The Best Area To Buy Property In San Francisco (Or Any Major City) Today

The best area to buy property in San Francisco is Golden Gate Heights. Golden Gate Heights is a quiet neighborhood on the west side of San Francisco, which is vibrant. Golden Gate Heights predominantly consists of single-family homes, which have become far more attractive post-pandemic given more people are working at home.

During and post pandemic, the best area to buy property is in less dense areas with more outdoor space, more views, and more parks. The best housing layout is also one that has more space, more rooms for offices, and more floors for separation.

After Golden Gate Heights, the best neighborhoods to buy property in San Francisco are Forest Hills, St. Francis Wood, West Portal, Outer Sunset, and Parkside. All of these neighborhoods are on the west side of San Francisco because it is booming.

These neighborhoods not only provide the best lifestyle, but they also have the most real estate upside appreciation potential. To be able to enjoy your home and make money is one of the best combinations in finance.

My Background As A San Francisco Resident

For background, I have lived in San Francisco since 2001 and have researched all the neighborhoods in San Francisco. I've also lived in Nob Hill, Chinatown, Downtown, Cow Hollow, Pacific Heights, The Marina, and Golden Gate Heights.

Golden Gate Heights is a great neighborhood that is still affordable and has plenty of upside appreciation potential. In general, buying property on the west side of San Francisco provides more value and more space.

The best area to buy property in any major city is in areas that are farther away from downtown where value is much better. Given we no longer have to commute or commute as much, the best value is found in the previously overlooked areas. You want to buy property in major cities that have more space and less density.

For too long, people and investors have been focused on buying property near downtown. This is no longer the case. The most attractive properties are now on the west side of San Francisco.

The Best Area To Buy In Any Major City

If you want to buy real estate as an investment, it's important the area not only has a strong domestic demand curve due to a robust labor market, but also a strong international demand curve as well. It's the international demand curve that really lifts prices higher during good times.

Less than 0.3% of the housing stock is for sale at any given moment. It doesn't take much to create a property bidding frenzy if you add international buyers to the mix of domestic buyers.

Prices in London are being driven by Russian and Middle Eastern tycoons. In Hong Kong, price are being driven by the wealthy Mainland Chinese. Prices in Singapore are being driven by wealthy Indonesians and expats.

While prices in San Francisco are being driven by tech, interest rates, restrictive building codes, limited land and foreign buyers from Asia, mostly China.

The global pandemic slowed down demand for real estate in San Francisco and other international cities. However, the demand is coming back. It is wise to buy big city real estate now before herd immunity is reached.

Related: Foreign Real Estate Investors Are Coming To Buy Up American Homes

Hold On To Your Property For As Long As Possible

To sell property now is like selling Apple Inc. 10 years ago. Your property may have appreciated a lot since purchase, but there's still a long ways to go if you can hold on.

There is currently an Artificial Intelligence boom that is happening in San Francisco, that will likely revitalize and boost the economy for decades to come. For example, a 60-person startup called MosaicML, an OpenAI competitor, was purchased for $1.3 billion by Databricks after only two years in operation!

Thankfully for buyers, couples will always get divorced, homeowners will always want to upgrade or downgrade, and companies will always lay off or relocate their employees. There just isn't enough supply to meet demand in San Francisco, and it's unlikely there ever will be enough supply with the rise of tech powerhouses such as Meta, Google, Apple, Uber, Lyft, Pinterest, AirBnB, and now artificial intelligence companies.

Apple alone has gained more than $1 trillion in market capitalization since 2014 and employs over 40,000 people in the San Francisco Bay Area. I'm pretty sure AI will boost SF real estate prices by 1% – 2% a year.

Tech Employees' Desire To Diversify Into Real Estate

With over 10,000 newly minted tech IPO millionaires over the past several years, real estate prices in the San Francisco Bay Area are likely to see a continued boost. Although, a post-pandemic hangover is also resulting in thousands of tech layoffs as well.

I've spoken to plenty of tech IPO employees and they all want to sell some stock and diversify their net worth into real estate. Real estate is a much more stable asset class that provides utility and can generate income. Many of these employees have seen a lion's share of their net worth locked up for 3-8 years.

The housing market should stay strong for years to come. Therefore, hold onto your real estate for as long as possible, or strategically buy more real estate today. I would be taking advantage of any slowdown in the housing market to buy before interest rates go down again.

General Strategies For Buying Property

If you want to buy property as an investment and as a great place to live, follow these rules. I've been a big city property investor since 2003.

1) Buy in an up and coming neighborhood.

“Up and coming” is usually a euphemism for a not so great neighborhood. But there are various levels of “up and coming.” In San Francisco, the Tenderloin District has been “up and coming” ever since I came here in 2001. But the media and the right wing like to continue focusing on the worst blocks in San Francisco to paint the entire city as troubled. But this is just a narrative if people actually come to San Francisco.

It's strange there is such a high density of homeless people, prostitution, and drug dealers in such a small district close to the expensive shops in Union Square. But the idea is that if you can wait out the seediness, you will be rewarded with monetary gains since you get to buy at a large discount to median prices.

The key is to estimate a discovery period of no longer than 8 years since statistics say that people change homes on average 8 years. You don't want to be stuck waiting 20 years for your neighborhood to improve. You might die before then!

Look for as many local economic catalysts as possible that will support and boost the neighborhood's home values. There are plenty economic catalysts on the west side of San Francisco post-pandemic.

Golden Gate Heights View - best area to buy property in San Francisco or any major city
View From Grand View Park, Golden Gate Heights, San Francisco

2) Buy in the most prime neighborhood possible.

Prime neighborhoods are almost always fully built out with little supply. Turnover is sparse and when there is something available, hoards of people flock to the property. Even if you wanted to buy a $30 million house on Broadway and Lyon St. in Pacific Heights, aka “The Gold Coast” you can't because none are available.

Buying in a prime neighborhood is like being at the top of the triangle. The demand, or base of the triangle just continues to widen with job and population growth. People have a tendency to want what they can't get.

3) Buy properties with a unique competitive advantage.

Every home is different. Some might have much larger lots. Others might be situated on a quiet cul-de-sac or have sweeping ocean views. Properties surrounding the four sides of a park will always be highly sought after.

Some would say simply owning a single family home in San Francisco, or a brownstone in Manhattan is a unique competitive advantage because of the cost and rarity of such properties compared to condos.

Maybe you can't afford to buy a single family home in the Marina district, but maybe you can afford to buy a smaller home 15 minutes further west in Parkside on a quiet street.

The reason why Golden Gate Heights is the best area to buy property in San Francisco is because of its panoramic ocean views. In every major city int he world, property with panoramic ocean views sell at huge premiums. But not in San Francisco, yet. I strongly believe ocean-view homes in San Francisco are going to skyrocket in value. This is especially true given working from home is here to stay.

4) Buy property close to the best schools and convenient transportation.

Good schools are always at the top of every parent's list. Spending on kids is almost inelastic because we all want what's best for our kids. Therefore, properties in good school districts tend to always hold up better during downturns and go up faster during upturns.

For example, the west side of San Francisco has the best public schools because they are much more family-friendly. Further, the Chinese American International School (CAIS) purchased Mercy High School off 19th Avenue across from Stonestown Mall. As a result, even more families will want to buy property on the west side of San Francisco.

I've gone to a dozen single-family open houses in 2023 and have witnessed many families who are applying to or sending their kids to CAIS. The new campus remodel is expected to be finished in time for the start of the 2024/2025 school year in August 2024.

5) Buy property in a micro area few people have ever heard of.

There are areas in each city where plenty of people have never heard of. Once everybody has heard of the area, it's too late. You'll be trying to outbid every Dick and Nancy when that unique property that comes up. Take a realtor map and circle some neighborhoods that look nice, but you've never visited before.

