Owning vs. renting in San Francisco, CA

There’s no denying the Bay Area has lots to offer residents, in innovation, jobs, and breathtaking scenery. However, it’s well-known that San Francisco is one of the most expensive places to call home for both renters and homeowners alike. This may leave you questioning if owning or renting is best for you. Look no further for our deep dive into owning versus renting in San Francisco, California.

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What’s best for you?

If San Francisco is the place you want to be, you might be unsure if buying or renting is best for you. This truly depends on a few things:

  • Your current financial situation
  • The length of time you plan to stay in the city
  • Consider your financial goals for the short and long-term

To make an educated decision, you must first understand buying will likely help build equity in your investment; however, buying in the Bay Area is certainly costly upfront. The median home value in San Francisco is about $1.2M, with a property tax rate that sits about 0.6 percent lower than the U.S. national average. 

Renting is more affordable, as there are simply fewer costs associated with renting a property. However, renting in this city is still not what many would consider affordable. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is around $3,300. The affordability comes in because renters do not need to pay for property taxes, repairs, homeowner association (HOA) fees, or often utilities.


Buying generally speaking is usually a safer financial investment. When you buy real estate, you are committing to building equity in your investment portfolio. This can help you grow your money, and help you create generational wealth for your family. 

San Francisco is a tough place to purchase a home just simply because the cost of living is so high. Many individuals have been leaving the Bay Area in recent years thanks to the increased popularity of work-from-home options. Home values have been steadily rising in this area to surpass the national average home prices. As of March 2022, home prices in San Francisco jumped in value 12.4 percent from the previous year. 

Although buying comes with more cost, there are additional benefits aside from growing your investment. A fixed-mortgage rate will ensure your monthly cost is locked in (unlike renting). The only real unknown about your cost of living when buying property is the tax rate which fluctuates in every city across the country. In 2022 San Francisco had a tax rate of 0.64 percent; in translation, on a $1M home that means your annual tax bill will be around $6,400.


Renting makes the most sense for someone who doesn’t plan to stay in the city for an extended amount of time, and for someone looking for less maintenance and less cost upfront. 

The major downside to renting is the fluctuation in rent prices. This unknown can make renters uneasy as prices continue to climb.