For many IT specialists, Silicon Valley is the most desirable place to live. It’s a global center for innovation and high technology as well as a large cluster of IT majors such as Apple, Cisco, Facebook, Intel, Twitter, and more. It’s also one of the most expensive regions on the planet.
If you’re dreaming of making Silicon Valley your new home and building your IT career there, you might want to research how much money you’ll need to make it worthwhile. This article covers most of the moving and living costs such as expenses related to flights, buying or renting a home, utility bills, kindergarten and school, groceries, transport, entertainment, health care, and more.
Note that we’ll mean by Silicon Valley the following counties in the Bay Area in Northern California:
- Alameda. Cities: Alameda, Berkeley, Dublin, Emeryville, Fremont, Hayward, Livermore, Oakland, San Leandro, Union City
- Contra Costa. Cities: Concord, Richmond, San Ramon, Walnut Creek
- San Francisco. Cities: San Francisco
- San Mateo. Cities: Daly City, Menlo Park, Redwood City, San Bruno, South San Francisco
- Santa Clara. Cities: Campbell, Cupertino, Milpitas, Mountain View, Palo Alto, San Jose, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale
- Solano. Cities: Vallejo
Map of California. Source: Google Maps
Map of Silicon Valley. Source: Google Maps
Most expensive cities in the U.S.?
Let’s start with Silicon Valley cost of living comparison.
San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose are among the top 20 most expensive locations in the U.S., according to Numbeo Cost of Living Index 2020, which takes into account the cost of rent, consumer goods (groceries, restaurants) as well as local purchasing power.
The cost of living in San Francisco is $1,180 (excluding rent) for a single person — this city ranks third in the U.S. in terms of consumer prices. Oakland comes sixth, with monthly costs of $1,142, and San Jose ranks 19th ($1,001/month). The average monthly costs for a four-person family in San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose are $4,290, $4,121, and $3,609, correspondingly (excluding rent).
However expensive Silicon Valley might be, its cities are not the ones with the highest consumer prices and rent in the U.S. San Francisco is outpaced by New York City and Honolulu, where the average monthly costs for a single person are $1,306 and $1,232, correspondingly. And Seattle, Boston, Washington, Chicago, Miami, and Los Angeles are more expensive than San Jose.
Now let’s look closer at individual moving and living costs in Silicon Valley.
First, you might want to ship your belongings from your home country to Silicon Valley. Shipping costs may be different depending on the size of the move, distance, route, transportation method, shipping company, etc. Typical costs start from $1,000 and can easily exceed $7,000 for long-distance moves overseas. It normally takes 20 to 50 days to ship a container over long distances.
Below are container shipping costs to San Francisco from other major world cities. Keep in mind that the figures only reflect the shipping portion of the cost and not the full moving costs.
Container shipping rates to San Francisco (full container load) according to Freightos:
- Dubai. 20 ft container: $710–910; 40 ft container: $2,040 – 4,310; 27–36 days
- Dublin. 20 ft container: $1,490 – 2,420; 40 ft container: $3,650 – 4,750; 19–38 days
- Hamburg. 20 ft container: $1,070 – 2,285; 40 ft container: $2,500 – 4,080; 20–33 days
- Hong Kong. 20 ft container: $2,440 – 5,100; 40 ft container: $3,070 – 7,165; 23–48 days
- Istanbul. 20 ft container: $300 – 2,555; 40 ft container: $2,700 – 4,580; 23–29 days
- London. 20 ft container: $1,490 – 2,420; 40 ft container: $3,650 – 4,750; 19–38 days
- Moscow. 20 ft container: $300 – 2,555; 40 ft container: $2,700 – 4,580; 20–27 days
- Mumbai. 20 ft container: $2,440 – 5,100; 40 ft container: $3,070 – 7,165; 28–48 days
- Shanghai. 20 ft container: $2,440 – 5,100; 40 ft container: $3,070 – 7,165; 21–48 days
- Singapore. 20 ft container: $2,440 – 5,100; 40 ft container: $3,070 – 7,165; 29–48 days
- Sydney. 20 ft container: $1,740 – 2,300; 40 ft container: $2,950 – 3,445; 25–50 days
A 20 ft shipping container is suitable for 1–2 bedroom moves or a car with only a few boxes. Its size is about 6 m × 2.4 m × 2.4 m, and its shipping load is around 25,000 kg.
A 40 ft shipping container is suitable for 3–5 bedroom moves or a car plus a typical two-bedroom move. Its size is about 12 m × 2.4 m × 2.4 m, and its shipping load is around 26,600 – 27,600 kg.
If you want to ship a car and a large household, you may need more than one container. Note that a 40 ft shipping container usually costs just 20–25% more than a 20 ft container.
Other moving expenses may include packing materials such as boxes, tape, and bubble wrap ($100–400) as well as insurance (starting from $100).