Too often real estate buyers congregate around a certain set of areas. In San Francisco, they are: Pacific Heights, Cow Hollow, Marina, Cole Valley, Presidio Heights, Lower Haight, Hayes Valley, SOMA, and Noe Valley. If one can look outside of these neighborhoods (there are 50+ neighborhoods in SF), one will be amazed at how much more they can get.

6) Buy property from an out-of-town listing agent.

The real estate industry has its own little silos just like every other industry. Everybody pretty much knows everybody or has heard of everybody. If you have an Oakland-based agent list a San Francisco property, there's not the same type of love or attention.

As a result, opportunities generally arise where you can do more negotiating because there will be less demand. The out of town listing agent and inexperienced bad real estate agents are generally much less savvy about pricing and drumming up as much marketing attention as possible.

But of course, not all out-of-town listing agents are less savvy. They just tend not to know the local area as well as other agents.

7) Buy a property that is an un-staged, fixer-upper.

Many people have a very difficult time visualizing how space is used. This is the reason why staging companies exist. They help you with your lack of imagination and sell you the dream of what could be. To develop your sense of visualization, I encourage you to go to as many staged open houses as possible.

Most people aren't very connected with the construction world either. Finding a contractor, an electrician, a plumber, a brick-layer, a painter, and a landscaper are daunting tasks. Even if you find them, you might not have any idea about the right cost or timing. But if you do have experience remodeling homes, then you have a good leg up on the competition. Sweat equity turns into real equity.

Buying a fixer-upper on the west side of San Francisco is a smart move. Properties on the west side of San Francisco often have larger lots where you can expand your home's living area. Expansion is the easiest way to make money in real estate.

Just make sure you get a good contractor. Demand is high for remodeling post-pandemic.

8) Buy property in a neighborhood where there is upcoming huge job growth.

Another reason why the west side of San Francisco is so attractive now is that by 2030, a $4.3 billion expansion of the UCSF 401 PARNASSUS AVENUE campus will be done. When the campus hospital is finished, there will be an expected 1,400 more high-paying jobs. Many of these jobs will consist of doctors, nurses, administrators, and staff. Most will have children.

Buy a property where you know big expansions by companies or institutions are happening. These exemptions often take many years to construct, hence you will have to buy. Once the projects are done, there will always be last-minute buyers who will bid up prices.

The Best Place To Buy In San Francisco: Golden Gate Heights 

The one neighborhood that fulfills all the criteria above is Golden Gate Heights. Golden Gate Heights and other neighborhoods on the west side are the best neighborhoods to buy in San Francisco. Post-pandemic there is a migration from east to west as people and families want more space.

In October 2020, I rented out my single family house to a family paying $6,700 a month. Before the pandemic, I would only get four roommates, who were almost always male. In 2021, the demand to rent and buy property on the west side of San Francisco is at all-time highs. The demand for rental properties should continue in 2022 and beyond.

If you don't believe me, here are some property sale examples I've been tracking since the pandemic began. You are seeing demand for housing in Golden Gate Heights and other western neighborhoods really increase. More people want more space, better value, and cleaner air!

Best Place To Buy Property In San Francisco 2020 - 2025 Map

Why Golden Gate Heights Is The Best San Francisco Neighborhood

1) The Great Unknown

I surveyed ~200 people over six months and only about 10% of them have ever heard of Golden Gate Heights. Yet 95% of them know the location of top-notch UCSF Medical and the hot Inner Sunset. Of the 200 or so people who have never heard of Golden Gate Heights, 50 of them included real estate agents, which was absolutely baffling since that's their job.

Meanwhile, I checked a relatively popular real estate blog called Curbed SF. They don't even have Golden Gate Heights listed on their homepage as one of their listed neighborhoods. For a real estate blog that posts about SF real estate 1-3X a day without knowing Golden Gate Heights is an incredible opportunity for savvy buyers to get ahead of the rush.

2) Quiet Neighborhood With Low Crime

Practically all the properties in Golden Gate Heights consists of single family homes instead of condos. As a result, the neighborhood is family friendly and much less dense than other areas of San Francisco if you like more peace and quiet. Single family homes hold their value much better during a downturn and appreciate much quicker during an upturn.

The streets in Golden Gate Heights are very clean. You have fewer vagrants who are willing to trek up the hill to cause a ruckus. As a result, there is less graffiti and noise. Many homes are fully detached compared to homes that share walls in many other areas of San Francisco.

At the same time, Golden Gate Heights is just a 10 minute walk away from all the restaurants, bars, and shops in the red hot Inner Sunset on 10th/9th and Irving St. There are over 50 restaurants within that five block circle.

The crime rate in Golden Gate Heights is among the lowest in the city. There is less crime in neighborhoods that are on hills and that are more hidden.

3) Single Family Homes With Ocean Views

The unique competitive advantage of Golden Gate Heights is that many of the homes face west towards the ocean. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be able to find single family homes with 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms in San Francisco for under $2 million with panoramic ocean views. But you can still find some as of 2019, but they are getting fewer and fewer.

Every time I go on vacation, I choose the pool or courtyard view because the ocean view rooms are more than double the price. But now, can you imagine being able to watch an ocean view sunset for the rest of your life in the comfort of your own home? Panoramic views are extremely valuable. They trade at a massive premium in every other major city in the world, except for San Francisco.

4) Misconceptions About The Weather 

The greatest opportunities emerge when there is some type of unfound prejudice. Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix spoke at my business school commencement in 2006 at UC Berkeley. Netflix stock was at $10 and every single sell-side analyst was predicting Netflix's death.

The stock has since returned 40X and has made plenty of people very wealthy who had the foresight to see the online streaming potential. The same curious phenomena is happening in San Francisco among different neighborhoods.

No matter where you live in San Francisco, if an area is west of where you live, there will be prejudice against that area due to the belief that area is foggier than your own. The reality is, if it's foggy in Golden Gate Heights, it's foggy in the Marina (east). And if it's foggy in the Marina, it's foggy downtown (east of the Marina).

Only in the Mission and SOMA districts is it less foggy, but the fog eventually gets to there too. Prejudice is due to ignorance. To check out the foggy perception myself, I drove to Golden Gate Heights 35 times over a three month period to go hiking at Grand View Park and search for homes.

I found that only three of the 35 times the area was foggy. But during those foggy days, so was everywhere else in San Francisco. The fog will eventually get to all of San Francisco. Although, June is admittedly more foggy in the western parts of the city.

Beset area to buy property in San Francisco

5) Fantastic Schools

If you look up any Golden Gate Heights property on Zillow or Redfin, you'll see 10 out of 10 marks or “exemplary” marks in the schools section, which includes Clarendon Alternative Elementary, Alice Fong Elementary (Cantonese and Mandarin immersion), Lowell High School (magnet school), Lycée Francais (French school). These high marks are in deep contrasts to many other public schools in the city.

Unfortunately, getting into your local public school is not a guarantee in San Francisco. The public school is a lottery system that may get abolished. Some people the lottery system will eventually go away, creating an even bigger demand boom for GGH.

If a resident wants to send their child to private school, they can send them to St. Ignatius College Prep about 20 blocks away in the Outer Sunset. There is also a fantastic preschool called Stepping Stone on 7th Avenue.

Finally, the Chinese American International School, the best Mandarin immersion school in San Francisco, will start classes on a 6.4-acre campus on 19th Avenue across from Stonestown Mall. The school is currently remodeling its buildings and will be ready by Fall 2024.

Stonestown Mall is also becoming a hub for some of the best cuisine in San Francisco. It is a great place for families and kids to hang out with a new Sports Basement, theater, and more. campus that will house Preschool through the 8th grade by 2023 on 19th Avenue across from Stonestown Mall.

6) Transportation

Transportation is convenient with the 6 Bus or N-Judah train both going downtown. There is also the 6 bus that shuttles residents south of Golden Gate Heights and into the Inner Sunset. There is also the 91 bus the brings residents along 19th avenue, through the Presidio north, along Fisherman's Wharf, and back into downtown for one big circle.

