San Francisco has often been called the Boston of the west coast due to the similar size and culture of the cities. However, they both have something else in common: the housing costs are high, to say the least.
Boston has been climbing the list of the most expensive cities in the country for the past ten (10) plus years. Both real estate purchase prices and rents have reached record highs. The area is growing at a rapid pace. The demand for housing has increased significantly. There’s also a limited supply of properties on the market for sale and rent at any given time. Many real estate experts feel that Boston will soon become number 2 on the list of most expensive cities across the United States for renters, overtaking San Francisco and trailing only New York City.
Is Boston More Expensive than San Francisco?
No, Boston is not more expensive than San Francisco. In fact, San Francisco’s cost of living is 33% higher when compared to the cost of living in Boston according to Nerdwallet. Daily expenses like groceries are significantly higher in San Francisco. For example, a 2-liter bottle of soda costs $2.53 in San Francisco compared to $2.10 in Boston. That’s a 21% price difference. Other grocery items, such as a dozen large eggs are 45% higher in San Francisco. Entertainment costs are also higher in San Francisco by an average of 10%.
Think of it like this: overall, if you earn $100,000 in Boston, you would need to earn $133,000 in San Francisco just to keep up with your daily expenses.
San Francisco vs. Boston: Median Sales Prices
When comparing the residential real estate prices in Boston and San Francisco, you’ll discover that homes for sale in Boston are a lot less expensive compared to properties in San Francisco. Based on Multiple Listing Services (MLS) data, San Francisco’s median sale price for all residential property types was $1,510,000 in May 2022. That figure is over 48% higher than Boston’s median sales price of $780,000 in May 2022. The bottom line is that the Boston housing market is nearly 50% less expensive than San Francisco in terms of home purchases.
San Francisco vs. Boston: Average Rent Prices
When you compare the average rents in Boston and San Francisco the price gap isn’t quite as large as the median sales prices. However, the cost of rent in San Francisco is still significantly higher than rent in Boston. For example, the average monthly rent for a 1 bedroom apartment in San Francisco is currently $2,995 per month. That figure drops to $2,155 per month in Boston. That certainly is a significant difference.
The average monthly rent for a 2 bedroom apartment in San Francisco is currently $3,950. On the other hand, the average monthly rent for a 2 bedroom apartment in Boston is currently $2,662 per month. That is a difference of over 32%.
Three Bedroom apartments in San Francisco are currently $4,663 per month and $3,222 in Boston, which is a difference of over 31%. So, if you’re planning to rent an apartment in San Francisco, you will need to earn anywhere from 28 to 32% more money than you would in Boston. For example, if you earn $100,000 per year in Boston, you will need to earn from $128,000 to $132,000 in San Francisco.
San Francisco vs. Boston: Income to Housing Expenses Ratios
The median income levels also play an important role in the overall cost of living. Both the higher home sale prices and monthly rents are far more affordable if the buyer or renter has a high enough income to afford it. Based on the most current income data, the average annual household income in San Francisco is $167,663. That figure is 32.4% more than the average annual household income in Boston, which is $113,307. Here’s where it gets even more interesting. Both San Francisco and Boston come in at a 28% rent to income ratio. However, the home price to income ratio is another story altogether. In San Francisco it’s 9%. However, the home price to income ratio in Boston is only 6.88%. That means the home price to income ratio of San Francisco is a whopping 23.5% higher than that of Boston.
In conclusion, San Francisco is far more expensive than Boston overall. It may be that with time, and increasing popularity and therefore demand, Boston will overtake San Francisco as the second most expensive city in the US. However, for now, the Boston housing costs are lower whether you purchase a home or rent an apartment. In addition, the daily cost of living in Boston is generally more affordable. The city of Boston must do all it can to facilitate development and increase supply. Without more housing inventory, renters will continue to see rents rise and more buyers will continue to be priced out of the market.
Published June 28, 2022
Demetrios has pulled together the largest apartment leasing team in the Greater Boston Area and is responsible for procuring more apartment rentals than anyone in New England – with over 130k people finding their housing through his services. Demetrios is an avid real estate developer, peak performance trainer, educator, guest lecturer and motivational speaker.