September 7, 2009

San Francisco, San Jose, cost of living comparisons for Labor Day

It’s Labor Day! That means you should be laboring to ensure your company remains innovative and profitable (as measured by page views, eye balls, friends collected, downloads, etc).

To help celebrate, let’s look at some cost of living comparisons! You know… to see what you’re laboring for.

But first, we need to agree on what salary to choose for comparison. I’m going to pick $100,000 for an easy number to compare (though we know that most make generously more than that!)

Here we go!

Unfortunately, CNN’s calculator doesn’t have Real Bay Area as a destination (yet), so first we’ll have to decide between SF vs SJ:

SFvSJ

Alright… we’re going to with SF as the comparison.

So let’s look locally first – what about other parts of this great state – California. Let’s look to Los Angeles:

SJvLASJvOCSJvSD

Wow… it’s kind of a shocker that groceries are so much cheaper in SoCal! What’s up with that? They’re probably eating all junk food, not “Alice Waters approved only” food that everyone here in the Real Bay Area eats. (BTW, San Diego was even cheaper, so I decided to leave it out.)

Ok, let’s look at our arch nemesis – New York City! But wait, there’s a few possibilities, so we’ll look at all of them, including its Cupertino-wannabe-suburbs:

SJvManhattanSJvQueensSJvBrooklynSJvNassauSJvNJSJvStamford

Alright! A pretty good showing! We haven’t quite licked Manhattan yet, but we’re making progress. And we’re definitely more important now that Wall Street is over and green tech is the new wave of the everyday-millionaire in the future. It’s great to see that we’ve beaten nearly all the places where people who work in Manhattan live (Queens is a draw – and look who lives there… just look at their King!). How can Goldman Sachs employees living in Nassau County possibly compete with the fine fine people that we have in San Jose? If we looked at the San Francisco, this would be a total home run except for Manhattan. Great work everyone!

Ok, now let’s look at some fake Silicon Valley contenders:

SJvSeattleSJvPortlandSJvDenverSJvAustinSJvNCSJvBoston

Now, you might be tempted to move to one of these pretenders, lured by their incredibly cheap cost of living.

Don’t fall for it!

Did you know that in most of these cities, brilliant engineers, the true saviors of the world, are paid only minimum wage? And that no only do they not get Aeron chairs, Dual Quad Proc machines with 30″ LCDs, but instead they have to use folding chairs and Commodore 64′s with tape drive and acoustic coupler modems. Seriously. As for sushi? Let’s just say you’d better get used to eating Chicken of the Sea. Santana Row? Fry’s? Nope. Better get used to doing all your shopping at Walmart Outlet, and Radio Shack Factory Store. Don’t even get me started on the weather – people die there because of the weather. Have you ever heard of people dying here in the Real Bay Area due to natural events (excluding earthquakes which never happen)? Why else do you think it is so cheap in these places? There’s no such thing as a free lunch!

I hope you enjoyed and appreciated this thorough analysis of what it is like to live in other places. Enjoy your labor day!

Comments (74) -- Posted by: burbed @ 5:18 am

74 Responses to “San Francisco, San Jose, cost of living comparisons for Labor Day”

  1. Joe Says:

    Thanks for the analysis Burbed! I’m going to post this website again, because I think it’s worth a read. Burbed’s analysis says Orange County’s housing costs 4% more than San Jose…

    http://www.irvinehousingblog.com/blog/comments/arden-northwood-irvine/?ref=patrick.net

    Wonder what the banks will do with the ballooning inventory over the next 5 years?

  2. anon Says:

    This is going to be one awesome recession.

  3. Top Dog Says:

    Speaking of comparisons, many of our local Zips are among the top 100 in the nation, according to Forbes magazine.

  4. Zak Says:

    Rest of the world eats Sushi too. It is made of Venison so the taste is a little different.

  5. nomadic Says:

    Top Dog – was that supposed to make us feel better? Sub-headline: Prices slide, even in the glitziest neighborhoods.

    Atherton down 23%? What is the world coming to?