Shipping costs subtotal:
- Single person: $1,200 – 2,700
- Couple: $1,200 – 2,700
- Couple with a child: $3,000 – 5,000
- Couple with two children: $3,000 – 5,000
To make the move to Silicon Valley, you might also need to buy plane tickets. Here’s approximately how much it will cost to fly from other major world cities to San Francisco based on fares from Skyscanner as of fall 2020:
- Dubai: $1,490 – 4,370 (19–24 h, 1 stop)
- Dublin: $430 – 3,770 (14–16 h, 1 stop)
- Hamburg: $420–430 (14–26 h, 1 stop)
- Hong Kong: $400 – 1,610 (15–17 h, 1 stop)
- Istanbul: $520 – 1,240 (13–25 h, 1 stop, non-stop)
- London: $680 (11 h, non-stop)
- Moscow: $520 – 1,725 (19–32 h, 1 stop)
- Mumbai: $1,280 – 3,325 (21 h, 1 stop)
- Shanghai: $3,260 (15 h, non-stop)
- Singapore: $1,060 – 1,390 (20 h, 1 stop)
- Sydney: $1,260 – 4,780 (14–19 h, non-stop)
Flight costs subtotal:
- Single person: $500 – 1,500
- Couple: $1,000 – 3,000
- Couple with a child: $1,500 – 4,500
- Couple with two children: $2,000 – 6,000
When you’ve already set your feet on the soil of Silicon Valley, you need to find a place to live. Your employer may provide you with temporary accommodation. If not, you can find short-term rentals on Airbnb or similar websites. Allow several weeks to hunt for a long-term apartment or house.
The most popular websites to look for housing in Silicon Valley are Zillow, Trulia, and sfbay.craigslist.org. Zillow and Trulia offer more options. For example, each listing has a list of schools for the school district where the house is located as well as school ratings.
To rent a house for six months and more, you need a rental history, credit history, and proof of income for each family member. It may be easier to rent a flat in a residential complex. The procedure itself is simpler, the number of offers is greater, fewer documents are required, and the deposit is also smaller than when renting a house. Residential complexes normally have a common area, one or more swimming pools, and a gym.
The Marc, a residential complex in Palo Alto (from $3,500/month). Source: Zillow
If you’re a single person or a couple without children, you can rent a studio or a one-bedroom apartment. If you have children, you might want to rent a larger apartment or house. A couple with one child will need accommodation with at least two bedrooms, and a couple with two children will need a three- or four-bedroom apartment or house.
Silicon Valley is one of the most expensive rental markets in the world. This is how rents in this region compare with rents in various cities around the globe (according to Numbeo):
- New York: 23% higher
- Los Angeles: 13% lower
- London: 18% lower
- Singapore: 25% lower
- Sydney: 31% lower
- Dubai: 38% lower
- Toronto: 40% lower
- Paris: 42% lower
- Shanghai: 54% lower
- Moscow: 71% lower
- Mumbai: 75% lower
The range of prices for an apartment in Silicon Valley is very wide. Prices start from $2,000 and reach $10,000 per month, depending on the location, overall condition of the building, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and the availability of amenities such as gyms, saunas, barbecue areas, and swimming pools.
Here are approximate rental prices in Silicon Valley:
- One-bedroom apartment: $2,000 – 3,500 and more
- Two-bedroom apartment: $3,000 – 4,500 and more
- Single-family house: $2,500 – 7,000
- Large house in a good area: from $10,000
In the East Bay (Alameda, Concord, Emeryville, Fremont, Livermore, San Ramon, Walnut Creek), you can find one-bedroom apartments for $2,000. However, as you get closer to the campuses of technology companies in Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Cupertino, and Mountain View, the price can easily rise to $4,000.
Here are more examples of average rental prices in San Francisco and San Jose based on quotes from Zillow.
The median rent price in San Francisco is $4,500:
- 1 bedroom: $3,570
- 2 bedrooms: $4,510
- 3 bedrooms: $5,400
- 4 bedrooms: $6,060
- Single family: $4,310
- Condo/co-op: $4,4610
- Top tier: $5,190
- Middle tier: $4,220
- Bottom tier: $3,640
The median rent price in San Jose is $3,400:
- 1 bedroom: $2,460
- 2 bedrooms: $2,890
- 3 bedrooms: $3,380
- 4 bedrooms: $3,640
- Single family: $3,570
- Condo/co-op: $2,970
- Top tier: $3,540
- Middle tier: $3,120
- Bottom tier: $2,670
If you’re a single person, you can save on housing costs by sharing an apartment or house. You can find roommates on the following websites: EasyRoommate, Kangaroom, Roommates, or Yelp.
Rental prices subtotal:
- Single person: $2,500 – 3,000/month
- Couple: $3,000 – 4,000/month
- Couple with a child: $6,000 – 7,000/month
- Couple with two children: $6,000 – 8,000/month
Home purchase prices
Alternatively, you may consider purchasing a house or an apartment in Silicon Valley. The most popular websites to look for housing are Zillow and Trulia.
