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Tech workers are increasingly looking to leave Silicon Valley (qz.com)
444 points by prostoalex on Feb 29, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 569 comments

I left the Bay Area, not Silicon Valley, 6 years ago and since then I've been able to realize a 40% salary increase (this has more to do with experience and seniority than locale - just making the point that good salaries are possible outside SV) and I've purchased a house and a rental property. The latter would have been unthinkable in the Bay Area. Plus the gender ratio is much better for men almost anywhere else.

I don't even think SF and SV are good places to start out anymore. You can learn skills anywhere with the internet, and you miss out on early investments due to the opportunity cost of rent. If you want to live in the Bay Area, it's better to hunker down someplace cheaper for a decade or more, save up a down payment, and then lateral into a midlevel or senior role at a tech company, whose salaries are high enough to service a mortgage but not high enough to save a down payment and pay rent at the same time.

> I've purchased a house and a rental property. The latter would have been unthinkable in the Bay Area.

I purchased a house with my wife here in northern OH, and while we don't have a rental, we do have around 4 acres of land to use and for our son to play on, in an area with an excellent public school district. I know this would be very hard to come by near most tech-centered hubs in the country, and would be very difficult for me to give up now. The more I think about it, the less certain I am that even doubling my salary would convince me to do it.

Well, it all comes down to preference. Many people are responding about how they'd never trade the acreage and large house for a small place in a dense city, and that's totally fine. Personally, I'd never trade the density and culture of NYC for something suburban or semi-rural, and that's totally fine too.

It depends on the nature of the city, of course. I live in SF, and I actually find myself lusting for both the peace of the countryside and a more urban city. Seriously, I do mean the peace of a big city.

I actually think many parts of SF are in a suboptimal density band where it is quite dense, but still car dependent, dense enough to add a lot of cars and concrete but not quite dense enough to reclaim some of the pedestrian space… this link explains it pretty well.


Totally agree about SF, it's not dense or diverse enough for my tastes either. For me the ideal setup is a place in a major city like NYC, getting out of the US at least once per year, and some time in the country every so often to reset.

I'm 50-50 on SF. I did grow up in SF (west of twin peaks, though, so a less urban experience even by SF standards), but I was exposed to a more urban experience when I lived for a year in Paris when I was a kid, and later NYC for a year as a young adult (in my 20s).

SF really is pretty diverse, especially in terms of language diversity (I read somewhere that the number of languages spoken by 1000 or more households is higher in SF than even NY, though I don't have a cite for this). SF also does have decent density by US standards as long as you're not talking about NY. (http://beyonddc.com/?p=4808). I also find that getting out of the city for the countryside or natural surroundings is faster and easier in SF than almost anywhere else (ie. the time it takes to get from a very high density urban neighborhood into a very quiet forest or rugged, undeveloped coast is amazingly short in SF). Since I really value both things, I do get a lot out of living in SF, but there is a kind of truly urban neighborhood, with trees and open pedestrian areas, that is much more prevalent in larger, more dense cities like NY or Paris. The images in that link about curb cuts, contrasting the street scape between Park Slope and Dolores Street in SF, pretty much sums it up. The image of Park Slope manages to both peaceful and highly urban at the same time, largely because it's urban enough to give up on cars and driveways. It almost seems like SF got just close enough and then blinked.

Aside from NY, though, and maybe a very few parts of Boston or Chicago, there really isn't much else out there, at least in the US. For the west coast, you just aren't going to find as many of those little red dots clustered (high density), even in Seattle. Interestingly, LA is becoming much more urban. That said, SF's high density urban neighborhoods are pretty limited in size, and they are breathtakingly expensive.

Yeah, being able to get to Muir Woods or other epic nature in less than an hour is a huge plus for SF. Don't get me wrong, SF is a beautiful city, it's just for the price I'd much rather be in NYC.

But you're right, there aren't many places in the US that hit that balance. I grew up around Boston (found it too small and casually racist), lived in Chicago (you still need a car), have spent a ton of time in SF for work, and have lived in Brooklyn now for about 9 years. When I think of where I'd move if I weren't in New York I usually end up with Mexico City, London, Bogota, Medellin, Tokyo, and other cities abroad.