  6. anon Says:

    Top Dog, I cam confused.

    You say that the zips are “among the top 100 in the nation.”

    And yet, the article says that they’re the most expensive zip codes.

    Now, how did you get from “most expensive” to “among the top?”

    My gut tells me you are confused.

  7. anon Says:

    “Atherton down 23%? What is the world coming to?”

    Slowly coming to reality…

  8. nomadic Says:

    The article also demonstrates what many on this blog have been trying to get RE to understand for the last two years:

    The country’s prime suburbs fared just as poorly as urban areas on our list. But unlike scores of lower-priced neighborhoods across the country, these areas are not necessarily experiencing rampant foreclosures or speculative flight. Rather, few potential buyers are biting.

    Take for example affluent Atherton, Calif. (94027), where residents bring in an average annual salary of $122,571. Foreclosures don’t explain its 23% price slide; there are only 10 homes in foreclosure there.

    -snip-
    The good news? Bargain hunters simply have to be patient, because sellers are soon going to have to offer hefty discounts.

  9. Pralay Says:

    Now, how did you get from “most expensive” to “among the top?”

    My gut tells me you are confused.
    ——

    Top Lazy Dog just needs to follow its own advice. :)

  10. UnrealAlex Says:

    Dammit that’s not true about engineers making min. wage, the truth is, most engineers are living with Mom or in the tent city and making what they can spanging.

  11. anon Says:

    spanging – now there’s a word I haven’t heard since the early 90s…

  12. Real Estater Says:

    Local coverage of the 100 Most Expensive Zips in the Mercury News:

    Atherton was sixth in last year’s rankings, 16th the year before

    Atherton Council Member Charles Marsala attributed the town’s ranking to a scarcity of available property and relatively large parcel sizes, as well as an independent police department and strong schools.
    Of course, location doesn’t hurt, he said.
    “Being close to 101 and Stanford and everything that’s around us keeps the value there,” Marsala said. “It’s a one-two-three punch. We have Stanford University creating the ideas. In Menlo Park are the venture capitalists that fund those ideas, and in Atherton is where many of them live. The three cities provide the innovation for a lot of projects.”
    .

    Here are the all-star cities from the RBA:

    In Forbes’ top 100
     2. 94027 Atherton
     8. 94024 Los Altos Hills
    25. 94010 Hillsborough
    31. 95030 Monte Sereno
    35. 94062 Woodside
    37. 94028 Portola Valley
    44. 94022 Los Altos Hills
    49. 94022 Los Altos
    67. 94024 Los Altos
    71. 94301 Palo Alto
    93. 95070 Saratoga
    98. 95030 Los Gatos

  13. mike Says:

    I’ve lost track of all the aliases RE is using.

  14. Real Estater Says:

    Mike says,

    >>I’ve lost track of all the aliases RE is using.

    You mean accused of using, by the same guy over and over.

  15. DreamT Says:

    RE, you can lay off burbed today, it’s labor day. You’re supposed to rest.

  16. anon Says:

    But he’s working so hard to show Atherton hasn’t lost value.

    What with all the handwaving and all…

    Real Estater, way to cite and article that is completely irrelevant to the discussion.

  17. burbed Says:

    And now I’ve learned the term spanging. Thanks!

  18. anon Says:

    Real estater,

    You always know what’s going on. Any guesses as to what spanging means?

  19. Real Estater Says:

    anon,

    Please focus on real estate related discussions.

  20. DreamT Says:

    *cough*ser

  21. DreamT Says:

    I think I caught swine flu by reading #19

  22. nomadic Says:

    Funny to see the vaunted 94301 so far down the list.

  23. Anon Says:

    Atherton is down. Think how much pa must be down…

  24. Real Estater Says:

    >>Funny to see the vaunted 94301 so far down the list.

    Shouldn’t be surprising. 94301 has lots of condos downtown. If you look at price / sq. ft., it should be right up there with Atherton, if not higher. As we discussed before, a property of similar size is consistently higher in 94301 than Atherton. Another thing to keep in mind is that majority of the high worth properties in 94301 are never transacted.