Golden Gate Heights, Parkside, West Portal, Ingleside Heights, Merced Heights and other neighborhoods close by are going to become highly coveted areas because they can easily shoot down Highway 1 to 280 to get to all the tech/internet companies down south. Convenience to the highway heading south is why Noe Valley really started heating up about five to seven years ago.

Further, the invention of ridesharing by Uber and Lyft have made transportation extremely inexpensive. It used to cost $25 – $30 to take a tax from GGH to downtown San Francisco. Now, you can hop in an UberPool for just $5. They even have express pools now for even cheaper.

7) Less Inexpensive, Better Value

At an average price per square foot of ~$900, Golden Gate Heights is an absolute steal compared to other neighborhoods in San Francisco.

There is no major international city I can think of where one can buy a single family home with ocean views for under $1,000/sft. I have researched properties in Hong Kong, Singapore, New York City, London, and Mumbai and everything is way over $1,000/sqft.

8) New Golden Gate Heights Playground

In 2021, the Let's Play initiative remodeled the Golden Gate Heights playground and field. It took a year to remodel. It is a wonderful playground for kids and dogs that is sheltered from the winds. There are also two tennis courts at the park.

Further, Larsen Park on 19th and Vicente will have eight new pickleball courts in 2024. Larsen Park was remodeled in 2015 and with the explosion of pickleball, it will be the largest dedicated pickleball park in San Francisco. The current largest pickleball outdoor center is at Louis Sutter.

Hence, if you love pickleball, like I do, living in Golden Gate Heights, Sunset, Outer Sunset, Parkside, Ingleside Terrace, and the Sloat Blvd area is huge. Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in America.

Pickleball is so awesome that more people are looking at homes with pickleball courts or homes nearby pickleball courts.

9) Cleaner Air

The closer you are to the ocean, the more the air moves. The more the air moves, the more bad particles can clear out. This is especially important when wild fires hit.

During wild fire season, the air on the west side of San Francisco is consistently better than the east side, south side, and north side of San Francisco. You can check Purple Air online to see for yourself.

If you have asthma, any type of breathing issues, and/or young children, living in Golden Gate Heights or the west side of San Francisco is especially nice due to the constant breeze.

Golden Gate Heights Is The Top Area To Buy Property

I have lived in San Francisco since 2001 and I only discovered Golden Gate Heights in 2014. One day I decided to expand my search and really do some deep due diligence.

I just assumed it was financially impossible to get a home with ocean views so I never looked. It's kind of like never asking out a super model because you think you have no chance…. until you do.

The majority of prime real estate in San Francisco is closer to $1,100-$1,500 per square foot. But even at $1,500/sqft, that's still cheaper than the $2,000 – $3,000 per square foot in places like Hong Kong, London, and Manhattan.

San Francisco is turning into a major international city before our eyes with all the cranes downtown due to the profitability of tech firms such as Salesforce, Facebook, Apple and Google.

Future Price Appreciation Of GGH

I see the average Golden Gate Heights view home reaching well over $1,400/sqft by 2025 if not sooner. Let's just hope local residences discover Golden Gate Heights before foreign buyers do. From what I know and hear, Chinese and Russian buyers are buying prime properties around the nation in droves, sight unseen.

Property will always be my favorite asset class to build wealth. And real wealth is all about generating cash flow. If you can own real assets that can be enjoyed and controlled by you, you are winning.

Property sellers in 2009-2012 are probably kicking themselves for selling if they did not reinvest their house proceeds. 10 years from now, property sellers will probably be kicking themselves again for selling in Golden Gate Heights and other parts of San Francisco.

The power of inflation cannot be beat. Sooner or later there will be a marketing term, “Four million dollar views” instead of “million dollar views.” After all, who can buy gas for $1 a gallon anymore?

Other Great Neighborhoods To Buy In San Francisco

  • Parkside – Less expensive than Golden Gate Heights
  • Outer Sunset, Inner Sunset – less expensive than Golden Gate Heights
  • St. Francis Wood – more expensive, has private playground
  • Forest Hill – more expensive, has private club house and extremely quiet neighborhood that is safe
  • Outer Richmond, Inner Richmond – similar expensive, but north side of the park

I recommend buying any property with ocean views or infinity views. The best area to buy property is on the west side of San Francisco.

And what do you know, TimeOut Magazine ranked San Francisco as the best city in the world in 2021. San Francisco has been a great city during the global pandemic. In addition to proper safety measures, the work opportunities have never been greater.

Related: Making More From Your House Than From Your Salary Makes Life Easier

Invest In Real Estate Across America

San Francisco is one of the best international cities in the world. But it is also expensive. Once you own a primary residence in San Francisco, it's good to diversify your real estate holdings as well.

I suggest taking a look at Fundrise, one of the largest real estate crowdsourcing companies today. Fundrise is the creator of the private eREIT, which investments in high-quality commercial real estate across the country. Valuations are lower and cap rates are much higher elsewhere.

Further, I recommend taking a look at CrowdStreet, which provides investors individual commercial real estate opportunities in 18-hour cities. 18-hour cities have higher growth rates and lower valuations as well.

I've personally invested $954,000 in real estate crowdfunding for capital appreciation, passive income, and diversification. As a father of two young kids, I want to earn income 100% passively.

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135 thoughts on “The Best Area To Buy Property In San Francisco (Or Any Major City) Today”

  1. Great article as usual Financial Samurai! Question, how much multiple is acceptable for price difference between big city and outside city/rural? For example, Dublin (Ireland) city houses are 1.4x the price of similar houses in nearby cities/ villages. Is that normal?

  2. Interesting, I actually think your list includes only some of the most expensive, popular areas and leaves out some of the best areas to raise kids. When you have kids you don’t really want one of those ocean view homes because they are in really hilly neighborhoods where there’s no where for kids to scooter or ride bikes and even walking is not all that pleasant. I would say other underrated high value neighborhoods are Mission Terrace, Westwood Park, Sunnyside, Miraloma Park, Parkside, and some areas surrounding stonestown.

    I saw your post on private school costs also and it leaves out the option of private Catholic schools, a much more affordable option. These two factors make the city considerably more livable for families.

    1. Thanks for sharing. That’s the beauty of the free market. We are free to make our own choices and live where we want.

      Walking in the hills of Golden Gate Heights is amazing. It’s really a secret gem. And the newly renovated Golden Gate Heights park is also wonderful.

  3. Since this link is ephemeral:
    $1,777,000 Price 4 Beds 2
    Baths 2,506 Sq. Ft.
    $709 / Sq. Ft.
    1700 Funston Ave

    This does seem cheap by bay area standards. It’s 2 2BR’s, and a garage. It’s been awhile since I lived in the city but It seems like you could move in here on a primary residence mortgage for a year or so and then start renting it out. At ~2% mortgage, wouldn’t be that hard to get it to cash flow would it? Or has covid crashed the rents in SF?

    What’s the catch?

  4. Hi Sam! What do you think about Mt. Davidson Manor for investment?
    (Sorry if this is a repeat question!)

  5. I love reading your blog. Even though I am in Toronto. I always wonder if we always move 3/5 yrs into a new house and out the olde r for rent, and most people do the same won’t it affect the supply even further and eventually we won’t have anything to buy cause no one will sell as they read the same blog too ?

    1. Not sure what you mean. But land and supply is generally limited, while population growth should continue. Hence, real estate becomes a scarcer resource over time and prime properties in prime cities become more valuable over time.

  6. What do the colors mean on your map? Also why are all the south east neighborhoods “worrisome”? Portola, Excelsior, Bayview Heights? I think these have more access to both downtown SF and SV than Golden Gate Heights, and price / square foot is amazing.

    Would love to hear your thoughts.

