It’s no secret: it’s more expensive than ever to live in the city.
Rent prices in San Francisco are at an all time high, with Zillow putting the median home price at a staggering $1,116,300. Another report shows that in order to be in a position to afford a home in The City by the Bay, you must make a healthy six-figure income ($152,000 to be exact) at the very least, which is by far the highest in America. If you can’t afford a mortgage on a home here, then renting isn't much better of an alternative considering the average rent for a one bedroom currently stands at $3,590 and $4,570 for two rooms, according to Zumper. Not surprisingly, these staggering figures have given San Francisco the title of most expensive city in the country by numerous publications. In a close second stands none other than New York City. The Big Apple has always been the first mention when talking about laughable living costs and is certainly still in the same breath as San Francisco--Manhattan home prices also surpass an average of $1 million and to rent in NYC costs an average of over $3111 for a respectable one bedroom, according to RentJungle.
To the average person living outside of these two major metropolises, the prices seem ludicrous. To the people who actually live in these cities and pay this much monthly…it also seems insane. But it isn’t long before even the most ridiculous things become the new normal. Similar to when you have a bad day where nothing seems to go your way, at a certain point you can’t do anything but laugh.
As a fairly new San Franciscan myself, the increased cost of living upon moving here was expected. In fact, prior to making the move, hardly a single conversation went by where a well-intentioned person didn’t inform me that I was moving to a city where rent would cost an arm and a leg. I remained undeterred, but will admit that even after making the move and unpacking all the boxes, watching the first month’s rent exit my bank account was quite a rude awakening. But after acclimating, it became almost comical to chat with fellow residents about rent prices and witness the c’est la vie attitude that has developed as a result. Monthly rent payments are so laughably high across The City that young San Franciscans seem to share a sort of bond over it, exchanging and comparing bloated rent prices while having a good chuckle. Being new to SF, I was surprised when an acquaintance brashly asked a question that I had always considered taboo: “So how much do you pay for rent?” Coming from out of state, I had always considered it gauche to ask such a question, in the same way I wouldn’t ask someone’s salary or how much they weighed. But here in San Francisco, the price of living has created a sort of longstanding joke that we SFers—especially the transplants—can’t help but be amused by. (Maybe we laugh to keep from crying, but we’re laughing nonetheless.)
However, in these conversations about the price of living, one fact has remained the same: we chose to live here. And nowhere in these conversations does the topic of moving away even come up. Why?
The answer is simple: Because we know it’s worth it.
The reason why it’s so damn expensive to live in San Francisco, New York, or any other major city is because it’s where things happen. It’s where everyone wants to be and thus, it’s where it costs the most to live. It’s a prime example of the first lesson of business: supply and demand. Living in a hub of creativity and innovation like San Francisco affords you opportunities that nowhere else in the world can provide. Living in New York City and going to work each day on Wall Street or Park Avenue is almost an accomplishment within itself, which makes it desirable. And when people desire something, they’re willing to pay for it. Those with ambition know that living in a place where players play is the only way to truly be in the game.
Take it from someone who has witnessed it firsthand. I know from personal experience that moving from a small market to a thriving city like San Francisco helped my personal endeavors sprout wings almost immediately. This positive surge wasn’t by coincidence, it was the result of a calculated move that I knew would put me in a better position to achieve my goals. Like the thousands of aspiring actors and models who move to La La Land every year to chase their dreams, I knew that my creative endeavors needed to be nurtured in one of the most beautifully unique cities in the country to give me any shot of giving them life. It proved to be the best decision I’ve ever made. Just by walking out my front door each morning, I was meeting like-minded people who were hustling and making things happen. Not even six months into living in San Francisco I was already having lunch with the CFO of a billion dollar corporation you've most certainly heard of and enjoying dinner with New York Times bestselling authors. Because I was no longer just an author/writer but a San Francisco author/writer, I found that my emails were being replied to more frequently and I was receiving more inquiries coming to my own inbox. I was suddenly on the phone with literary agents talking about my ideas for my next book, and even my social media following began rising dramatically. All this came as a result of packing up my already-existing ambition and moving it to a new area code.
Note how I said “already-existing ambition.” This relocation revelation doesn't work unless you do. Average Joe can't expect to move to Silicon Valley and expect his life to change just because he now occupies a one bedroom on The Peninsula. But if you have a clear vision of what you want and a strong ambition to network and make things happen, there's no doubt that places like San Francisco, NYC, and other major (and expensive) cities have the most fertile ground to potentially turn those dreams into a large-scale reality.
It may sound too good to be true but I can assure you it’s the truth. When you move to a major city where major things happen, you feel as if the world has opened up its doors to you. And while many people may be afraid that they will get lost in the shuffle and suddenly become a small fish in big pond, my firsthand experience has shown that it’s actually just the opposite. Anyone with big dreams and a consistent work ethic can make things happen in a major city that they would never be able to otherwise. Moving to a big city doesn't make you a small fish in a big pond, it just puts you in the only body of water worth being in. Swimming with the sharks can only strengthen you in your aspirations and propel you more rapidly toward your goals.
It may not be easy to live in a city with millions of people, stuck in traffic, paying inflated rent prices, and so on, but at the risk of sounding cliche, I'll remind people that nothing worth having comes easy. When people are quick to bring up the sky-high rent prices and overall cost of living in major cities, I tell them all the same thing: you can't afford not to live here.
At the end of the day, if you want to make things happen, you have to be where things happen. To be sure, I’m not saying that success stories can’t start from anywhere. I'll be the first to point out that many of the most successful people our world has ever seen have started from humble beginnings, born and raised in the most random and remote of locations: Silicon Valley giant Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlett Packard, is from a small town in upstate NY with a population of 5,000; actor-turned-tech-investor Ashton Kutcher is from Iowa of all places; NBA legend Larry Bird is from a hicktown called French Lick, Indiana; and the list goes on and on. There’s no argument that talent and genius can come from anywhere. But that’s not the point I’m making. My case does not rest in the beginning, but in the middle and end. Ask yourself this: Where do each of these success stories end up? Where are their empires built? Where do they live today? The answer is obvious: among the tech fortunes of Silicon Valley, the soaring skyscrapers of Manhattan, the palm tree-lined studios of Los Angeles, the white pillars of Washington D.C., and the sprawling Art Deco highrises of Chicago. Nearly every success story truly blossomed in one of these electric cities.
Perhaps the best way to sum it up is to remember the classic medieval proverb: "All roads lead to Rome."
And trust me, Rome is where you want to be.
Robbie Tripp is the author of “Create Rebellion,” an abstract manifesto for disruptive creativity. He lives in San Francisco with his beautiful wife Sarah.