  25. nomadic Says:

    Another thing to keep in mind is that majority of the high worth properties in 94301 are never transacted.

    Of course, people are so rich, they just give properties to their rich cohorts! Yes, yes, private sales and all that crap… I would expect a serious outfit like Altos Research would get its data from the city or county records, rather than the MLS or some equivalent.

    If you look at Alto Research’s website, you’ll find that Atherton is $900/sf and PA is $813/sf. I would have thought Atherton would be quite a bit lower because generally as houses get much larger, the $/sf get relatively lower. And we all know PA has some puny little houses (as well as the condos you brought up).

  26. Real Estater Says:

    nomadic,

    I wasn’t referring to private sales. Majority of the big mansions are never sold to anyone, period. They’re held for a long period of time, and then passed on to someone in the same family.

    $813/sq ft sounds about right for PA overall. I was talking about 94301 specifically. Most of the sales I’ve seen are above $900/sq. ft. Even $1000/sq. ft. is pretty normal. Price per sq. ft. aside, land is generally more expensive in Palo Alto. For $3-4M you can find a 1 acre lot in Atherton. In Palo Alto, you get a new construction on a 7500 sq. ft. lot.

  27. Pralay Says:

    You mean accused of using, by the same guy over and over.
    —–

    Too logic-impaired guys – both quoting the same article from Forbes. Too much to be coincidence! Comment style change not sufficient to cover up the logic-impairment.

  28. Alex Says:

    At the rate this real estate market is going, Real Estater will start spanging for spare change.

  29. Real Estater Says:

    >>Too logic-impaired guys

    Looks like a spelling-impaired guy forgot to use the spell-checker.

  30. Pralay Says:

    At the rate this real estate market is going, Real Estater will have hundreds clones soon to support his own points (like SV Shopper who misses Madison Ave, Top Lazy Dog etc).

    One will say – “Look at this Forbes article”.
    Another will say – “Look at the local coverage of Forbes aricles”.
    Another will say – “Look at the coverage of Forbes article on Palo Alto Online.”

  31. Pralay Says:

    Looks like a spelling-impaired guy forgot to use the spell-checker.
    —–

    Thanks for correcting. The reality of the world, perhaps sadly, is that no one will be particularly impressed if you can spell. :)

  32. Real Estater Says:

    OK, Pralay. Show us your diploma, address, and mate, and we’ll waive your spelling error. 1 out 3 will do.

  33. Real Estater Says:

    New site will put useless aggregate data to bed:

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/ontheblock/detail?&entry_id=46912

  34. Pralay Says:

    OK, Pralay. Show us your diploma, address, and mate, and we’ll waive your spelling error. 1 out 3 will do.
    —–

    Well, that’s not my statement. I am quoting the logic-impaired guy. He must have shown it when he made that statement on Nov 8th. You need to ask him.

  35. anon Says:

    “I wasn’t referring to private sales. Majority of the big mansions are never sold to anyone, period. ”

    Being new to the market and area, real estater, please tell us how you know this.

  36. Pralay Says:

    Well, it depends on his own definition of “big mansion”, which will continue to change as the debate goes forward.

    It’s like RBA. If a big mansion was sold in past, it is not big mansion. You know Real Estater, right?

  37. anon Says:

    Ah yes you are correct.

    I love it: “big mansions”

  38. Pralay Says:

    New site will put useless aggregate data to bed:

    A real estate agent with Mercedes Volkswagen Bugs! :O

  39. bob Says:

    Its kind of shocking to see just how drastic a difference there is between some of these cities and even more so when you realize that these are merely comparing medians. The reality is that in many of the wannabe SV’s you could actually buy for far less than the median meaning housing could cost as much as 75-80% less than the RBA.

  40. no estater Says:

    No downturn here!

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/ontheblock/detail?blogid=58&entry_id=45809

  41. no estater Says:

    hey, why did my post get gobbled up?

  42. no estater Says:

    must’ve been the link.