  7. My friend who is in real estate investing recommended your post to me, particularly since I am discouraged by the Bay Area real estate market (moved here a year ago). I would like to buy in the Peninsula for flexibility in location, however condos often have $500+ in HOA fee, while single family houses are hard to come by for under $1M. Have any neighborhoods in the Peninsula or South Bay caught your attention lately, where you think it’s worth a look? Thank you in advance for your reply and for all that you share.

    1. Sam,

      With all of the new hotels, office space, convention center expansion, and effects forthcoming from the central SoMa plan, what do you think about condos in the Yerba Buena neighboorhood (Market to Harrison and 2nd to 5th)?

      I’m hoping it’s sowmthing like buying I Rincon Hill in 2010.

    1. Pretty cool being 3.5 years early and capturing the tremendous upside right?

      Maybe reading personal finance sites from people who are in the trenches, take the time to do a thorough analysis, and share information for free might just be worth the time!


      An Inexpensive And Easy Solution To Solving The Retirement Crisis
      To Get Rich, Practice Predicting The Future

      Should I Invest In Chinese Stocks? – Wrote this one in 2015 and the prices have all more than doubled.

  8. Hi Sam,

    We are in the market. What are your thoughts about midtown terrace , a small area very close to golden gate heights?

  9. Great article. Currently considering Bernal heights / Inner sunset / GGH area if we can find a single family home around 1.2 (max 1.5). Would you say GGH is still the top choice that you would recommend for appreciation? Any thoughts on the other neighborhoods?

    What about Mission bay? Condos are the only option but with Uber HQ + New Stadium + Extension of Muni line, would the appreciation be better even if you account for the extra $/sq ft and the HOA? Not sure if the pending affordable housing construction will have much impact but I am trying to figure out if this is a good opportunity to get in on the ground floor with Mission bay development or should I stick to Townhouse/SFH areas that I mentioned before. Thanks again for the great insights.

  10. Samurai:

    I’m a fledgling real estate investor who is new to your blogs, and was wondering if I could get an opinion. I have a total of 5 units, currently, spread out over a couple of cities. I watch 2 units, my family watches 2 units, and the last is a nice house in Livermore than is not easy to manage as I’m not there anymore. I’ve always wanted property in SF, as it’s my favorite city, and I’m curious as to the potential profitability of selling in livermore (about 650) and buying around GGH or similar (about 1mil). Financially I can do this, though I suppose I suspect elsewhere might be more profitable. At this point, would Oakland be a better opportunity, perhaps?

    Or, as my RE curiously suggests, is this a good time to exit the RE market until after the next “great recession” – as heralded by the recent exit of chinese money, questionable political stability here in the US, and banking policies that seem eerily similar to the 2008 crash? Sell, hold in a money market account, and buy when the price plummets?

    Wishful thinking, likely, that I can time the RE market, but it’s not unreasonable to hold some resources in reserve so that you can pounce on an opportunity should it present itself.

    Thanks for the good read, regardless

  11. For parents, look at “CTIP1” neighborhoods: i.e. parts of Potrero HIll. This gives you top priority in the SFUSD lottery, practically assuring your child a spot in your first-choice elementary school. This makes much more sense than buying a home near a top-performing elementary school like Clarendon ES, where CTIP1 status trumps neighborhood preference in the enrollment lottery.

  12. Megan Miller

    Thanks Sam – this is my first time to your site and I find it incredibly helpful. Bookmarked!

    I am looking to purchase my first home (single family) soon and looking in the Sunset and Golden Gate Heights neighborhoods, like you recommended. Any advice for purchasing before year-end? Any updates on the housing market in SF, especially in those areas?

    Also, you mention “ocean views.” What neighboods can you get these views? GG Heights, Forest Knolls, along Ocean Beach…where else could I find good value?

    Thank you!

    1. Howdy Megan – Welcome to my site! How did you find it and what took you so long?! :) I’ve been up since 2009.

      I still think you need to focus on buying a single family house, and preferably one that has something extra to it, like a larger than 25X100 lot, a view, etc. They aren’t really making any more SFHs in SF any more b/c everything is built out. But they ARE building lots of new condos, which is why prices for condos are getting depressed.

      I really would focus on GGH, Parkside, Richmond area w/ view homes. FINALLY, Paragon Real Estate and other media publications are coming around to the fact that GGH and Inner Sunset is the hottest neighborhood in SF now. See below:

      I am still a buyer of GGH and Inner Sunset ocean view homes today. Way too cheap compared to the eastern part of SF and all other major cities in the world near the ocean!

      Happy hunting.


      1. Megan Miller

        You know, I never thought to google “best neighborhood for growth in SF” but I finally did and you were the first hit. Easy enough :)

        Thanks for the reply and links!


    Thank you Sam for posting this great article with all the details, very eye opening.

    1. San Mateo seems to have the best value between Burlingame, San Carlos, and Belmont. I’d focus there.

      Houses over $2M have slowed down in demand. Even the $1.75M range is slowing down. I’d be patient.

  14. I keep coming back to this post, Sam’s map, and the comments, I don’t know why :)

    Sam, or anyone familiar with SF, how about a July 2016 update? Thanks.

    1. Sure. The San Francisco housing market is finally slowing down with the high-end above 2 million showing signs of weakness as there is a flood of high-priced condominiums coming on the market. There’s this one new condominium project on Sacramento near Fillmore Street that is asking $2000 a square foot or $2 million for one bedrooms and up to $20 million for 4000 square-foot apartments!

      I am still seeing a lot of strength and single-family homes below the 2 million mark. One recent example is a home that sold on 17th Ave. and Kirkam area for 1.75 million. It is a 1800 square-foot three bedroom three bathroom remodel house that was asking 1.3 million. See 1606 17th Avenue, 94122.

      I really believe Golden Gate Heights, Parkside, sunset, Richmond area for single-family homes are good value still, especially if you can get ocean views. But if you’re buying a house today I would be very particular and patient. Slowness starts from the high-end and works its way down.


      1. Thanks Sam.

        In anticipation of a imminent slow down, or correction, I want to be careful not to be too hung up on cash flow calculation when looking at up and coming areas. I know of people who say as long as your rental income is more than mortgage plus property tax you should go all out.

        Not that I think Sunset or Parkside is up and coming. I like the area and am looking to buy. Just gotta be patient like you said.

    2. I live in the same area, and feel the same as Sam about good areas to buy. Great area to live, fantastic views. Definitely slowing down (which is not the same as losing price!) so take your time. I like the Forest Knolls area of SF as well. Quiet, good views, lots of trails nearby. Definitely a steep hill, but that is how you get views.

  15. Hi,

    I have a duplex in central richmond that i bought in 2011.
    I am thinking of buying a tri-plex in mission district for $1.5m to rent out. With 20% down, it is instantaneously cash flow positive. It would probably be even with 10% down. I know mission district is very expensive, but $1.5 seems very reasonable to me. What am i missing. The rents for $2br units go for $4k easily

  16. We have 400k to invest in a rental property- I am guessing we are out of luck in San Francisco?..any other areas you would suggest?

      1. Thank even if we were to extend our search to areas like Emeryville, Fremont dont think it is a good ROI? We were able to find condos in those areas ( 1 bedroom)..but the net cash flow ( including maintennace, tax ect) was 200$..but hoping that the rentals will increase and turn into a positive cash flow while building equity and hopefully long terms we can pay off and the rent will help during returement- not a good line of thinking?

  17. Nice article — with good insight. What about the Outer Parkside area?

    Thanks in advance!

    1. A lot of good value there too. Can’t build out there either. I think demand will shift west and find the appeal of accessing 19th to head down south too.

      The valuation difference in Wedtern SF is too huge to ignore.