Silicon Valley’s housing market is one of the most expensive ones in the world. This is how home purchase prices in Silicon Valley compare with prices in various cities around the globe (according to Numbeo):
- Paris: 45% higher
- Singapore: 41% higher
- London: 11% higher
- New York: 11% higher
- Shanghai: 2% lower
- Toronto: 10% lower
- Sydney: 20% lower
- Los Angeles: 24% lower
- Mumbai: 66% lower
- Dubai: 67% lower
- Moscow: 69% lower
Here are approximate home purchase prices in Silicon Valley:
- One-bedroom apartment: 300,000 – 1,500,000
- Two-bedroom apartment: 500,000 – 2,000,000
- Single-family house: 600,000 – 3,000,000
In the East Bay (Alameda, Concord, Emeryville, Fremont, Livermore, San Ramon, Walnut Creek), you can find one-bedroom apartments for $300,000 – 400,000. However, as you get closer to the campuses of technology companies in Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Cupertino, and Mountain View, the average price can easily reach $1M.
Here are more examples of average home purchase prices in San Francisco and San Jose based on quotes from Zillow.
The median home value in San Francisco is $1,447,190, and the median price per square foot is $1,110:
- Studio: $1.38M
- 1 bedroom: $955K
- 2 bedrooms: $1.39M
- 3 bedrooms: $1.67M
- 4 bedrooms: $2.01M
- 5+ bedrooms: $2.52M
- Single family: $1.52M
- Condo/co-op: $1.28M
- Top tier: $2.16M
- Middle tier: $1.45M
- Bottom tier: $1.07M
Median home purchase prices in San Francisco neighborhoods:
- Buena Vista: $1,469,700
- Corona Heights: $1,465,400
- Haight: $1,411,800
- Hayes Valley: $1,307,700
- Panhandle: $1,301,200
- Western Addition: $1,072,200
The median home value in San Jose is $1,073,255, and the median price per square foot is $610:
- Studio: $1.10M
- 1 bedroom: $589K
- 2 bedrooms: $754K
- 3 bedrooms: $1.03M
- 4 bedrooms: $1.22M
- 5+ bedrooms: $1.54M
- Single family: $1.15M
- Condo/co-op: $712K
- Top tier: $1.48M
- Middle tier: $1.07M
- Bottom tier: $794K
Median home purchase prices in San Jose neighborhoods:
- Willow Glen: $1,074,400
- Rose Garden: $967,200
- North Valley: $805,500
- Burbank: $787,100
- Downtown San Jose: $728,400
- Alum Rock — East Foothills: $671,200
- Edenvale — Seven Trees: $662,100
- East San Jose : $645,300
- Fairgrounds: $642,700
Now let’s say you want to purchase a house in Silicon Valley for $1,000,000 using a 10-year mortgage at 4% per annum. If you submit a down payment of 10% (around $100,000), your monthly payment (including taxes and insurance) would be $10,450. That’s a lot of money! So you may want to consider renting, at least during your first years in Silicon Valley.
Home purchase costs subtotal:
- Single person: $500,000
- Couple: $800,000
- Couple with a child: $1M
- Couple with two children: $1–2M
- Mortgage: $100,000 + $10,450 per month
Utility bills and similar costs
Rental prices often don’t include utilities, so you will have to pay an average of about $300 per month for water, natural gas, electricity, and garbage disposal. Add to this Internet for $70–80 and unlimited mobile communications for $45–50 per month.
Utility bills (electricity, natural gas, water, sewer, garbage disposal) are usually higher in winter months. For example, if you pay $200 in summer, these expenses can rise to about $400 in winter. Also, expect to pay significantly more for a large house with a pool and a garden.
Sample monthly utility bills and similar expenses in California:
- Water: $65–70
- Sewer: $20–90 (depending on the size of the sewer system)
- Electricity: $120–150. Electricity generally includes heating, cooling, lighting, and appliances
- Natural gas: $35–60 depending on the number of appliances or systems that run on natural gas. Gas-fueled items may include water heaters, fireplaces, ovens, grills, furnaces, and gas ranges
- Garbage disposal: $20–50. Garbage disposal costs may include around $25 a month for valet trash services, i.e. taking out garbage right from the threshold of your apartment
- Internet and TV: $70–120
- Phone: $45–50
- House cleaning: $400 (once a week for $100)
- Gardener: $100
- Pool cleaning: $135
- Insurance: $20 ($220 per year). It’s mandatory to pay for insurance, even if you rent a home
Utility bills subtotal (with additional expenses):
- Single person: $200–400/month
- Couple: $300–400/month
- Couple with a child: $550–650/month
- Couple with two children: $650–900/month
Part 2 of this article will cover other expenses related to living in Silicon Valley: child care expenses, groceries, public transportation, car expenses, health insurance, household goods, and more.