    NO DOWNTURN HERE! (I’ll shout this time – and leave out the link.)

    Palo Alto’s University Ave. among hardest hit on the Peninsula

    Palo Alto’s downtown area, once a modest drag with servicey stores, like button shops and hardware stores, transformed into a booming high-end retail area during the last decade, partly in response to Palo Alto’s increasingly wealthy residential base.

    But the outlook for the downtown area isn’t so pretty now. The vacancy rate on University Avenue, the main street in downtown Palo Alto, is up to 10.9 percent, according to an informal survey conducted by the Palo Alto Daily News. And that’s well above Mountain View’s Castro Street (4.3 percent) and Los Altos’ Main Street (5.4 percent), according to the paper. The vacancy rate on University Avenue is, however, much lower than Palo Alto’s Bryant Street, where it’s up to 35 percent, after a few boutiques and a couple art galleries were forced to close.

    Part of the problem, according to one local real estate expert, is that Palo Alto landlords took too long to cut rates. Lease rates in the Bay Area didn’t “drop substantially” until the third quarter of 2008, and in Palo Alto, rates didn’t drop until the fourth quarter of 2008, Anita Ghai, Bay Area research manager for CB Richard Ellis, told the Palo Alto Daily News.

  43. nomadic Says:

    There is comedy gold on that sfgate blog… here’s one more:

    You couldn’t make this stuff up. A Bay Area real-estate agent is marketing himself as a “vegetarian broker”. This being his unique selling proposition, presumably he hopes to reel in like-minded veggie lovers as clients.

    “Are you a vegetarian or vegan preparing to buy or sell a house? Are you dreading the thought of the contact you will be forced to have with real-estate agents, as part of the process (the same way most people dread upcoming encounters with used car salesmen)? You are not alone!” broker Daniel Berman from Pacific Century Realty writes on his website.

    -snip-
    Berman, whose patch is Palo Alto, boasts of another distinction. He is, he claims, “the only non-ethnically Chinese real estate broker in the Bay Area who is fluent in (Mandarin) Chinese”.

    Well, I guess you can’t blame professionals for using every tool in the box when it comes to selling their services in this dire market.

  44. BuyersAreIdiots Says:

    Nice analysis burbed!!

    Good breakdowns across the board. salary dot com does a good job of doing comparisons of that nature.

  45. bob Says:

    Palo Alto’s downtown area, once a modest drag with servicey stores, like button shops and hardware stores, transformed into a booming high-end retail area during the last decade, partly in response to Palo Alto’s increasingly wealthy residential base.

    I’ve never liked downtown Palo Alto and much of the rest of the SV towns for this reason: They lost their identity a long time ago and gone are the Mom-N-Pop stores, diners, and so forth. That and prices tend to be really spendy, which is why I bring my lunch every day. I generally dislike gentrified neighborhoods because they feel fake to me. But Alameda might not be far behind. I actually overheard someone at a store mentioning that ” Alameda was about to pop because everyone in SF with kids has “discovered” it. Oh boy. Gentrification here we come. Prepare for blandness…

  46. Pralay Says:

    NO DOWNTURN DOWNTOWN HERE! (I’ll shout this time – and leave out the link.)

    Palo Alto’s University Ave. among hardest hit on the Peninsula
    ——

    Useless aggregated data. The those shops leaving University Ave are deadwoods anyway. Just like 15% layoff is being healthy, 15% vacancy in University Ave is healthy too. We don’t want old fashioned Persian rug store. We want rugs with modern design that matches with the modern styles of “Face Book” office and Apple store.

  47. nomadic Says:

    You mean the Persian rug store that has a “going out of business” sale every other week? ;-)

  48. Pralay Says:

    More dead wood cleanup – this time in Sanford University:

    Stanford University endowment loses big

    Stanford, the nation’s third-wealthiest university, is feeling poor.

    The school has laid off 412 employees dead woods this year, with dozens more layoffs cleanup to come. It has also frozen salaries yogurt and shuttered its physics library as it tries to counter the largest loss to its endowment in 120 years.