  18. John Cranshaw

    Just curious what you think of the potential for the Forest Knolls area of San Francisco? Upsides: quiet, fantastic views, easy parking, near good schools (though as some posters have noted, that can be a bit of a crap shoot in SF), right by UCSF Medical Center. Also, seems somewhat sunnier and less windy than where we live in Golden Gates Heights and has lots of forests and hiking trails. Has some of the same views as Golden Gates Heights, just a bit higher up. Downside: steep hill (which is what gets you the good views, of course). It is interesting that the property we bought there a year ago comes with a fair amount of land with allowance for building another building, provided they are connected by a staircase. I’m no real estate whiz, but it seems that may possibly have potential.

    1. Sounds good to me John. I think the crazy prices in the Marina, Pac Heights, Presidio Heights, etc will force more people to look around our great city.

      I do like to walk to restaurants and stuff though. Is Forest Knolls walkable anywhere?

      1. John Cranshaw

        Unfortunately, as it is a steep hill walking to stores and GG Park is tough. Walk to UCSF Medical Center is easy. I guess we have to wait for Google’s self-driving cars to pick us up, then it will be a more desirable neighborhood. Nice homes, however, and fantastic views. And I hear the forests there are going be be designated a bird sanctuary which is not bad for a major city.

  19. Interesting how we look at neighborhoods outside the city proper as prices go above affordability.

    What about Westwood Highlands? We just locked in a place there. Close to St Francis wood, rare (for this city) detached houses, and safe nice neighborhood close to city transport.

    Satisfied paying about $850 a foot for a 1400 house that isn’t a fixer. Looks like we are in sf to stay for a while. There are many worse places to be. Love the blog btw.

  20. Interesting article. Wondering if on one of your journeys through the Golden Gate heights, have you ever wandered into its neighbor the Inner Parkside? This relatively unknown area has many if not all of the strengths that Golden Gate heights has, being unknown, ocean views almost as good as GGH, equal if not better access to 19th Ave./280 south, equal if not better public transportation via proximity to west portal where 3 MUNI lines run through (L,K,M), and most importantly, relatively cheap. I think GGH is close to jumping the shark so to speak, however the Inner Parkside basically has all the element of GGH while still having retaining Parkside pricing. However, recent sales and offerings are disturbing my basic assumptions.

    1. I see value in Inner Parkside as well. The entire area close to 19th avenue south with views are a goldmine IMO. Best value in SF over the next five years.

      I think GGH is more interest now because it’s closer to the center of SF, and it’s closer to the Inner Sunset which is red hot. I’ve looked around aggressively there, and things are going bonkers. Irving and 10th/9th is a great spot with a lot of good food and diversity.

      Interest will first spread to GGH and then to Inner Parkside and move south once all the homes in GGH are scooped up.

  21. I just bought a totally renovated 5 BR, 3 BA, 2,100 square foot single family home in the Outer Richmond for $1.25M, and couldn’t be happier. After getting married and selling my Marina Condo 2 1/2 years ago, I have researched neighborhoods and looked for single family homes all over the City, and the Outer Richmond is the best value by far. We are 2 blocks from GG Park, 12 blocks from the ocean, and just a few blocks from Lincoln Park Golf Course, Palace of Fine Arts, and Land’s End. You can see the ocean from our deck. Right now Outer Richmond is a terrific value. For some reason, property in this part of the Richmond is discounted relative to Mid- and Inner- Richmond, even though the quality of neighborhoods varies block to block irrespective of what part of the Richmond you live in, the weather is the same, and the express bus from Outer Richmond takes the same amount of time to get to the FiDi as the express bus from the Inner Richmond (I know this first-hand, as I have lived in both neighborhoods). What’s more, Balboa Street in Outer Richmond is filled with nice shops, restaurants and even a movie theater, whereas mid-Richmond has nothing similar. Outer Richmond is a quiet, safe neighborhood, with many single family homes. I think it is much better than Inner Sunset or Golden Gate Heights, since I believe it’s far better to stay north of Golden Gate Park, surrounded by premium neighborhoods (most of the best neighborhoods are in the northern part of the City). When the techie singles currently living in condos in the Mission and SOMA get married, they are sure to come out this way….I wonder why you have no remarks related to this great neighborhood.

    1. Pete, it’s natural to be biased for our respective neighborhoods where we bought. I guess when I think about living out there where you are, I think, and probably many other people think they’d just focus on Sea Cliff, and nowhere else.

      If you are beyond the Central Richmond (~20-30 ave), restaurants/bars etc gets sparse, and then there’s the colder weather.

      In terms of location, being in the top left hand corner of the SF Map is inconvenient for those who want to work down south and downtown. If you are in the Inner Sunset or Golden Gate Heights, it’s easy to get down south at the very least, and take N-Judah downtown.

      There are many fantastic neighborhoods south of Golden Gate Park, such as Noe Valley.

      The Outer Richmond could very well be the next great SF investment. The question is: What is the competitive advantage to living out there?

      For Golden Gate Heights, it’s the multi-million dollar panoramic ocean views.

      1. Sam,

        Thanks for responding to my post. To be clear, my preference for the Outer Richmond is not a bias but based on 2 1/2 years of thoroughly exploring the City for a new home after my family outgrew my Marina Condo (I had also spent a few years exploring the city before I bought that property). Let me explain:

        From your reply I can see that you are not aware there are about 8 blocks of great shops, restaurants and even a movie theater in the Outer Richmond on Balboa Street between 31st and 39th Avenues–I didn’t know this either until I had explored this great neighborhood. I invite you to check it out!

        Also, as I said, we have an ocean view, too, right off of our back deck. Not only that, we can walk to the ocean, which is just 12 blocks away.

        While Seacliff is great and adjacent to the Outer Richmond, you will need $3M+ to get into that small, tony neighborhood. In the Outer Richmond, you can get a single family home for around $1M. My house was remodeled down to the studs, and cost just $1.25M for a 5 BR, 3BA 2100 square foot single family home with great finishes and a nice, useable back yard for my son.

        The commute from Outer Richmond to the FiDi is terrific, and there are several express buses serving this neighborhood that quickly get you downtown. Muni express bus 31AX serves the Outer Richmond near Balboa Street and it takes just 25 minutes to get to the FiDi where I work, virtually the same amount of time it took me to get to work when I lived in the Inner Richmond and took the 1BX. (The Outer Richmond express buses serve a few blocks in this neighborhood, then head straight downtown). Similarly, the 38AX takes 25 minutes to get to the FiDi, for those who live near Geary in the Outer Richmond (I’m more partial to the south part of the Outer Richmond).

        The weather in Outer Richmond is virtually the same as that in the Inner Richmond (I rented in the Inner Richmond for a year, so I know.)

        So the competitive advantages are: (1) Close proximity to the Ocean, GG Park, Ocean, Lincoln Park and Palace of Fine Arts; (2) Quick and convenient commute downtown; (3) Great neighborhood shops and restaurants; (4) safe and quiet location in the North side of the City, which contains most of the best neighborhoods nearby (Seacliff, Presidio Heights, Marina, Pacific Heights, etc.); and (5) relatively low cost for all the above.

        Please consider the above–you might look out here for your next investment or even to live!

        Thanks again, Sam, I really enjoyed your article.


        1. Sounds good Pete. I definitely believe that there’s great value in Outer Richmond, and you are right that I’m not too familiar with 31-39th Avenues and Balboa. I was just highlighting why I didn’t highlight it, and why others may not think about it as well. It’s OK to have biases. Everybody has their biases on location, which is part of my post.

          BTW, why did you sell 2.5 years ago in the Marina? Why not hold on until you bought your new house? Just curious to know your story as the Marina area is hot, hot, hot right now.

  22. Great post!

    We looked at Golden Gate Heights as well when we house hunted in the City and property there has definitely been selling at more reasonable rates (by SF standards, at least) … Generally around $700/sqft.

    That being said, I just wanted to clarify three things you mentioned. One of the biggest turn offs for us for GGH is even though it was “close” to the N-Judah, it was an incredibly steep walk. Using, you can see we’re talking about a 4 block walk up a 16 degree grade… not something to scoff at.

