Tech Relocation Guide San Francisco: A.I. Is Moving To SF

The Tech Buyer’s Guide to San Francisco Real Estate

The AI industry is moving to San Francisco, creating new jobs, and luring founders, innovators and previous tech workers back to the city. Believe it or not, the tech layoffs at large companies are inspiring innovation. There have never been so many talented, brilliant people available for work as ever before. If you work in technology and you’re thinking about making a move within or into San Francisco, this is for you.


If you feel like technology has ruined everything that ever made San Francisco special this might annoy you.

If you’re still here and considering living or working in San Francisco—or maybe you’re going to live in San Francisco and commute down to Palo Alto or Mountain View—but haven’t lived here before–you’ll need to know what to consider, and also which mistakes to avoid when moving to San Francisco.


I’m also going to drop some tidbits on things happening in AI around the city. Perhaps you know more than I do, so message me and let me know the inside scoop.


AI is fueling the next tech boom


As I mentioned, AI companies are sprouting up across San Francisco creating thousands of jobs. Companies like OpenAI, Anthropic, Andi,, and tons of startups are popping up. In addition, long-standing tech companies are scrambling to be the first in the market to capitalize on all the ways AI can change our lives.


In late 2023, OpenAI signed the largest commercial lease (of 486,000 square feet) in San Francisco that has been signed since 2018. It’s 500,000 square feet currently. Just to give you an idea, they’re in about 140,000-square feet of office space. And in 2024 they are looking for more space.


I think they’re going to be hiring a lot of people.

Venture capital was at a max high for AI in 2023. In the first three months, investors pledged $10.1 billion to AI companies, which is a 13-fold increase over this time last year.


In addition to AI, San Francisco remains full of the OG tech companies that are based here or have satellite offices here. Companies like that include Instagram, Google, Salesforce, Twitter, Airbnb, Stripe, Square, Slack, Twitch, Pinterest, just to name a few.


Finally, commercial space is still on sale at discounted prices, making previously out-of-reach San Francisco tech-oriented office space attainable to new companies and startups.


So, what other factors should those working in technology consider if they’re moving to San Francisco?


Neighborhood selection is critical 

The neighborhood is a huge consideration for those working in the tech sector. I’d venture to say that 90% of our clients are either in tech or finance. And they tell me they’re working extremely long hours. With that being the case, time is money and it becomes an important asset.


So you want to pay attention to the proximity (of your neighborhood) to tech hubs, tech shuttles, and area amenities including high-rise amenities and HOA dues.

Affordability is important


Despite what you might hear, not everyone working in tech is rolling around in piles full of money with unlimited budgets. If you’re trying to figure out how to make your dollar stretch, one good rule of thumb is that you pay about 20% for sun, and you pay about 20% for walkability. Often the sunniest neighborhoods end up being the most walkable neighborhoods, with the foggier areas being a little further out along the edges of the city.

Work from home (WFH), but near tech hubs 


Covid changed our ability to WFH a bit more, but most tech companies are back in the office three or four days a week. You still need that home office for the other days of the week.


A lot of buyers tell us they want two home offices. If you have children, especially young ones, you might want a gym or at least a space for a Peloton or exercise equipment. I know from experience that in those early years, it’s difficult to make it to the gym.


One way to solve for this is by choosing to live in a high-rise condo. In a high-rise condo, you’re going to have a lot of amenities, and in a nice one, you’ll have a nice gym and sometimes a very nice pool.


Of course, those amenities come at a cost and push HOA dues considerably higher.


Let me show you a map of where the tech hubs are located.

So you’ve got Twitter around here. You’ve got OpenAI and Pinterest around here. Over here, you’ve got Mission Bay. Here is where OpenAI is going. Also in Mission Bay, you have Genentech, Uber and Dropbox.

In the downtown-ish area, you’ll find companies like Google, Salesforce, Instagram and LinkedIn. Those areas are San Francisco’s biggest tech hubs.


Where do people want to live in relation to those areas? Well, keep in mind San Francisco is seven by seven miles and we have traffic, so it can take 45 minutes to travel from the north side of town to the south side.


I’ll touch more on that in my ‘biggest mistake section’, but let me go over a few areas that techies might want to consider.


If at any point this feels overwhelming contact us, and we’ll be happy to jump on a call and answer any questions that you have.


For a more in-depth view on any of these areas, check out our neighborhood videos and housing data pages which also includes information on walkability, weather, and microclimates.