    Those 412 employees were dead woods. They should have fired long time back. Physics library? Useless thing. Nowadays everything available online. Therefore I must conclude: there’s no recession, no layoffs, no downturn, no hurricane, no snow.

  49. Pralay Says:

    You mean the Persian rug store that has a “going out of business” sale every other week?
    —–

    Actually that one closed, EVENTUALLY, after having “going out of business” signs for months.

  50. BuyersAreIdiots Says:

    Too logic-impaired guys

    Looks like a spelling-impaired guy forgot to use the spell-checker.

    Technically, that is not a spelling error. It is a grammar error. Which is why it eluded Pralay’s spell checker. (‘too’ is a valid word; the context is wrong but not the spelling)

    I would have figured that ‘some tech guy’ would be aware of the difference….

  51. nomadic Says:

    Sure, he knows, but can’t be bothered with such trivialities. It takes him forever just to sound out his posts, after all…

  52. steve Says:

    nomadic, lol

    bob, re downtowns, I agree with the sentiment. however, SV downtowns seem to match their communities. you write:

    I’ve never liked downtown Palo Alto and much of the rest of the SV towns for this reason: They lost their identity a long time ago

    but main street is extremely los altos, santa cruz is menlo park to a fault, woodside’s tiny downtown (complete with the Pioneer) is too, and laurel reflects the new san carlos. atherton and hillsborough aren’t allowed to have businesses, and burlingame ave is gentrified, but 3rd and 4th in san mateo are authentic. there’s been high turnover on castro in mountain view, but that’s for the better. and, if you want an alternative to university, california ave is the better PA downtown.

    ps, since you mentioned “spnedy”if you want something truly “authentic” and cheap, check Middlefield in non-RBA RWC. It starts a few hundred yards from the atherton border and continues to woodside rd.

    finally, on vacancy rates, I wonder how much of that is because facebook relocated.

  53. DreamT Says:

    steve – “there’s been high turnover on castro in mountain view, but that’s for the better”
    I’d echo this sentiment (along with everything else you write) but for two puzzling realizations:
    * some of the worst restaurants from 10 years ago are still open. Guess they own as opposed to lease.
    * as soon as a restaurant is successful on Castro, the cook or the manager(s) moves on.

  54. cardinal2007 Says:


    Stanford, the nation’s third-wealthiest university, is feeling poor.

    The school has laid off 412 employees dead woods this year, with dozens more layoffs cleanup to come. It has also frozen salaries yogurt and shuttered its physics library as it tries to counter the largest loss to its endowment in 120 years.

    Pralay,
    You’re right I went down to Stanford about 2 weeks ago on a Sunday, and there was a new Frozen Yogurt place, I hadn’t been to Tressider in a while so I don’t know how long it has been there, but it wasn’t there when I was attending Stanford. Clearly things are looking up over there.

    Afterwards I went out to eat with a friend to the Olive Garden, I’m not really a big fan of the place since I think there are better places to eat, but he likes the place. I got there, and there was about a 30 minute wait to be seated for a party of 2, on a Sunday night, at the Olive Garden in Palo Alto, that clearly shows there is no downturn there.

  55. sonarrat Says:

    Olive Garden is lower middle class buffoonery. That is proof there IS a downturn.

  56. nomadic Says:

    lol – sonarrat, is that really you?

    I always thought Olive Garden was mostly for the retired folks. Or maybe couples with little kids they don’t want to inflict on the better restaurants.

  57. sonarrat Says:

    Holy crap, I saw the name and thought, naaaaaaaah, that couldn’t be the same guy… I’ve been posting here since 2007. :D

  58. sonarrat Says:

    Never mind that post.. I’m delirious. You were saying something totally different than I thought you were.

  59. cardinal2007 Says:

    I always thought Olive Garden was mostly for the retired folks. Or maybe couples with little kids they don’t want to inflict on the better restaurants.

    Based on what I saw, I’ll say the latter. Same for the CPK on Cowper.

