The 9 Most Affordable Neighborhoods Outside San Francisco

|June 7, 2017

It’s no secret: San Francisco is an expensive city to live in — whether you’re renting or buying a home. The real estate market is hot, homes sell quickly and many of them are selling above listing price. This creates a fantastic market for sellers, but it can be tough to get your foot in the door owning a home. In fact, San Francisco and San Jose in South Bay are ranked first and second on Zillow’s list of the best markets for sellers. And SF is in the top 10 of 2017’s Best Places to Be a Realtor (and we’d love for you to join the McGuire family!).

This market is influencing many families to search outside the metro area for both renting and home buying. And while you may worry about missing the hustle and bustle of one of the world’s most stunning tourist destinations, the culture, food and parks we’ve come to love continue in surrounding neighborhoods throughout the region.

If you’re considering a relocation, take a few minutes to learn more about some of our favorite communities outside San Francisco. And because the Bay Area is one of the easiest places to get around without a car, transportation into the city is easy to and from nearly every neighborhood on our list! However, you may find so much to love, you won’t want to leave.

Affordable Neighborhoods near San Francisco Include:

East Bay

Jack London Square

Driving distance to San Francisco: 30 minutes

Jack London Square Oakland

Photos courtesy of Jack London SquareThe Forge and Lungomare

In a word Jack London Square is eclectic. Essentially, West Oakland, the square was originally developed in the ‘70s as a tourist attraction but has grown into a trendy and quaint neighborhood. The mix of ’50s coffee shops, turn-of-the-century warehouses and modern architecture offers a bit of everything — from packed bars to quiet lounges and outdoor opportunities. Located right on the waterfront, the neighborhood has easy access to both downtown Oakland and downtown SF as well as its own BART station and a quick route to the Oakland airport. Ferries from the Square go to downtown SF, Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf and, during the summer, Angel Island. In town, stop by the famous Heinold’s First and Last Chance, the upscale Lungomare and the pizza joint The Forge.

Find Homes for sale in Jack London Square >

Temescal

Driving distance to San Francisco: 30 minutes

Affordable Neighborhoods Bay Area Temescal Oakland

Photos courtesy of Temescal BrewingHomeroom Mac + Cheese and Reese Lichtenstein

Temescal was hipster before being hipster was cool and it has been for generations. With a similar attitude as the Mission in San Francisco, it’s a multicultural mash-up which results in some of the trendiest and tastiest destinations in East Bay. There’s even a drive-thru Mac & Cheese restaurant, Homeroom! Stop by one of the BARTable breweries, Temescal Brewing, and one of the best cocktail spots in the Bay Area, Blackwater Station.

Find Homes for sale in Temescal >

NoBe

Driving distance to San Francisco: 30 minutes

Things to do in NoBe Neighborhood of Oakland

Photos courtesy of Prizefighter and Donut Farm

NoBe is one of the most buzzed about neighborhoods in the Bay Area. It’s the up-and-coming region between North Oakland, Berkeley and Emeryville so you get the perfect mix of Gourmet Ghetto, nightlife and family-friendly destinations. The blend of environments means it’s coveted by professionals, hipsters and families alike for its central location, cultural diversity, great climate and homes with architectural details and high walkability. For some of the neighborhood’s best, stop by Donut Farm, Prizefighter and Shangri-La Vegan.

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Walnut Creek

Driving distance to San Francisco: 1 hour

Things to do in Walnut Creek Bay Area

Photos courtesy of Broadway Plaza and Swan Entertainment

Walnut Creek is one of the most family-friendly towns in the Bay Area, popular for its warm climate, 15 parks (including dog-friendly locations), shopping in Broadway Plaza and hiking around Lafayette Reservoir. Once you move here, take the kids to the Habitat Gardens in Civic Park — home to more than 25 species of butterflies and over 100 species of California plants!

Find Homes for sale in Walnut Creek >

Peninsula

Millbrae

Driving distance from San Francisco: 30 minutes

Affordable Neighborhoods Bay Area Millbrae

Photos courtesy of Millbrae Art & Wine Festival, Miramar Events and 801 El Dr 

The best word to describe Millbrae is commuter-friendly. The town is named for the estate of Darius Ogden Mills and from the word “brae” which is Scottish for “rolling hills” or “hill slope.” Today, the estate is long gone, but the rolling hills remain and continue to serve as a magnet for families looking to put down roots. It offers a small-town feel, classic residential neighborhoods, highly acclaimed public schools and easy commutes to the surrounding Bay Area via BART, SamTrans, Caltrain and the freeways. Move in then mark your calendars for the Millbrae Art & Wine Festival often held around Labor Day weekend.

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Redwood City

Driving distance from San Francisco: 40 minutes

Affordable Neighborhoods Bay Area Redwood City

Photos courtesy of Martin’s West Gastropub and Vesta

Through the decades, Redwood City has transitioned from a classic port city to a hub for some of the largest names in the tech industry. So, whether you’re looking for work, excellent schools or just a bustling town with an irresistible climate and breath-taking waterfront, consider Redwood City, one of the most populated urban centers of San Mateo County. Remember, the motto “Climate Best By Government Test” became a stereotype for a reason! The Marina-style atmosphere may even convince you to skip your commute into the city and opt for a wood-fired pizza at Vesta, comfort food at Patty Shack or craft cocktail and meal at Martin’s West Gastropub.

Find Homes for sale in Redwood City >

Half Moon Bay

Driving distance to San Francisco: 50 minutes

Half Moon Bay Affordable Cities Bay Area

Photos courtesy of Half Moon Bay Brewing, Molly Hass and Sam’s Chowder House

If you’re looking to live amongst the most laid-back Bay Area stereotypes — early morning fog and surfing, beachfront lounging and low-key seafood alongside brewery masterpieces — make Half Moon Bay your new home. Similar to The Richmond in SF, it has a little less bustle and a lot more chowder. We’re referring, of course, to the famous Sam’s Chowder House. When you don’t feel like eating seafood, stop by Dad’s Luncheonette for a beachside burger or Half Moon Bay Brewing for a pint of craft beer.

Find Homes for sale in Half Moon Bay >

Marin

San Rafael

Driving distance from San Francisco: 45 minutes

Things to do in San Rafael Bay Area

Photos courtesy of Art Works Downtown

With more than 25 neighborhoods and about 55,000 residents, the city of San Rafael is the largest in Marin County. The city combines its revitalized downtown district, college atmosphere, film and technology sector, artistic culture and outdoor activities to create a sort of “one-stop shop” atmosphere. When you’re not eating multi-cultural cuisine, shopping downtown or recreating in a park, you’ll have monthly and annual events to look forward to — including the 2nd Friday Art Walk hosted by Art Works Downtown, Downtown Trick or Treat, Parade of Lights & Winter Wonderland, and the Mill Valley Film Festival.

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Novato

Driving distance from San Francisco: 1 hour

Affordable Neighborhoods Bay Area Novato

Photo courtesy HopMonk Tavern and Hilltop 1892

The second most popular of the Marin County cities, Novato has been a leader in growth and development for decades. Amongst views of San Pablo Bay and gorgeous homes, the city is home to the county’s largest employer, Firemen’s Fund, in addition to a cluster of high-tech, bio-tech and software firms. And you’ll have plenty of places to grab dinner after work! Scratch the service of the Novato food scene at Hilltop 1892, Wildfox Restaurant, Grazie Restaurant or HopMonk Tavern.

Find Homes for sale in Novato >

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