Oh, I agree that it's definitely an individual preference, no judgement on anyone meant on my part. I grew up in a large city, and before settling down here, I've lived in a few places (the most densely zoned probably being northern Italy while in the military). I actually do appreciate urban life and how great it is to be able to either walk or take public transit anywhere I need to be.

But it turns out I really like having space to play more. YMMV.

How long have you been living in NYC?

Not that long, only about 9 years.

Truth. Time even ranked Solon, Ohio in the top 10 places in the country to live. I have family there and it's a great community.


You can buy a 4 bedroom house with a three car garage and a big plot of land for less than a 1 bedroom apartment in SV.

If bedroom multiplicity and garage size are key metrics for you... then I guess maybe Solon, Ohio is your kind of place.

People who stick it out in places like SF, NYC or London tend to have different considerations in mind.

Why'd this get downvoted? This comment has been in my mind since I started reading this thread.

I'm 39, happily single, and live in inner Melbourne, Australia. I pay a small fortune in rent. I could live out in the 'burbs in a 4 bedroom house with a 3 car garage - but that's my vision of hell on Earth!

I absolutely have "different considerations". Bars and restaurants literally on my doorstep, a walk to work, no desire to own a car, singles like me as neighbours rather than families, etc.

Perhaps people thought I was dissing the 'burbs?

Wasn't my intention, in any case. I was really just trying to point out, as dispassionately as possible, that (like many disagreements people have about major life choices) it boils down to preferences of values and taste -- and the inevitable tradeoffs was have to make when choosing to pursue these preferences.

Indeed -- some of my favorite people on this planet have homes with more bedrooms, bathrooms, parking spaces, living rooms, extra playrooms, etc, than they could possibly know what to do with. And I love them all dearly, just the same.

People are insecure

> You can buy a 4 bedroom house with a three car garage and a big plot of land for less than a 1 bedroom apartment in SV.

Sure, you can, but your salary would be much lower (half?) in Cleveland. And unless you're fully remote, there are far fewer tech jobs in that area. (I also live in Ohio.)

I grew up in there. Solon is a great place to raise kids, with great schools (state leading math/science) and a low cost of living. Although, my experience was that Ohio is a tough climate for tech employment.

yeah but tech industry in midwest is lowkey compared to NYC and west coast. I grew up in new england, went to college in ohio, but moved back here because of the access to capital/talent of NYC & greater metro. Nobody is going to go out of there way to be in a midwest city because the tech scene is still very small, relatively speaking.

But, it's cold and rainy 7-8 months out of the year. A family of 3 doesn't need 4 acres. You have to admit that most people are willing to pay up for good weather

My wife and I don't need a four bedroom house for the two of us either, but land is cheap, houses are cheap, and I still have a tech job in MI working remote making six figures. Never set foot in SV.

It's not about need. It's about the fact that my life is pretty awesome, I have tons of spare cash, I can relax on my deck and see nothing but trees and squirrels and my dogs running around.

How much room does a family of three need? I think 4 acres is better than a two bedroom, third floor apartment surrounded by pavement and cars.

Couldn't agree more. Acreage is unbelievable therapeutic compared with the city.

Source: Grew up on 4 acres of woodlands. Now live in SF. Would like to move back to a more rural setting after 3 years of hunting for parking spots and spending all my time/money getting away from the city when possible.

>>Couldn't agree more. Acreage is unbelievable therapeutic compared with the city.

If you're an introvert, sure. I love the countryside myself. But extroverts get their energy from being around other people, and dense cities such as NYC are great places for that.

>>> If you're an introvert, sure

In addition, if you are an introvert, you would love a long commute sitting alone on a bus or train. You should move to the city for sure.

So invite some friends over for a beer and BBQ... Or be an extrovert at work for 9 hours a day. OTOH, I know what you mean about the mental stimulation of big cities -- need to feed that ADD. :-)

I'm glad you like that but it honestly sounds like a personal hell to me.