    I’m thinking of seeing how crowded the Pizza My Heart, and the Cheesecake Factory are. That will really show there is no downturn there.

    In case anyone is unclear, I’m being sarcastic, I doubt anecdotes about the Olive Garden or any place really will say anything about the economic conditions there, it is better to go by vacancy rates, and other concrete measures.

  60. Pralay Says:

    Based on what I saw, I’ll say the latter. Same for the CPK on Cowper.

    I’m thinking of seeing how crowded the Pizza My Heart, and the Cheesecake Factory are. That will really show there is no downturn there.
    —–

    Olive Garden, CPK, Pizza My Heart, Cheesecake Factory all are “high end” restaurants – just like Dynasty. They are guaranteed to be successful here. As you have noticed in this credit crisis, some banks are too big to fail. Same way, these restaurants are too high-end to fail. SV is a place for smart and sophisticated “management class” people who earn double digit bonus. They don’t dine out in cheap restaurants.

    I know, you would be wondering why 75% people dining out in Cheesecake Factory look like students. That’s because they are high-end students from high-end university like Stanford. They are future Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

  61. nomadic Says:

    Yep, no downturn. Here, at least:

    http://www.reuters.com/article/ousivMolt/idUSN0829208920090908

    Total U.S. consumer credit fell by a record $21.6 billion in July, Federal Reserve data showed on Tuesday, the latest hint household spending would be too weak to drive the economy’s recovery from recession.

  62. mike Says:

    Found this on irvinehousingblog.

    More evidence that there’s no recession in California!

    ———
    “Two out of five working-age Californians jobless, study says”
    http://www.rgj.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090906/BIZ/909060326
    ———

    That means 3 out of 5 Californians(the majority!!) have jobs.

  63. anon Says:

    lost souls…

  64. no estater Says:

    Well, in the valley there are thousands of working-age people who cashed out big on their stock options. They don’t have to work!

  65. DreamT Says:

    Ironically these are the ones most likely to have a job right now. If you’ve been able to cash in on a past success, you’re among the most attractive job applicants.

  66. Jojo Says:

    Haha Boston, seriously…what do they have… MIT? Its not even comparable to the great San Jose State University in the heart of the silicon valley. I mean its in San Jose!!! It has to be the best tech school…

  67. no estater Says:

    but DT, no one else matters.

    they’re deadwood.

  68. Pralay Says:

    Ironically these are the ones most likely to have a job right now.
    —–

    And smooth sailor by virtue of zipcode.

  69. Top Dog Says:

    Paul Krugman says a $9 trillion dollar deficit is manageable. What do you guys think?

  70. nomadic Says:

    I think Paul Cohen captured some excellent points in the comment section:

    Paul,

    I’m not sure comparing debt levels today with the end of WW II is appropriate.

    We started this great recession already having a large deficit, which was not true in 1940.

    After WW II, our manufacturing capacity was intact, unlike the rest of the world, giving us a virtual monopoly on production. Manufacturing was a large component of GDP. Now it is not.

    After WW II, with all our soldiers returning home and starting my boomer generation, it created a huge engine of consumer demand for years to come.

    It seems to me that our loss of manufacturing from the days of WW II makes recovery more difficult and consequently, our ability to reduce debt. What do we make for our consumption or for exporting that can create GDP growth and create jobs?

  71. Top Dog Says:

    On the other hand, one can argue the tech sector of today has replaced our manufacturing industry. Our tech companies are still a dominant force in the world, as our auto industry was after WWII. Think of IBM, Microsoft, Google, Oracle, and so forth.

  72. nomadic Says:

    Don’t all of them have more employees in low-cost regions than in the USA? Even if they don’t, they don’t employ nearly the numbers of people the manufacturing industries supported for decades. Tech is a pale shadow in comparison.

  73. Top Dog Says:

    You think the tech industry of today is a pale shadow compared to the auto industry after WWII?

  74. nomadic Says:

    Yes. Tech needs much less supply chain and infrastructure, even when you include the hardware.


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