    Also, I think it depends on time of year, but we definitely see more fog in GGH than we do on the eastern sides of the city… It’s just a fact. It’s fine to acknowledge that, I personally think the fog is really cool and magical. It’s a distinctly San Francisco thing. But it does happen alot more often there. I don’t know if your drives were during the past few months, but the difference really only happens from June – August when the California Current collides with the Pacific. (In fact, a coworker lives in the Outer Richmond and it’s already started this summer.) I’d imagine if you did the same drives in July, you’d see a marked difference.

    Finally, ‘local schools’ are pretty much irrelevant in San Francisco. The entire system is a Unified System, which means kids are not automatically sent to their local school. You have a pretty complex application system, and yes while location is a factor, it is far from the only factor. This pretty much negates the “good school district” pricing advantage that most cities exhibit (a notable example is Park Slope in Brooklyn, NY)

    But aside from that, I agree with lots of your assessments. GGH/Inner Sunset is great for people who work Downtown and great for people who work in the Peninsula (taking Laguna Honda down to Glen Park to 280 is definitely the fastest way to get South)

    Good luck with your hunt!

    1. Hi Nick,

      You’re right about the June – August fog. But it is definitely more foggy everywhere in SF now. I went yesterday and it was definitely foggy there, but also foggy in Pacific Heights and freezing and foggy and windy downtown.

      There is some type of illusion that one part of SF is warm and sunny and one part out west is freezing cold and foggy. It doesn’t work that way in SF.

      Where did you end up buying?

      1. We ended up following a lot of the advice you laid out in the article. We found a property that had motivated sellers, needed a bit of work (it was in a nicely maintained complex but the actual unit was last renovated in the mid 80s) and had limited showings (they didn’t want to have people walking through their house.)

        We ended up in Potrero Hill in the end and are glad the hunt is over! The house hunt was incredibly stressful and demoralizing (getting outbid by 40% on a house in the Inner Sunset really was a blow.)

        Good luck with your search!

  23. Sam,
    Do you think Bayview or Hunters point will ever be cleaned up of the criminal elements making it a desirable place to live? My friend and I were having this discussion since Mission is no longer as dangerous with Twitter and all yuppies moving in

    1. Jessica Karr

      I have the same question! I feel like Bayview COULD be up and coming. The Tenderloin is stuck with homeless because it has lots of organizations (SRO’s, soup kitchens, etc) keeping them there. Bayview is just dangerous because the residents are dangerous.

        1. Vanessa Ridaura

          How do you feel about the Bayview now? still certain it will fall rapidly. If so, could you explain why?

          1. sfhousingexplorer

            I have the same question.. given the recent report from State Department of Health saying the toxic stuff has been cleared. What’s your view of Shipyard?

  24. Great post and great analysis on Golden Gate Heights! The SF property market is crazy now, and it’s totally a herd mentality, I agree. A lot of people wrote off Bernal Heights and the Dogpatch area, and now look at them. Even Hunter’s Point/Bay View has condos going for $900/sqft now.

    People selling in Golden Gate Heights are crazy for selling so cheap now. It’s so funny when you are a buyer of property you should convince sellers that the world is coming to an end and they should sell now and vice versa.

    I 100% agree with your assessment on the market still having a long ways to run. The Inner Sunset is great and GGH is a logical choice to look for homes. Access to 19th AVe/Highway 1 is huge for South Bay commuters.

  25. Is there a reason you left out Chinatown and The Castro? on your map, two of the most iconic neighborhoods in SF.

    1. No particular reason. I left out Telegraph Hill too, but it’s there. I was trying to highlight the neighborhoods that are showing a lot of demand/change, while pegging traditional older neighborhoods like Pac Heights.

      Do you have a map of SF with annotations or a post you’d like to share? I’m happy to post it.

  26. Great article! Great tips, especially the one about working with an realtor from out of town. I was really lucky with my house. My street was still a little rough in 2009, but it’s changed a lot over the past five years.

  27. Market going wacky down here in San Carlos, CA. More rebuilds to bring homes up to 2800 sq feet on a 7200 sq foot plot than you can shake a stick at. Friends of friends of ours just bought that size house — move in condition — newly rebuilt — for $2.1 million. Bubble. Licious. In a fairly middling town.

      1. Not ending. It’s just going up. You can keep very very up to date on the show if you watch this blog:

        Here we are a year later (I’ve been doing research and found this blog post) and the prices are even higher. $800-$860/sqft right now, but there’s a little dip – the time of year will change this of course. Next year will change things too (though mortgage rates are to go up of course so we’ll see what that does). Everyone is saying San Carlos is the next Palo Alto (been saying for a few years now). There’s just a whole bunch of stuff moving into the tiny town.

        I don’t think it’s a “bubble” per say, it’s just supply and demand. Where else are people to go? The Bay Area is crowded and costs are up, so everyone hits the neighboring towns which are cheaper. Then that inflates them. Belmont is next (though it has no downtown).

  28. Sam, so does the vast majority of the population of SF fall in the 1%’er club? Even if you put 20% on $1.5M property you have to have a big income to get a jumbo mortgage that size. Are the qualification rules different out there or is everybody just that rich? Hard to imagine there is not a little irrational exuberance involved…(same thing is going on here actually).

    1. About 35% of the SF population own. I don’t think they are mostly 1%ers at all. Mostly dual-income folks making $70,000 – $200,000 each = $140,000 – $400,000 total.

      35-40% of the buyers are cash buyers or offer no financing contigency.

      Given rates are at 2.625% – 4% for the majority of borrowers, you only need to make around $200,000 to afford a $1 million mortgage, which I think is the IDEAL COMBO for tax deductions, and minimizing AMT.

      1. Yes, I understand that you can technically afford payments on a $1M mortgage if you make $200k, I just did not think that mortgage companies were lending like that anymore…at least in the Midwest they are not (just had this conversation with some bank exec’s last night).

        I would guess that their is a pretty high concentration of wealth in the greater SF area for sure.

  29. k@Masters Of Our Own Dollars

    My criteria for buying are totally personal – I want a rural lot, at least 1 acre with trees, some slope is okay but needs to be flat enough to play with the dogs, no/minimal light pollution, less than 1 hr from work, quiet area, I’m willing to do work on the house as long as it’s properly priced. I’m hoping to make this my “forever” home so although I’m taking resale into account it isn’t a high priority.

    When I bought my current house I knew it was just a starter home so I bought a slightly run down house in an up-and-coming neighborhood, made some updates, did a lot of DIY to save money, and five years later I’m under contract for almost twice what I bought it for.

  30. I live in a two flat building on Funston near Judah.

    One of the best things about this location is hiking in GG Heights, just up the hill.

    I hope the word doesn’t get out too soon how great the neighborhood is.



    1. Amen.

      We are likely to land in Texas when the time comes — nice economic dynamism with mostly reasonable home prices.

      1. Yep, same here.

        My house is the cheapest one in my neighborhood- we paid $187,500 (I think???) earlier this year. Not only it is on 1/3 of an acre, but it’s 2,000 s.f. with four bedrooms and 2.5 baths. It’s also fancy schmancy with granite, custom woodwork, and a professionally landscaped yard. I have no idea what it would cost in a big city, but I know I probably couldn’t afford it. I guess it’s what you get used to. I would rather have a really nice house and live in a not-so-cool place, I guess. Less pressure.

        1. Not everyone buying does it for investment purposes. I’m hoping to find something in SF, though that dream gets further and further away. Why do I keep trying? I’m a native SF person… being in a “cool” location has nothing to do with it, it’s all about being near family. I’m also very much a big-city person.

          There are other intangibles, too, because I’m an ethnic minority. I’m utterly certain people are very nice in cheaper parts of the country, but it can be a very isolating, unhappy experience if you feel like the only one of your kind (race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc) anywhere.

