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      How to choose the perfect San Francisco neighborhood for you

      San Francisco Bay area in California

      Much goes into choosing a property, but the actual house– with its amenities and listing price– is not the only important thing to consider. The neighborhood you’ll be buying and eventually living in is just as crucial.

      While you can always do a home makeover according to your style and taste, you cannot change its location and all that comes with it, from its character to your neighbors, pet friends, and more. So, choosing a neighborhood that fits your lifestyle and preference is key to a happy and fulfilling home life.

      Luckily, San Francisco has no shortage of incredible places to live. Continue reading to learn about the best neighborhoods in San Francisco.



      William Saroyan once said, “If you’re alive, you can’t be bored in San Francisco. If you’re not alive, San Francisco will bring you to life.” And we can’t help but agree. It’s one of the liveliest cities on the West Coast, with vibrant neighborhoods, Michelin-starred feasts, a colorful history, and breathtaking vistas.

      Several neighborhoods in San Francisco are much talked about and covered extensively for their attractiveness: Noe Valley, The Mission, Nob Hill, Russian Hill, Cow Hollow, and North Beach. Our team would like to highlight some overlooked but amazing places to live in our city. Here are our top picks for the best neighborhoods in San Francisco:

      The Richmond District

      The Richmond District is a diverse and vibrant area located in the northwest part of the city. It’s divided into three distinct sections– Inner Richmond, Central Richmond, and Outer Richmond– and known for its foggy weather, culture, and food. On three corners, the Richmond District is surrounded by sprawling parkland, and just beyond, the Golden Gate Strait and San Francisco’s iconic suspension bridge. Over the years, the Richmond District has been gaining more popularity and attention, so much so that it was recognized as one of the 40 coolest neighborhoods in the world by Time Out magazine and, for us, one of the best neighborhoods in San Francisco.

      • Perfect for: People who enjoy good eclectic food, diverse cultures, and a quiet haven close to nightlife hotspots.

      • Real estate: Much like the people that live here, the architectural makeup of the Richmond District is diverse.

      • Nearby schools: Lafayette Elementary, George Peabody Elementary, Presidio Middle, George Washington High

      • What makes it special: Golden Gate Park to the south, the Presidio to the north, Ocean Beach to the west, and access to Clement and Geary streets all offer a mix of outdoor recreation, dining, and entertainment options to the neighborhood.

      Outer Sunset

      Located in the southwestern part of San Francisco, Outer Sunset is a primarily residential neighborhood with quiet streets and a family-friendly atmosphere. Commercial activity is mostly restricted to Judah, Taraval, and Irving streets. The Pacific Ocean shares its vistas and grandeur as Outer Sunset’s westernmost boundary, offering a unique living experience unrivaled in San Francisco.

      • Perfect for: Families, people who enjoy the ocean and San Francisco’s trademark fog, surf aficionados, and those who love a laidback beach vibe.

      • Real estate: Stucco houses with pastel palettes and ocean views, as well as a mix of Mid-Century Modern, Rousseaus, and Rousseau-esque builds.

      • Nearby schools: Robert Louis Stevenson Elementary, A.P. Giannini Middle, Abraham Lincoln High, Lycée Français de San Francisco

      • What makes it special: Outer Sunset’s Farmers Market and Mercantile, hidden dumpling row on Taraval, and abundance of green spaces, and unbeatable access to the Pacific Ocean

      Merced Manor

      Merced Manor is a charming residential neighborhood that features Lake Merced and Pine Lake Park, two of the most beautiful outdoor spaces in San Francisco. Those who are always on the go will also appreciate the neighborhood’s close proximity to a major thoroughfare: 19th Avenue/Highway 1.

      • Perfect for: Professionals or families that enjoy outdoor activities and exercise, and living in a peaceful hub with close access to commerce centers.

      • Nearby schools: Commodore Sloat Elementary, Aptos Middle, Lowell High

      • Nearby schools: Commodore Sloat Elementary, Aptos Middle, Lowell High

      • What makes it special: Plethora of shopping and entertainment options at Stonestown Galleria, peaceful green spaces and a world-renowned music festival at Sigmund Stern Grove, and more retail selections at Lakeshore Plaza.

      Anza Vista

      One of the small residential neighborhoods in San Francisco’s Western Addition district, Anza Vista occupies an enviable location right in the heart of the city. Residents only need to take a short and lovely walk to Fillmore and Divisadero for lively entertainment and good food.

      Painted Ladies in San Francisco at dusk

      North of the Panhandle (NoPa)

      North Panhandle, situated right between the Fillmore District and Golden Gate Park, is a perfect microcosm for the city. For a historic, urban home with easy access to Golden Gate Park, beloved eateries, and excellent schools, NoPa easily ranks as one of the best neighborhoods in San Francisco.

      • Perfect for: Bike enthusiasts, urban professionals that want the nightlife, people who love living in a bustling neighborhood with a strong sense of community, as well as students, employees, and faculty members at the University of San Francisco.

      • Real estate: Edwardian townhouses and multi-level condos

      • Nearby schools: New Traditions Elementary, Roosevelt Middle, Raoul Wallenberg Traditional High

      • What makes it special: The history of the neighborhood, Panhandle Park where residents can play a friendly basketball game or enjoy a good run, and access to restaurants, bars, and entertainment options such as the Emporium.

      Lower Pacific Heights

      Lower Pacific Heights is an increasingly trendy neighborhood where you can experience Fillmore Street’s restaurants and upscale retail alongside Japantown’s cultural character. Boasting a rich heritage, soulful roots, and a vibrant multicultural blend just down the hill from its larger, tonier sister Pacific Heights, Lower Pacific Heights is perfect for people who want a livelier lifestyle.