Why tech workers should consider living Downtown or in South Beach 


Let’s start with Downtown and the neighborhood of South Beach. These areas of South Beach are right on the water, which boasts amazing views and some of the best weather in the city. There are many public transportation options as well, but you can often walk to work since there are no hills. The housing stock in South Beach offers amenities like 24-hour security and various concierge options. 

The downside to this area is that it’s a concrete jungle, with primarily one type of house: a high rise. Although high rises can be beautiful to some people, they might feel sterile. This area can also have a lot of traffic and a limited amount of green space.


For sports enthusiasts, South Beach is really close to Oracle Park and Chase Center. Salesforce Tower has a park, which is quite cool. And a lot of people run, jog, bike, skate, or exercise on the Embarcadero.

Why tech workers should consider living in Mission Bay 

When you venture a little farther south into Mission Bay, housing stock gets a bit less expensive, because, as I mentioned earlier, walkability costs money. So, you give up a little bit to have a little bit more home to live in Mission Bay.  


Nonetheless, I believe this is an area worth placing a bet on. You’ve got Uber there, and like I said, OpenAI is also moving in here. UCSF has a massive campus in the neighborhood.

The best deals in San Francisco are in Downtown, South Bay, and Mission Bay

The high rises in San Francisco are currently on sale at discounted prices. They might have reached the bottom and are currently at 2014-2015 prices. There are massive

deals to be had. You can get a two-bedroom for around $1.5m all the way up to multiple millions of dollars, depending on what you like, what kind of amenities you like and what kind of views you like. There’s something for everyone and at every price point.


Why tech workers should consider living in Potrero Hill 


If you want to be in an area where there’s more variety in the housing stock, Potrero Hill is a solid option. The area has condos that look like Victorians or Edwardians, as well as a mix of large and small contemporary buildings. There’s also a mix of single-family homes.


What sets Potrero Hill apart is the neighborhood’s awesome weather. It’s on a hill, hence the name Potrero Hill, and so you’ve got great views. But it’s hilly and the walkable street there is relatively small. The area has great restaurants but there aren’t a ton of them.

In terms of transportation, Potrero Hill is very close to the freeway. There’s also a Caltrain station, so it’s a great neighborhood.


Housing inventory is limited in Potrero Hill. Condos are priced anywhere between $1.5 million, all the way up to the $4m range, or for an even higher, epic price. For a single-family home, prices start at $2.5m and go all the way up to $5.5m or higher. You can find a high-quality single-family home that’s nicely updated for $3m or $4m. 


Why tech workers live in Hayes Valley


Another area that tech workers like is Hayes Valley. Complete with plenty of hacker houses, this area is considered Ground Zero for AI right now, and they’re calling it Cerebral Valley. Every night, someone’s hosting a hackathon or meeting at restaurants to discuss AI and generative technology.

At the moment, I don’t think there are any companies in Hayes Valley, but there are probably little startups. Most tech companies are established in other parts of town, but it’s still considered a tech hub because of the growing number of residents who are working in tech.


The weather is good in Hayes Valley, and it’s very walkable. 


For techies starting families, they might want to consider Noe Valley 


Some tech workers just starting families may be considering adding kids to the mix, so they opt to live in kid-friendly Noe Valley. Although there are lots of strollers around, there’s still a good mix of all age groups.


In addition, it’s a little sleepier than other parts of town, like the North Side and Pacific Heights. Noe Valley has remained low key, plus it’s super clean, which attracts many people. Noe Valley tends to have less homelessness than downtown area neighborhoods, which has been a major factor for buyers when considering a home.


Noe Valley infamously has a lot of tech shuttles that run back and forth, particularly down Dolores Street. The shuttles also stop at the Glen Park BART station.


The price point for a condo is somewhere between $1.5m and $3m. For a single-family home, prices start around $2.5m and top out around $6m. For the fanciest, most-luxurious homes in the neighborhood, they usually go for about $10m. There are a handful of these higher-priced homes that hit the market every year.


Potrero Hill, Hayes Valley and Noe Valley have four things in common: 


  • They all have a great scene that attracts a hip crowd 
  • Good weather year-round 
  • Great views 
  • Very walkable streets


Marina and Cow Hollow might be a good fit if you work downtown


For downtown tech workers, these are prime neighborhoods. If you’re sure that you’re going to be working in San Francisco, it’s easy to get to them from any location in the city. 


The Marina and Cow Hollow are very happening. Relatively good weather and great views here with super great streets to walk to.


