San Francisco and Bay Area
  • $1500   =  non-traditional average 1
  • $2022   =  average 2BR ÷ 2, or traditional roommate rent 2
  • $2974   =  average 1BR, rented solo 3
  • (traditional vs. non-traditional roommates)
  • (the rest of the  southwest US)

100% live within a 10-minute walk of a park. 4
Most errands can be accomplished on foot. 5
empty office buildings, tent cities, drug addicts committing property crimes
public transit, pedestrian friendly, bicycle friendly, temperate climate, stunning views, movie locations causing many severe nostalgia all over the city (for some, most blocks!) 6
naked gay people, a LOT of tourists, no actual treasure, a new millionnaire neighborhood, ancient ruins, chinatown, filipino heaven, active wear mandatory, offices, SF State, traffic, and front-line of gentrification war are the largest hoodmap tags 7

SO, roomiematch.com's San Francisco roommate rundown:

These two things are true of more roommates signing up for San Francisco than any other city:

ONE:   They're possessed by a romantic dream for themselves in SF that is no longer realistic.

TWO:   Even if they realized their romantic dream against all odds, they'd still pass out from sticker shock at the roommate rent required to sustain it.

And some hope finding roommates will totally fix TWO. But in San Francisco, roommates aren't necessarily struggling, or wondering how they'll make rent next month. Living with roommates/family/both is more common than living alone. Many college-educated adults employed full-time in careers for which they're well-suited still need roommates. Again, true for many in all cities on this list, but San Francisco the most.

Roommates don't mean you're struggling.   They're the new normal.

SF is so affectionately depicted in so many movies and books that've stuck around, folks get charmingly brainwashed into thinking stuff that's no longer tenable. Thus, we've read a lot of roommate profiles that want to live in San Francisco 25 years ago . . . starting two months from now.

SF has seen severe flux, lately enough to surprise even long-term residents. The local economy is driven by tech and finance. Those industries have been volatile, and SF went on both their rocky rides.

Even after the dot-com boom busted a bit, well-educated and well-paid professionals in tech and finance continued moving here, continuing to raise real estate prices . . . while San Francisco did a terrible job providing housing for anyone else. Affordable housing is definitely not keeping up with demand, causing lower-income residents to struggle.

Meanwhile, since the pandemic, SF's new flux is empty office space. Many tech workers switched to remote work at least part-time, never returning full-time. This led many to wonder: Why couldn't anyone struggling to remain housed receive an empty office instead?

And while we're sure zoning issues render things forever "not quite that simple" . . . it's a worthwhile question. But even though SF is in flux, optimists should remember SF still hasn't been affordable for most . . . since the nineties? Through the dot-com boom, partial bust, and through the pandemic, real estate just didn't depreciate, never that much.

So if your romantic vision says otherwise, afraid it's fibbing the financials. And as for the hippie stereotypes of yore? Of course hippies still exist everywhere, but flower children these days usually pay less rent. Most Americans can't afford San Francisco.

So if you don't have a solid plan for SF, but are still considering moving from far away first, then figuring it out after you arrive . . . we'd like to suggest a "trial run" instead. Otherwise known as Sacramento.

You could live in Sacramento with an excellent car, drive near San Francisco three or four times a month, then take BART or Caltrain or a ferry the rest of the way. If and when you develop more exciting purposes within SF that require you return more than weekly, pay more then.

With well-planned commuting, you may find you can scratch your SF itch while living with roommates in Sacramento instead. If so, that experience will come with a lower price tag and less stress.

If not, if you find Sacramento just isn't close enough, it'll be more convenient to consider roommate situations in SF from nearby than . . . anywhere other than Sacramento, really, but definitely from much farther away.

Because Sacramento is more affordable overall!   Even with the car!

. . .

OK. You're still here, so focus on this switcheroo:   If you are definitely moving to San Francisco, not commuting from Sacramento?   Your instruction now is LOSE the car.

The right idea is to drive near San Francisco, then lose the car.   Because driving here is crazy.

SF street navigation is a slog, especially with how many street grids are there again? Just smooshed all together? And severely steep hills and a whole lotta one ways. Plus, left turns are prohibited. Sometimes.

Traffic within the city is usually heavy, parking is limited and expensive, and enforcement isn't kidding. You may be ticketed merely for your audacity driving here at all. And if you ever leave anything inside your car after daring to disembark, that shall be stolen from you as well. Along with all parking fees, fines and related extortions, of course.

Vehicle theft is unfortunately very common. Sometimes the whole car, always anything left inside. San Francisco is low in violent crime, but high in property offenses, including bike theft along with pickpocketing and purse snatching. On your person, never carry anything of value in easily accessible pockets.

San Francisco has more unhoused per capita than any other city. If someone asks for change and no is your answer, just say so politely and keep moving. Strangers on the street are unlikely to harm you physically but tiny robberies are common. Unfortunately, this is because open air drug markets fueled by petty theft happened too, as they were never strongly discouraged.

So is the romance no longer reality? Did we all wake up from the stunning dream of San Francisco? In some ways it seems so, but in another, not. The dream of San Francisco is more alive than ever with regard to (drum roll please) . . . . public transportation!

Many think SF public transport is the best in the country. Muni, the citywide public transit, with buses, trains, light rail, subway, streetcars, plus cable cars and trolleys, couldn't have much better features along with the right temperate weather to ride.