          Believe me, I’d like a nice house too! But I’ve tried to live elsewhere, and I know for me it won’t work.

    2. Ah, many would say they don’t get people living in the rural MidWest either.

      But I’ve found one of the best strategies for achieving financial independence sooner is to make your money in a great international city, and then downsize to a cheaper city.

      Once you live in NYC, SF, HK, London, Singapore, Paris, etc… practically EVERYTHING else is cheaper. But to go in reverse is much more difficult.

      1. That’s my plan for moving to DC.

        I will add that even though you don’t think you will consider the potential of a home purchase, it is very important to consider resale value in case you need to sell it right away for a job transfer or other significant life event.

    3. I hear you. I’d take the beautiful Ohio farm land; laid-back, friendly, and good looking natives, any day. Great quality of life.

      You’re not missing much in these overpriced cities. Heavy traffic, higher crime, no place to park.

      And I was just driving around Manhattan a few weeks ago. It’s ok to visit….. But really? Why would anyone want to live there unless they had to? And I’m a Chicago guy, so I’m no stranger to city living.

      Best solution….. Buy rental properties in those locations, but live elsewhere!

      If you want the dense city experience, just visit for the weekend.

        1. Sam,

          I think you may have it backwards. Why would expensive real estate mean a high quality of life?

            1. You’re dodging the question.

              Quality of life is a very deep complex construct that goes way beyond real estate prices. And no….. You don’t always get what you pay for.

              In most cases, you pay higher housing prices simply because there isn’t enough housing being built in that particular area.

              I’ll take a 2000 sq ft ranch with it’s own private lake any day over some condo in a city. Room to breath!

          1. A person can love an area regardless of how much the real estate costs. If you like having lots of space, that’s great that what you like is so cheap. But some of us need the intangibles that an urban area affords to be happy. Turns out a lot of other people have the same idea, so… it’s expensive.

            1. I don’t disagree that many folks just need urban busyness. But “quality of life” is much deeper than real estate prices.

              You don’t always get what you pay for.

            2. Well, in my case… It’s true I like urban busy-ness, but I could find in other, cheaper states for sure. But what keeps me in SF is that I can’t buy the same level of cultural diversity nor the concentration of my ethnic background in Ohio. Plus, all my family’s here, too. I don’t doubt a lakeside home would be a lovely existence, but it’d be awfully lonely to not share it easily and often with family/friends.

            3. What about the intangibles of rural living?

              And remember…..I’m a big city guy. I think this is a very fair question. We should be asking this.

              And what if an individual has access to both: lives in a rural or semi-rural area but has a relatively short drive to a dense urban area?

            4. Hey SP,

              I think you might be shocked as to how much the rest of country has changed. For example Columbus:


              And…. One of my favorite Wisconsin cities: Madison.
              Ever been to Madison? Beautiful place. A whole lot water around there. Much diversity. Nearby farm land.

              You may not have family there, but, I think it’s a good example of a very open minded, cosmopolitan demographic in a semi-rural area.

              I hope someone from these areas takes the time to add to our thread? Or areas like this?

            5. Ace —

              For my own experience as an ethnic minority, I’ve had such a difference in quality of life when living in an area where there isn’t any ethnic majority (SF) versus where I’m still very obviously a minority but I’ve got a little bit of company.

              Looking at the Columbus, OH 2010 census demographics, it’s overwhelmingly European-American (67%), with the next largest group being African-American (22%). Latino-Americans and Asian-Americans are just 5%. (Latino-Americans are also 4% of the population.) Madison is even less diverse overall, skewing even more heavily toward Euro-Americans (79%) as the dominant group, with 7% African-American, 7% Asian, and 7% Latino-American.

              Contrast that with SF, which is 48% Euro-American, 7% African-American, 14% Latino-American, and 33% Asian-American; NYC, which is 50% Euro-American, 16% African-American, 10% Asian-American, and 27% Latino-American; and LA, which is 41% Euro-American, 9% African-American, 10% Asian American, and 53% Latino-American.

              Given that my group is Asian-American, there’s going to be a huge difference for me (emphasis: for me!) in how comfortable I feel in SF & the bay area versus Ohio. I do think for ethnic minorities, being in a place where you feel like there’s a sizable density of people who share your culture and outlook is a huge draw. Huge (expensive) cities tend to offer that as an option. But I don’t think that means other people can’t want or love something different than what makes me comfortable/happy.

              As to your question about semi-rural living… I think it’s an option for sure. But in CA specifically, it’s become so developed around the ultra-dense urban hubs that there aren’t really any semi-rural areas within reasonable driving distance. San Jose used to be farmland and orchards just fifty years ago… even twenty years ago, I remember much of it still being undeveloped. Now it’s heavy with strip malls and suburban housing.

            6. Thanks SP for the well thought out response.

              You threw many numbers out there. Did you notice that the population size of Columbus and San Francisco are comparable?

              It was no accident that I chose Columbus as a talking point.

              I get what you’re saying. It just feels like such a constraining attitude, but I do understand the comfort of living in the town you grew up in. Everybody has that.

              Anyway, good luck to you.

              I’m stilling hoping that someone living in some of these areas could chime in and add some insight.

  31. This post rocks! Wow. Even as long as I have lived in San Francisco there are still new things that I learn about this that amaze me, and this is one of them. I have not heard of Golden Gate Heights either but it sounds wonderful. San Francisco sometimes seems small but there are so many areas that I still haven’t spent much time in even after nine or so years and this neighborhood is one of them.

    Last year I finally started spending some time in the mission and loved it. I need to continue exploring more neighborhoods because San Francisco has so much to offer and I love that the food, weather, and diversity are amazing.

    I have not been following the property market too closely in detail, but I do know that it is absolutely crazy, so that is cool that there is such a sweet hidden gem left at great value. I can see GGH taking off as more people find out about it. SF property is hot, hot, hot!

  32. James @

    Another option to take if location is not your prime characteristic is to buy foreclosed properties, these could be slightly cheaper than the market price. Property sale by auction, can also be a sleek avenue to acquire cheap but interesting property.

  33. john cranshaw

    I have lived 20 years two blocks away from the photo you have from Grand View Park. We have unobstructed ocean views, plenty of parking space, and the safest neighborhood in San Francisco. It has always mystified me why this wasn’t a “hot” neighborhood for real estate. Looks like it might be now, and I have mixed feelings about that. I love our neighborhood just the way it is.

    1. Sorry to slowly put GGH on the map, even though it’s always been there. Perhaps you’d like to sell me your house? :)

      I’m baffled by folks selling in this area at such low prices.

      1745 16th Ave just closed on 6/2 at $1.465 mil and is an absolute steal given its 2,400 foot size. I thought it would go for at least $1.6-$1.7 million. It’s views are obstructed though. But man, well done by the buyers! If the property was marketed better, I’m sure it would have sold for $1.6+.

  34. Sam,

    I like that photo! You can clearly see Golden Gate Park and Lands End. Actually the Presidio too.

    Did you take it?

    1. I took it indeed. I take 95% of all photos here on this site.

      Grand View Park has the most amazing view in all of SF. Now think about the views of some of the Golden Gate Height homes.

  35. These are all good points! I used them to buy in SF about 9 years ago. In addition, there were a few more to avoid such as the foggy areas, areas prone to earthquakes, properties unable to get earthquake insurance and tenants in common (TIC) properties. We ended up in Lower Pacific Heights.

  36. My uncle used to buy fixer-uper in Jersey City, NJ and made a lot of money with them. Jersey City is across the river from NYC and it’s booming right now. I don’t really have the funds right now to get into a house, but if I did I would buy there.

  37. Done by Forty

    I love the tip to buy in neighborhoods that are relatively unheard of. I’ve never heard of that strategy before, but it seems like a winner.

