Finding an affordable home in San Francisco - neighborhood guide

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Blue mapYou’re moving to San Francisco and you’ve never lived there before-- maybe you’ve never even visited. So how are you going to find the right neighborhood for you-- the one that will have the kind of vibe you’re looking for and still be affordable?A good place to begin is to take a look at these sites:

  • This is the go-to source for the up-to-the-minute scoop on neighborhoodsand real estate. Check out Mallory Farrugia’s Comparisons Columns for an ideaof the difference in value from one neighborhood to another,and do a search for any neighborhood you’re considering.

  • This new app, launched in 2013, began as a resource for people movingto San Francisco but has expanded to include broader information.Put in a neighborhood location and the app organizes all relevant local news, tweets,Facebook posts, Foursquare tips, groupon deals, yelp reviews and more.

  • Compiled by the staff of the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper,this is a no-nonsense guide to the various city neighborhoods.

  • Don’t miss this site’s laugh out loud,unorthodox survey of SFO neighborhoods by Drew Hoolhorst.Here’s how he describes the Presidio: “It’s really beautiful here and lookslike you live in a forest. The problem is that your friends think you live in a distant forestand will probably never visit you.” That’s why he’s renamed it“No one is gonna come and visit you no matter how cool your house is -landia.Hoolhorst says that he moved to the city at age 24 and played pin the tail on the mapto find his first apartment: “I ended up in the worst part of townliving with with 5 random people... so after living here for 10 years,this is how I would explain where you should move.”

Of course, the best way to choose a neighborhood is to spend time in it.“As someone who moved here only having visited twice, I’d say that the best wayto learn the different neighborhoods is to go exploring.They are all so different, you really can’t get a sense of them untilyou explore them yourself,” says Farrugia.

Brendon DeSimone, an expert with Zillow, tells people to rent for six months“just to make sure you’ve got the right neighborhood.You need to learn about each of the different neighborhoods,what makes them unique and what appeals to you.Many people who move here work in the South Bay in Silicon Valley,so if you live in the north part of town you can add 25 minutes to your commute each way.”

“And there are so many micro climates in the city,” he continues.“You can walk out your door in Potrero Hill in July wearing shorts and a t-shirt.If you drive over to the Presidio or the Marina, it can be cold and foggy.Some neighborhoods have wind tunnels or fog rolling in at certain times of the day.Many get soaked in fog every day. If you don’t live in San Francisco long enough,you won’t learn these microclimates or experience the unique flavor,culture and people of each neighborhood.”

We asked Farrugia, our go-to San Francisco real estate maven,to tell us the neighborhoods she thinks would be the best values for first-time buyers or rentersin the city.

“There are a couple of factors that determine whether or not a place will be a good value.The main one is transportation. The city has a solid bus system,but it’s nothing compared to the NYC subway. Even if you think you’re fine to walk or bike,remember: there are crazy hills in this city! So that’s not always practical,and I learned this the hard way. So if you are not going to have a car, it makeschoosing a place close to a Muni bus line really essential.If you have a car, you are freer to choose places in less central orpublic transit accessible neighborhoods.”

Here are her picks for the four neighborhoods that she recommends for new arrivals:

  • Inner Richmond: This the the neighborhood she thinks is best.“It’s not super-hip, but it’s up and coming. There’s a major bus line that goes through it,so it will work for anyone without a car. It’s right by Golden Gate Park,which is a plus, and if you look really hard, you can find an affordable place to livethat’s right on the border between Inner Richmond and NoPa-- which is a very hot, expensive neighborhood.”

  • Nob Hill: “This has traditionally been a fancy neighborhood,but it’s just not hip anymore, so you can find some nice places at a good price.But beware -- it really is on a giant hill, so walking can be rough.It’s super quiet and safe. I’d say this spot is best for people with cars--but parking can cost as much as $300 more per month.”

  • Potrero Hill: “This is way out on the outskirts of town,but there’s a nice little neighborhood cropping up there. You definitely want a car,but parking is more affordable, so maybe the tradeoff is worth it.Cute restaurants like Plow are leading the way towards hip and friendly.Lots of modern loft buildings are going up on the waterfront, too.”

  • The Mission: “This has been a relatively inexpensive neighborhood for a long time,because it has had gang-related crime problems in the past.Now it’s the hippest part of the city when it comes to food and is definitelyon the road to gentrification. You can still find inexpensive places in the Mission,but they tend to be small and don’t offer parking.”

In addition to getting a better understanding of the neighborhoods, Moveline has also put together this guide to understanding the real estate market in San Francisco.

Whether you’re moving to San Francisco or any other city in the US, let Moveline help.We’ll help you get a complete inventory, compare moving quotes, and find the perfect mover-- all for free. Get us in your corner and we’ll take the stress out of your move. It’s what we do.