Yes, right here is the continent's only cable car system, still functioning. While all those different moving parts do get complicated, you can always plan your route in advance someplace comfy. Paying fares at the station right before boarding is possible too, but planning ahead might mean using MuniMobile or a "passport" for bargains.

You can also ride your bike across the iconic and stunning Golden Gate Bridge, with a consistent bike lane. Bike lanes can be intermittent in the rest of the city, and steep hills can suddenly become stamina-challenging stairs. Don't get your tires get stuck in any transit tracks in the street, and never ever never ever never leave your bike anywhere outside except securely locked to something heavy.

(And your lock can't be one of the many models thieves already efficiently dispatch using common handheld tools.)

So if you love public transportation and walking, with periodic biking or hiking? And you're ready and willing to pay very handsomely to live in a seven-by-seven mile square?

You might not need to get in a car ever again, at least as long as you're here.

And that's still stunning.

The rest of the San Francisco roommate lowdown:

  • along a narrow peninsula of 43 hills, forming about 50 square miles, about 7 miles by 7 miles, like a square - great for walkability and public transit as the city has nowhere to sprawl
  • most densely populated urban area (along with NYC), with about 850,000 residents in the city and the highest cost of living in California
  • Extreme hilliness featuring elevations of nearly 1000 feet causes local variability in fog, sunshine, and temperature. You should almost always bring a sweater or a windbreaker, as it could be 15 degrees cooler where you're going.
  • Summer is a lot of windy fog, while winter is rainier fog.
  • Since the population density is always high and the weather almost always temperate, every day is a festival of local events, with even larger ones every weekend.
  • San Francisco is the financial capital of the West Coast in terms of the number of major banks regionally or nationally headquartered here.
  • home to Menlo College, California College of Podiatric Medicine, College of Notre Dame, Dominican College of San Rafael, Lincoln University, New College of California, San Francisco Art Institute, California Institute of Integral Studies, Golden Gate University, San Francisco State University, Savbrook Institute, University of California, and the University of San Francisco
  • hosts the San Francisco 49ers (NFL), San Francisco Giants (MLB), and the Golden State Warriors (NBA)
  • Most of the islands surrounding the city are protected nature preserves.
  • San Francisco contains representations of all world cuisines, but especially Chinese and Filipino food, plus Mission burritos and cioppino. Mission burritos tend to be very large and contain rice. Cioppino or Fisherman's Stew is white-wine-and-tomato-based soup containing various seafoods, typically served with crusty bread.
  • If you walk through any grassy field, check for ticks! San Francisco has a high rate of lyme disease transmission.

After you're settled down, you and your roommates should experience San Francisco's:

  • Aquarium on the Bay: On the end of Pier 39, special focus on local creatures. Educational programs as well. Did you know various sharks use the shallow mudflats of San Francisco Bay as a breeding ground?
  • Golden Gate Park: An urban oasis with windmills
  • San Francisco Opera: San Franciscans has been "mad for their opera" since 1923.
  • de Young / Legion of Honor: Opened in 1895 and 1924, now collectively the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Special focus on American Art from the 17th century through today, including textiles and fashion, and European painting and sculpture.
  • San Francisco Ballet: Since 1933, pushing your boundaries of dance. Many performances to attend, and if you'd like to learn even more sign up for dance classes and lectures featuring choreographers and dancers.
  • Fleet Week: Usually the first week of October, celebrating the members of our military. There tend to be air displays and deck tours available, or just go walking past all the docked Navy ships like they're on parade.

Here's the city of San Francisco's official .gov for services & programs for residents, whole bunch of stuff new roommates might need right on the index page.


1.   The non-traditional roommate rent average for this city we've experienced over the last 3 years. We can't predict future rental availability, because we're neither in control of any rental market nor psychic, sorry!

But in most cities most of the time, the recent and relatively recent past are the best predictors.

2.   This idea came from smartasset.com's ranking of what a roommate saves you in 50 cities. They ranked where roommates will save you the most money, based on the average cost of a 1BR as opposed to a 2BR ÷ 2. Unsurprisingly, the more expensive the city, the more you can save, but the savings are significant in all larger metros. So we got the data for the rest of our cities from Zumper too.

This is really the minimum you could save, as you could live with more than one roommate, split more services, share food or other supplies, etc. More sharing tends to lead to more savings too, as per our roommate roadmap.

As per the rest of the description at the top of this page, we're calling this "traditional" roommate rent.

3.   From zumper.com.

4.   Directly quoted from the Trust for Public Land's parkland rating system.

"The ParkScore index awards each city up to 100 points for acreage based on the average of two equally weighted measures: median park size and parkland as a percentage of city area. Factoring park acreage into each city’s ParkScore rating helps account for the importance of larger “destination parks” that serve many users who live farther than ten minutes’ walking distance."

While each city's rundown already includes their individual ParkScore, nature lovers might like to see all roommate cities ranked for parkland.

5.   Directly quoted from Walk Score's Cities and Neighborhoods Ranking. They've ranked "more than 2,800 cities and over 10,000 neighborhoods so you can find a walkable home or apartment."

While each city's rundown already includes their individual Walk Score, dedicated pedestrians might like to see all roommate cities ranked for walkability.

6.   From various lists here on our own best roommate cities.

7.   From hoodmaps.com: a collaborative map where residents use tags describing social situations you're likely to find. Other users can thumb up or down, so the largest tags have been thumbed up the most.