  38. Super thorough article! Blows all the articles by The Chronicle or other real estate blogs which act more like gossip magazines out of the water.

    I’ve never heard of Golden Gate Heights as well, so I’ll definitely check out the neighborhood. The Inner Sunset is great, and it’s funny you mention the fog. It’s foggy everywhere when it’s foggy. I totally agree with you that there is some snobbery regarding the weather, wherever one lives.

    I lost out on five properties already in SF in the more known areas. Thanks for the suggestion. Hope nobody else finds out :)

    1. Hmmmm. You must be new to San francisco, because if you weren’t you’d know that it can be foggy, gray and in the 50’s in some parts of the city, and at the same time brilliantly sunny and in the 70’s in other parts. The “fingers” of fog come in on predictable and regular intervals, and usually only cover certain areas of the city during the day (and this get’s more extreme in the summer months, when the Central Valley heats up and sucks in the cold air coming of the Pacific). As someone who lives in an area just inside and on the edge of one of the fog “fingers”, I can tell you that it’s no fun looking up and seeing grey for days on end during the summer, while at the same time being able to see the blue sky at the edges of the horizon, and knowing that elsewhere in SF people are enjoying a warm and sunny day.

      1. What’s wrong with going to Hawaii for vacation during the summer?

        Or cheaper yet, driving a little East? The fog catches up to us all in SF during the day. It’s just a matter of time.

      2. One strategy for avoiding (mostly) the fog in the western portion of SF is to buy a home on a hill–like Golden Gate Heights. The fog tends to seek the lowest areas. Many a day I will be sitting in my sunny home in Forest Knolls (look it up), looking down at the fog below, much like looking at the clouds below while in an airplane. Gorgeous!

  39. helps me find the prices I can afford with school ratings next to each other on the map. I like that feature. I used that on my first home. It was a location noone was willing to move into until recently. I am planning on my second property now – only because I need to move to a better school district and closer to work. My only concern towards building wealth through property is the nightmare stories I have heard on how the law is always more protective on the renters, eviction notices, damage done on properties etc. Anyone have any advice on those? Maybe that is a good topic to write about Sam ;-)

  40. I am looking for a new home and my primary lookout is good schools (rating 7-10), as I have kids. I use They give me the school ratings on the map with the property prices as I search in selected zipcodes. It is interesting to see that expensive homes are around good rated schools or vice versa. I think that would definately make the home easier to sell (later), or for rent and chances of getting good tenants increases too. I think that is a safe route to build wealth when you always have positive income. I would hate to have to evict someone, have massive damages on the buildings or a property sitting in the market for a long time. I hope to find something soon.

    1. In Golden Gate Heights, they are mostly immediately cash flow positive with 20% down. i.e.

      $1.2 million home
      $240K down
      $960K mortgage = $3,850/month at 2.5%
      Can rent out for $5,000+

  41. Just a note – Lowell isn’t a neighborhood high school. It’s the city’s magnet school; admission requires an application rather akin to college.

    However, if your kids were to get into Lowell, then yes, the location is ideal :) Guessing that the local high school for GGH would be Lincoln.

    1. You are correct! But every parent must believe their kid is smart enough to go to a good public school, and I’m biased for public schools because I attended both growing up, and public schools were just fine.

      1. I went to Lowell, so I’m definitely biased toward saying public school education is great. ;)

        Personally, I’m all for public school education. I think you learn a lot socially and in a worldly sense that you can’t elsewhere; book learning can be supplemented far more easily.

  42. I was glad to see you mention #4) purchasing in a good school district. That’s is the tactic we have taken with our rental properties, buying in the best school district in our area. Every time we have a vacancy they get snapped up quickly. People can’t purchase in the area because property values are high or they can’t get a mortgage. So rental property becomes their only way in.

  43. Love the SF map! Good luck on your property search.
    Readers from other areas could probably make a similar map using city-datadotcom.
    A great way to discover great neighborhood gems.


    1. Thanks. There are so many opportunities once you aggressively hit the payment and look, and see, and wait, and feel. So many buyers rely on their agents to show them what’s out there. And so many agents are going with the herd.

  44. Great points on your strategies.

    It would be neat to crowd-source qualitative reviews like this for various cities.

  45. I am leaving Austin, TX and moving to DC this summer. I am doing what I can to find the best neighborhood and resale potential in 7-8 years in northern VA. It seems that inside the beltway, garages, and houses that back up to wooded lots are the most attractive to home buyers. I agree that competitive advantages are key. I found that in my current neighborhood in Austin and I bought while people were still not seeing the potential of the neighborhood. One thing that I would add is to overlook the inside photos and just concentrate on the area. In fact, buy a home that needs fixing so you can negotiate a better price. You can also add your own touch as well. People who have already gone in and replaced everything and put granite on their countertops have likely grossly inflated the price already.

    1. I totally agree with buying an unstaged, fixer. It’s hard for people to imagine space without design, hence why there are so many staged homes. And it’s hard for people to get their mind around doing the remodeling. But if you have someone you can depend on, at a good price, s/he is well worth it!

    2. AC, do you have any idea what areas in/around Austin meet these criteria that Sam has written about?? My son is contemplating transferring there in a few months for work, the company is in Cedar Park. Any insight on the ” up and coming” type neighborhoods would be great, he doesnt have any kids yet, so the school issue really isnt an issue. Thanks for any help.

      1. 78702– Central East Austin is quickly gentrifying. Directly adjacent to downtown, state capital, and UT, but still relative bargains to be found.

      2. I would advise your son to stay west of I-35. If he is looking at Austin proper he should look at houses inside of 183 close to Burnet or Lamar. There are probably some gems still in that area if he doesn’t mind fixing something up. Otherwise East Austin is still up and coming but too far for your son. Commuting into Cedar Park from Round Rock will probably be a good option. I don’t know much about the town, but it will be easier on him than Austin, because of the property taxes.

      3. It’s hard to find bargains now in Austin. Everything is growing fast! If he works in Cedar Park, he should consider living there or in Round Rock for an easy commute. If he really wants to living Austin (which I don’t blame him), he should look for a place just south of 183 close to Burnet. I doubt there is anything there reasonable that doesn’t require some fixing up, but it’s close to a lot of what makes Austin a great city.

        I live South, which there is nothing better! However, that would be a nightmare commute for your son everyday!

        1. Thanks for the replies, just one other question if i may. Being that my son is is only 25 and doesnt really have much ” life experience” yet, I’m trying to do as much leg work as i can for him. Is there any areas around Austin and/or Cedar Park that you would consider ” combat zones ” or ” i wouldnt live there if it was free ” areas to absolutely stay away from? Thanks again.

          1. I guess seedier is a relative term, because there are very few rough neighborhoods. East Austin used to be like that, but it’s experiencing a renaissance. He needs to make a visit out there 1-2 times to get a feel for some places, before signing into anything. The further away west of I-35 the better.

        2. Just take a vacation to SF or NYC, check out some properties, and everywhere will feel like a bargain!

          Coming from one of the more expensive and established neighborhoods in SF, Golden Gate Heights felt like Austin prices for example. $650-$800/sqft with ocean views is dirt cheap.

  46. My friend was just suggesting something similar recently. He wants to buy in an up and coming area in NYC since the prime neighborhoods are too expensive. Even Bushwick in BK which is not the greatest area is seen as up and coming…and some realtors have started to call it “East Williamsburg” to make it sound fancier. It seems like any area that is convenient to the subways and close enough to Manhattan will do well.

    1. Check properties across the Hudson River in NJ.

      Downtown JC (Grove St.) & Hoboken sit on the PATH trains and are doing very well but mature markets now. Look else where in Hudson county, there are plenty of opportunities as many folks flock towards the NYC area but don’t want to live in NYC.

      1. I thought New Yorkers are so depressed because the light at the end of the tunnel leads to New Jersey?

        Classic example of prejudice of one area over another area = opportunity!

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