The fact that they have 4 acres of land is much more valuable to his kids than having to share that property with a bunch of other people in the city, in my opinion. There is room to expand, build, hike, bike, walk, climb a tree, breathe fresh air that doesn't smell like pavement, enjoy nature.

Plus, who said they don't like cold weather? I grew up on the East Coast and I love Winter. I love seasons. I love snowboarding and hiking in the Winter.

I lived in SF for a while and didn't really enjoy it at all. Too much congestion, too many people and no fresh air. I could barely see the stars at night.

That being said. To each their own.

Why do you like hiking in the winter? I'd like to learn to like that.

In short, peace and quiet. I really can't describe how sublime the quiet of a winter forest is.

Also, this may or may not be appealing to you, but I find it to be a humbling experience. Being alone in an empty winter forest really makes one feel insignificant. Not in the bad way of making one feel worthless, but instead in the way that makes your worries and aspirations seem trivial. I think it's a nice respite from the myriad concerns of daily life.

Nothing beats crunching snow on an early morning or late evening hike. NOTHING.

It's brilliant. Once you get moving you won't even notice the cold. A snow-filled forest is one of the quietest and most peaceful places you are likely to ever find.

If you live in a hilly deciduous area often times this is the only time of year you can see the grandeur of your surroundings.

Try snowshoeing

I live in a 3400 sqft ranch on a lake with hundreds of square feet of frontage 20 minutes from downtown Charlotte without traffic and 1.3 acres of land for 600k. The weather is nice and it appreciated ~80k in a little over a year.

Are market prices even remotely comparable to affording that kind of luxury in SV? Hell no.

It's beyond comprehension for me to justify the cost of living out there. I'd be trading in for a postage stamp in an overly populated area.

Sure, but do you have excrement-covered sidewalks, belligerent panhandlers, and cockroach-infested restaurants?

Would it be just linear feet of frontage?

The weather isn't even that good in Silicon Valley. I'd take rain and snow vs. dry and concrete.

By any objective measure, it IS good.

Concrete is not a weather condition.

Concrete is most certainly a weather condition [1]. And better weather doesn't always make for a better environment.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urban_heat_island

The urban heat island is my single biggest point of displeasure living in NYC–I so love sleeping the windows open and a cool night breeze in the summer, which would be very possible in my quiet neighborhood of Brooklyn if it were to actually cool off at night.

Instead we have hot days followed by slightly less hot nights, and I run the A/C all night lest I get no sleep at all.

Drought is an objective measure. Some of us prefer green grass and trees to arid climates.

well, I would say most people would consider weather in SV better than in Ohio. Of course, I agree, preferences differ

You can live a life of wealth and luxury, or you can enjoy the weather.

Note that given the cost difference between living in SV vs Ohio (although I don't live in Ohio) I could spend 12.8 years with my wife at an all inclusive tropical resort. We'd probably get a discount if we lived there full time, so maybe 15-20 years. Not exactly your average retirement home.

Or cash on the barrel no discounts or financial aid at all I could pay list price to send SEVEN kids thru Harvard for four years with a reasonable allowance for expenses and still have money left over. I don't have seven kids, but I guess I could pay cash on the barrel to send a couple thru med school or law school instead, maybe finance a startup or small business for one of them.

Or I could cash buy six rental properties vaguely similar to the house I live in, and retire as a landlord (although from watching my great uncle do this, being a landlord is no retirement!). The rent off six houses, minus realistic expenses, would be a little less than I get paid now, but its interesting to think about.

The cost of room and board at Harvard is $60K/year, so sending 7 kids through Harvard for 4 years is $1.7M.

While you can spend that much for a home in SV, you certainly don't have to.

A house that can support a family of 9?

A house that can support a family of 9 is not cheap even in Ohio if you want to "life of wealth and luxury".

You'll be paying over $1M for a 5 or 6 bedroom house in a "nice" part of Columbus (i.e. German Village), and you'll be paying around $1.2M for such a house in a decent (though not upper class) neighborhood in Silicon Valley.

A 6 bedroom house for $1.2 in SV? Good luck. It would be in disrepair or in a bad neighborhood at that price.

