When you buy a home, you buy more than a building. You also buy neighbors, access to nearby shops and services, and the “feeling” that makes each neighborhood unique. Everybody has a different idea of what makes a neighborhood “good”: Your best bet is to spend a day or five driving around, sitting in cafes, and talking with people throughout the city.
The good news is that just about everybody can find a San Francisco neighborhood they like, and every neighborhood has its fans. Here are some tips to help you find the best one for you.
Important things to consider:
- Transit. Whether you travel by car, bike or public transit, an extra 15 minutes on your commute time will add up — as will the half hour you spend looking for parking if you have a car but no garage in North Beach. The San Francisco bus and light rail system “Muni” covers the city well, but you may wait as long as 40 minutes for a bus, especially in outlying areas. Parking varies throughout the city, but generally gets better as you get away from downtown.
- Population. Do you like peace and quiet, or the excitement of city life? In San Francisco, the two are often within blocks of each other. Nonetheless, it’s hard to escape the bustle in The Mission or North Beach, while the residential quality of The Outer Sunset encourages tranquility.
- Housing style. It’s hard to find a condo in some parts of the city, while in others that’s nearly all you can buy. For example, condos are popular in the areas near Van Ness Avenue (on both sides), Victorian and Edwardians reign in Hayes Valley, and more-modern single-family homes fill the Outer Sunset.
- Weather. With its hills and valleys, San Francisco is a city of “microclimates” that make temperatures vary as much as twenty degrees Fahrenheit within a few blocks. But what you’ll notice most is the difference in moisture. Neighborhoods near the ocean (The Richmond) and high on some hills (Twin Peaks) get more fog than most, while those on the eastern side (Potrero Hill, Noe Valley, The Mission) are perennially sunny.
- Price. Prices for the same building vary wildly from location to location within San Francisco, and there are no truly “cheap” areas anymore. In general, homes cost less as you move south, low, and away from downtown: District 10 neighborhoods Bayview, Hunter’s Point, The Excelsior are comparatively affordable, as is District 2′s Outer Sunset. Prices generally increase as you move north, climb the hills, and move toward downtown: Telegraph Hill, The Marina and Pacific Heights are famously pricey.
- Familiarity. Many buyers tend to look in the area they currently live in. We encourage buyers to “venture” out and experience different areas. Many are surprised at what previously discounted neighborhoods have to offer.
No amount of demographic detail can take the place of a stroll through San Francisco’s many neighborhoods, or the opinions of people who live there. The more you experience will only help you make your final decision.