      • Perfect for: Young professionals and families who love living in a hip and urban environment.

      • Real estate: Lower Pacific Heights is known for its collection of wonderfully preserved historic homes dating back to the Victorian era– some of the best in San Francisco. Apartment-style condos and townhouses are also available.

      • Nearby schools: The New School of San Francisco, Gateway High School

      • What makes it special: The Bush Street-Cottage Row Historic District in Lower Pacific Heights is one of the best places in the city to see intact Italianate and Stick-style homes dating back to the late 19th century. Meanwhile, Japantown and all its culinary and cultural offerings are close by.


      People who stay in one place for a long time often do so because of the neighborhood they live in. There are countless attributes that make a community desirable, and it won’t be the same for everybody. Certain factors, however, such as access to shops, proximity to good schools, opportunity for community engagement, and ease of transportation are often linked to an overall better quality of life.

      This is why it’s crucial to do your research before committing to one place, especially in a city as diverse as San Francisco. Some of the things you’ll want to consider are:

      1. Your budget

        One of the so-called best neighborhoods in San Francisco isn’t the best for you if it falls entirely beyond your financial capacity. Establish your base budget first and how much house you can own before you start your home search. This will help you narrow down your options and determine which neighborhoods in San Francisco are within your financial reach. Most importantly, setting a budget prevents you from falling in love with a home that’s beyond your means.

        In general, the main factors you should think about when coming up with a set budget are your income, outstanding debt, cash reserves, and credit score. To get an even clearer picture, calculate your debt-to-income ratio. Online calculators like NerdWallet’s and WellsFargo’s are also excellent resources. If your DTI is below 50%, this is generally a good sign – lenders will see that you’re financially responsible, and you’re more likely to be approved for a loan on your new home.

      2. Neighborhood housing prices

        Once you have your budget, take a look at the current housing market of different neighborhoods in San Francisco. Places that are closer to the city center may have more luxury properties like condos and apartments with higher prices, while residential areas may offer single-family homes with more diverse pricing options.

      3. Property taxes

        Your property tax bill won’t be just another monthly expense. It’s a significant financial commitment that can impact your overall housing costs.

        To get a clear picture of your potential property tax costs, research the home’s assessed value and familiarize yourself with San Francisco’s property tax laws. Consider taking a look at the local treasurer website to stay informed about current property tax rates. By doing your research early on, you won’t get caught off guard when the time comes to pay your property taxes.

      4. Neighborhood safety

        Safety is paramount for most, if not all, homebuyers. Engage with local residents, shopkeepers, and community members to gain insights into the neighborhood’s overall safety. Additionally, consider talking to local law enforcement agencies for information.

        It’s also a good idea to explore the neighborhood at different times of day so you get a better feel for the atmosphere at different hours. By doing so, not only are you ensuring your own safety, but also the safety of your financial investment. A neighborhood’s crime rates have a considerable impact on property values down the line.

      5. Local lifestyle

        Is the neighborhood sleepy or energetic? Quiet or noisy? Are your neighbors more likely to greet you by your name, or be reserved? The neighborhood you choose should complement your lifestyle preferences. San Francisco is an incredibly diverse area, so there’s no doubt you’ll find a place that can suit your needs and wants, whether it’s a bustling urban hub or something more laid-back.

        When doing your research, make time to visit the neighborhood on different days of the week to observe the variations in activity levels and noise levels. Chat with residents– and your real estate agent– to learn about the area’s community events, recreational opportunities, and the overall vibe.

      6. Neighborhood amenities

        When choosing a neighborhood, consider the daily conveniences it offers. Grocery stores, pharmacies, and department stores are essential amenities that can significantly impact your quality of life. Take a good look around the area you’re eyeing to see how near the nearby shops are. Aim for a walkable or easily drivable grocery store; variety is a plus, too. Farmers markets, specialty shops, and international options can be valuable to your lifestyle.

      7. School district

        If you’re a family planning to move, chances are you’ve already been looking up the local school district. If not, then definitely explore the different schooling options for your kids. Check test scores and data, programming, extracurricular activities, sports programs, and parent-teacher orgs. Additionally, try to look at how the school district has adapted to and responded to challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic.

        Even if you don’t have children, looking at the quality of education options can still be beneficial for you. Schools have a positive impact on a home’s resale value: your future buyers, when the time comes, may have children of their own.

      8. Nearby green spaces

        Access to green spaces has been shown to improve one’s quality of life, so keep an eye out for parks in and around the neighborhood when you’re doing your research. Try to look for homes within walking distance or a short drive of parks, gardens, and similar natural areas: they’re going to offer opportunities for recreation, relaxation, and even community engagement.

        If you enjoy an active lifestyle, scope out nearby trails for walking, jogging, or cycling. Additionally, consider the availability of dog parks if you have furry companions.

      9. Walkability and ease of public transport

        One thing you have to do when exploring the area you’re eyeing is to see firsthand how easy it is to get around. Ride the nearest forms of public transportation, or check online which buses pass through the neighborhood and how often.

      10. Commute to work

        For those who commute to work, the distance and ease of travel play a crucial role in one’s quality of life and stress levels. Carefully evaluate the commute time and traffic patterns to ensure it aligns with your daily routine and preferences. Additionally, you may want to consider alternative transportation options such as public transit or cycling to reduce reliance on a car and potentially save on fuel costs.


      Tour different neighborhoods in San Francisco and find the best one for you with us, The Carol Reen Team. We’re your real estate advisors with over 20 years of combined experience and expertise in the Bay Area housing market. Whether you want to go slow or buy a home at record-breaking speed, we’re here to assist you with your homebuying journey.

      If you’re ready to look at homes for sale in San Francisco, CA, get in touch with us at 415.728.6199 or send us an email.