The location is really nice, if you look at what you have around you. Comforts of a big city, youre on the coast, napa at a distance, skiing isnt far away, being able to hike and be close to the wilderness.

The only drawback is cost. But I envy all of those possibilities compared to Miami, where all you have is a big city and sea, maybe watersports but precious little of everything else... and Miami is still not that far behind in terms of cost of living.

I wouldn't give up my childhood living on 7 acres that backed up to hundreds of acres of state land for anything. And the weather in the Tornado Alley of Oklahoma was great, ranging from freezing snowy winters to hot and humid summers, giving my childhood a huge range of enjoyable experiences. I could hike, camp, fish, hunt, sled, ride dirt bikes, build stuff, blow up stuff (with my homemade fireworks), play most sports, all just steps from the back door. Seeing wild turkeys, dogs, coyotes, horses, fluffy bunnies (fierce killers), the monarch migration and too many types of birds to list without having to leave the property was invaluable to my curious mind.

The only other experience I'd consider possibly better for raising a child is in NYC (my current home) where the best art and culture exist a short subway ride away, with regular interactions from seemingly every culture in between.

You can have your moderate weather fluctuations (I don't consider cold, rain or snow "bad" weather), I'll take a world of life outside my door.

But, it's cold and rainy 7-8 months out of the year.

Northern Ohio? That is not even remotely true. The climate has four very distinct, traditional seasons.

I missed that in SF. Time seems to pass a lot quicker when you don't have nature reminding you that it's happening.

Silicon Valley does have extraordinarily good weather for my tastes as well as access to great recreational activities etc. But I'm not going to pay to live there just for the weather. Whether or not one cares for Ohio, there are lots of areas in the US where acreage is relatively affordable. Personally, I like having some separation from neighbors.

(I live a little ways outside of Boston. The weather here is probably not better overall than Ohio--which I wouldn't describe as cold and rainy for 7-8 months of the year.)

Seasons don't exist in the Bay Area. And I've noticed over the past decade that summer keeps expanding and moving into other seasons. It took me a while to get used to the Indian summers here, but they've increasingly moved on into December it seems. According to wunderground, Palo Alto Airport reached 80 degrees F on Feb 16th!

Personally, I've always thought the midwestern US actually has a nice set of four pleasantly distinct seasons (Fall being my favorite). I actually like the snow too, though when it starts to get so cold that it doesn't snow anymore (last year comes to mind), then it does stop being very fun.

It's a fair point about seasons. I would probably miss them--and Fall is probably my favorite in New England as well, even if I do like winter activities here.

> But, it's cold and rainy 7-8 months out of the year

No, no it is not.

I live and work in Manchester UK and we dream of 7-8 months of rainy weather (rather than the actual 11 months).

Damn I'd love 4 acres instead of a tiny flat in London :-/

to be fair, El Niño gave us an incredible year. This winter was extremely dry.

Not in the UK. December 2015 was the wettest month in recorded history.

Yeah but 2015 overall has been extremely dry here in Manc, well into late November.

Judging from the number of my relatives who have left the Great Lakes area for places south and west, many people will. But a northern Ohio fall can be beautiful, and I enjoyed the winters.

In Ohio, 4 acres is nothing special. What's "need" about when it's that cheap and easy to have?

Having moved from Seattle area after 15 years to Tampa -- and having purchased a 2 acre property for my family (wife, 3 kids, 3 dogs). we need 2 acres.

Having owned a number of houses - the biggest reason is peace. I've owned houses where I felt the neighbors looked in your back window, everyone could hear what others are doing in their yard around you...

Walking out and having a bit of space is wonderful. And tools like slack and hangouts are making it easier to work remotely as well.

By "need" I mean trading off things that you can't get in Ohio for 4 acres, which you can get in Ohio. How do you use 4 acres, physically?

> How do you use 4 acres, physically?