There are not a lot of public transportation options here. There are buses, but no Muni or Bart is running through there. So you will be driving or Ubering. It’s super hip and happening there. So there are many reasons to be there, but commute to the South Bay is not one of them.


For the everyday tech worker, you can get into a single-family home in the Marina that needs some work for around $3m, a good budget for that neighborhood for something nice is more like $4, $5, or $6 million.

Why tech workers should consider living in Pacific Heights or Presidio Heights


Tech workers can find the most luxurious houses in all of San Francisco in Pacific Heights and Presidio Heights. These homes can range from $10 million all the way up to $45 million in some rare cases.

If you’re wondering why San Francisco is so expensive when the headlines say to the contrary that pricing is about to fall off a cliff, the brief answer is that it’s a very small city and there’s only so much inventory to go around.


San Franciscans return post-Covid

While I haven’t talked a lot about this in previous videos, I’m seeing more and more people move back to San Francisco. We talk to people each week from Colorado, Texas, and Oregon who want to come back. The Wall Street Journal recently published an article about a couple named Doug and Jessica, two tech founders that moved to Oregon.


They moved to Bend, and bought a big house with a lot of land. They’re now riding their bikes and climbing. There are at least 350 people in the tech industry who live in Bend, all of whom feel plugged in. 


As AI makes a comeback, Doug and Jessica’s company will use a lot of AI. They’ve been coming back to the Bay Area to attend conferences for inspiration, to connect with people and to build their business. Ultimately, like a lot of people who we’re talking to, they decided to return to San Francisco.


These stories have become more commonplace, which has led us to believe things are about to change in San Francisco. I’m sure you’re going to think this is biased and self-serving, but I think San Francisco is about to see the next big tech boom.


Tips for researching San Francisco neighborhoods on your own

Here are some tips for researching neighborhoods on your own. My website has a ton of great info: we have neighborhood vlogs, a ton of housing data and information about neighborhoods, walkability, weather, microclimates, and much more. 

Compass also has a number of great online resources that provide data on school ratings, crime and much more. And there’s

Mistakes tech buyers make when buying a home 


We often talk to former buyers who are now sellers—and they’re moving for a reason. Here are some of the mistakes first-time San Francisco homebuyers make that often lead to selling their property:


  • They didn’t think through commute times properly, or they may have needed a car and didn’t have one. 
  • They didn’t evaluate housing costs in their neighborhood. There are many nuances in pricing. Beware of overestimating or underestimating your housing affordability if you have set your sights on neighborhoods close to tech hubs. 
  • They didn’t understand their lifestyle choices, or consider job transitions or changes in their family.
  • They couldn’t tolerate the fog.
  • They couldn’t tolerate the lack of walkability that typically comes with a more affordable neighborhood. 


We have seen people move to foggier, less-walkable parts of town end up moving back to buy a more expensive house in a more walkable area. 


The downside of leaving the city for Oakland, Marin County or the South Bay


For people who moved to Oakland, we hear that they’re moving across the bridge for an affordability reason, while those moving to Marin are typically attracted to the area’s high-quality, free public schools and homes with larger lot sizes.


If your job takes you through a bridge during commute hours, it can add an extra 30 minutes to your commute each way, which can be difficult.


Young people who have moved to the South Bay tend to complain about it. These young buyers wanted to be near work but were bored, and moved to the city for more action.


Spend time in the neighborhood before buying


To avoid making these mistakes, we advise that you spend more time in the community you are interested in. We hear from people all the time who have been in their home for a year or two, and they want to sell it. With a condo in particular, that can be problematic. The selling costs are 8% or 9% by the time you factor in commission, city transfer tax, and any updates you might need to make, like staging to sell the home. If market prices haven’t gone up enough, you’re probably going to be losing money.


I hate to see people lose money on such an important investment because your home should be a place where you can make money. But buying isn’t for everyone. If you think that there might be a job change or that you’re going to outgrow your house sooner rather than later—for less than a few years, for instance—just rent and save money, and then buy a house later that you can stay in for five-plus years.


Lastly, sometimes people don’t anticipate that the tech shuttles don’t run every 15 minutes. So if they’re counting on a tech shuttle to take them to and from work, they risk getting stuck there and may find themselves in a pickle. 


We’d love to help you figure out which area is the right fit for you. Reach out and set up a time to chat about your move to or within San Francisco.

May 1, 2024
Buying a Home