and frequent disappointment”. However if you manage to navigate the system the SFUSD boasts many quality schools.

There are 24 high schools within the SFUSD and according to Best Schools eight of these received gold, silver, or bronze medals in the US News Best High Schools rankings. One of the best high school is Lowell High School, which is also the oldest public high school in the US west of the Mississippi.

A higher number of children than the national average attend private school in San Francisco. The average private school tuition in San Francisco County, CA is $13,740 for elementary schools and $22,742 for high schools.

Universities in San Francisco

According to Forbes, San Francisco ranks 4th in the table for best Education. Home to several different universities and higher education providers, many students flock to San Francisco State University from elsewhere in California.

Though technically not in San Francisco, the famous UC Berkeley, one of the top universities in the country, is across the bay from the city. University of California, San Francisco, which is actually in San Fran, is ranked among the top-five medical schools in the US. UCSF is also a major employer, second to the city and county government.

San Francisco State University awards undergraduate, masters and doctoral degrees in more than 100 disciplines.

San Francisco is also home to the largest institute of art and design in the US, the Academy of Art University, which has an enrollment of 13,000 students.


If you are relocating to San Francisco with a job offer under your belt, your biggest problem is going to be finding somewhere to live. The economic boom has had a major impact on the cost and availability of housing, and put pressure on the transport infrastructure. To put it into perspective, 10,617 new residents moved to San Francisco in 2013, but only 2,277 new housing units were added.

Traffic congestion is reported to be getting worse in San Francisco as the economy continues to boom. One saving grace is that the city actually has a good public transport system. The San Francisco Municipal Railway, known as Muni, is the seventh-largest transport system in the US.

Once you have worked out your commute and housing budget, your next big quandary will be which neighbourhood to choose. There are five major districts in San Francisco: Central/downtown, Richmond, Sunset, Upper Market & beyond (south central) and Bernal Heights/Bayview & beyond (southeast).

Family FriendlyOuter Sunset – Outer Sunset has the highest percentage of homes with children and excellent public schools.

Hip and TrendyHayes Valley – Close to the opera, symphony and theatre district, Hayes Valley is bursting at the seams with hip boutiques and some of the best restaurants the city has.

UpmarketPacific Heights – Pacific Heights hosts more than its fair share of mansions, stunning views of the bay and marina, and upmarket shops and boutiques.

Up and ComingNoPa (North Panhandle) – The restaurant of the same has helped to put this leafy neighbourhood on the map.

Cost of Moving

The average shipping cost of moving for a family of three from the following cities will cost approximately:

Sao Paulo£2,800
Hong Kong£3,000

Moving to San Francisco from the UK

Those moving from the UK to San Francisco will more often than not already have visas and work permits arranged: such is the difficulty of emigrating to the US that any other approach is almost certainly doomed to failure. With that in mind the most difficult challenge will be finding an appropriate place to live.

While the city of San Francisco itself isn’t that large, there’s a long corridor of industry and commerce that stretches all the way down the east side of the San Francisco peninsula to Mountain View (where Google are headquartered) and San Jose (where IBM, Cisco Systems and eBay are based). A tech savvy Brit might find themselves employed at a business anywhere along this famous Silicon Valley. Assessing commute times in this heavily congested region for car travel will be an essential prerequisite of any decision about where to settle down.

Living and working within in the city limits affords access to an excellent public transport system – one of the most utilised in the US and including the BART and ‘Muni’ railways – reducing the need for car ownership and hours spent in jams on the 101 highway and 280 freeway.

Median house prices in the city range from over $2million (£1.28m) in the exclusive Monterey Heights to around $330,000 (£211k) in the poor but rapidly redeveloping neighbourhood of Hunters Point.

Comparing San Francisco vs London

From the Golden Gate Bridge to Hill Street to the cable cars to Alcatraz, San Francisco almost packs as many iconic locations into its 230 square miles and 237 year history than London manages with more than twice the space and several millennia.

Because of local opposition to planned freeways in the 1950s, the streets of SF are rated as some of the most walkable in the world with thoroughfares passing through diverse neighbourhoods like Chinatown, Russian Hill, Little Italy and Fisherman’s Wharf.

Living CostsSan FranciscoLondon
Disposable Salary£1,992 pcm£2,668 pcm
3 Bedroom Apartment£2,590£2,484
Imported Beer 0.33cl£3£3
Bottle of Wine£7£10
Eggs£2 £2
VW Golf 1.4£15,943£13,075
Basic Utilities£160£51
Rice (1kg)£1£2
Meal for 2£50£43
Cinema Ticket (1)£11£8

Ocean Beach on the Pacific coast is very popular with surfers and Golden Gate Park is the largest of 220 municipal parks within the San Francisco city limits.

San Franciscans experience much less temperature variation than Londoners (temperatures very rarely drop below freezing in winter or rise above the mid twenties in summer). While annual rainfall is about equal in the two cities, in SF it all comes in the winter.

The cost of living in San Francisco is marginally lower than in London – prices at the till are generally lower and property is much more affordable with respect to average salaries – even though rent levels are similar. San Francisco is perceived by its residents as safer, less polluted and as offering a better level of healthcare (though much of that care is privately funded).

A day in the life

Don’t leave the house without a sweater! Even if the day starts warm and sunny the fact that San Francisco is surrounded on three sides by the Pacific Ocean means that weather can change rapidly throughout the day. The good news is that the city is made up of many microclimates so if it is chilly in Bay Street, for example, you could stroll a short distance south to North Beach, to enjoy the sun, protected by Russian Hill.

Once you have left the house, start the day with brunch. San Francisco is really, really good at brunch. Head to Maven in Lower Haight and start off proceedings with a Hires’ Hand cocktail (rye, maple, root beer spice, charred rosemary) paired with a Red Kuri squash soup. That should set you up for the day.

Next head over to the California Academy of Sciences, which houses an aquarium, a planetarium, a natural history museum and a 4-storey tropical rainforest. The museum was rebuilt in 2008 and covers 400,000 square feet. You will leave wiser and more connected to the natural environment on your doorstep.

Time for lunch! Take your pick from cuisine from all over the world. San Francisco is known as America’s best restaurant city and if you can’t decide between French, Italian, Malaysian, Greek, Russian or a fusion of the lot, you could always stick with a good old-fashioned burrito. Just what is it about SF and burritos? They are a treasured food, and San Francisco is home to its own version, the Mission Burrito.

You will probably need to walk off that burrito and luckily in San Francisco the hilly streets are perfect for working off excess calories. Take a walk around Chinatown, the largest outside of Asia, and get lost in the bustle of shops and galleries.

By the evening you will probably be ready for a fix of culture and you won’t be disappointed in San Francisco. Both the opera and ballet are internationally renowned companies, and playwrights such as Tom Stoppard and Sam Shepherd introduce their works in San Francisco.

Finish off your day with a walk to Embarcadero to watch the Bay Bridge (the less famous one) LED show which organisers describe as the world’s largest LED show.