Oh, there's a lot of things you can do with 4 acres. You can maintain extensive gardens and supply substantial quantities of your own food, as a profitable hobby. You can consider owning small farm animals like chickens, or maintain apiaries. Children and pet cats/dogs can run around outside and the children can exercise their imagination through unstructured play in a safe environment, especially in a multi-child family, potentially replacing overly-structured and expensive after-school activities for all but the youngest children (with many opportunities to increase their physical fitness through such activity). You or your children can also practice sports, such as baseball.

>Children and pet cats/dogs can run around outside and the children can exercise their imagination through unstructured play in a safe environment, especially in a multi-child family, potentially replacing overly-structured and expensive after-school activities for all but the youngest children (with many opportunities to increase their physical fitness through such activity). You or your children can also practice sports, such as baseball.

I lived in a tiny apartment right in the city growing up. And I mean very, very tiny - we shared beds. I did all those things in my city-dwelling childhood. You don't have to own the land to do that stuff. In fact city life lead me to spend plenty of time with the neighborhood kids, which was really great and you don't get that if you are spending all your time on your own property. If I was bored I literally just walked outside and see which of the neighborhood kids were out. I don't believe there was or is anything "unsafe" about public property and you can do sooooooo much more on public property. We did have a very small backyard that was shared with 6 families and we spent plenty of time there. And we got to interact with the other kids who lived in the building and the kid next door who saw us playing. You can also find a surprisingly large amount of nature in the city if you go looking for it. The idea you need to own 4 acres of land to play baseball is just laughable.

I'm fact, seems more like living on 4 acres would be a prison. You couldn't leave without being driven!!!

The problem is kids aren't allowed to go outside anymore by themselves.

Growing up with very little made me such a better person. I'm way off the hedonistic treadmill.

> I don't believe there was or is anything "unsafe" about public property. We did have a very small backyard that was shared with 6 families

I wouldn't call it public, it's more of a shared space an apartment complex might have.

The larger the city, the higher is the likelihood of public spaces having a variety of homeless encampments, broken glass, needles and plain old feces.

> The larger the city, the higher is the likelihood of public spaces having a variety of homeless encampments, broken glass, needles and plain old feces.

The larger the city, the higher is the likelihood of accessible but nevertheless private property having those same things; though in either case its likely to be restricted to particular parts of the city, and those are likely to be the ones with lower property values (this reduced property value is both a cause and effect of the condition, its a positive feedback loop.)

The larger the city, also the more likely public -- and accessible private -- spaces are to be fairly pristine enclaves. These will usually be found in substantially different parts of the city than the nasty bits.

This was never the case in my not at all upscale city. There was always plenty of safe places where lots of kids spent their time. Also if this is a problem organizing a cleanup isn't even difficult. We did know some resident homeless people but homeless people are people and aren't dangerous to children by definition. The homeless I knew growing up were pretty friendly and not more dangerous than any other stranger. They were just like every other person who "lived" in the neighborhood. If your kid doesn't know to not touch poop then your kid is too young to go out unsupervised. Other kids just don't touch poop and move on, it's not complicated.

Besides they yard was an after thought, I spent most of my outdoor time in public places and I was outdoors every day in the summer.

You may just as well say "I'm too good for public property, I'd rather not share with the peons." Don't hide behind "safety." There's no major safety issues in letting your children use a public park.

And anyways, it's probably much safer to let your kids have a hypothetical chance of running into hypothetical broken glass (that they can just walk away from) than to put them in a car every time they need to go somewhere, as automobile accidents are the leading cause of death in people ages 5-25 (or something along those numbers)

Dig holes or build forts on public property? Sleep outside overnight? Plant your own flower/herb/vegetable garden? Build bike jumps? Shoot arrows? Generally you're not even supposed to climb the trees, much less build in them.

And bicycles are great kid transportation...

right, that's great. So, if I don't want to own a small farm and don't like sports, I should live in SF vs Ohio? Since most people don't want to own small farms, this explains at least some of the cost of living difference :)

I think he said it: he can sit on the porch and see nothing but trees, dog, nature. Separation from the neighbors. Many people seek that, in fact.

Take a walk. Ride a dirt bike. Camp. Fish. Build the coolest tree fort ever.

Ohio is? I didn't know that.

I similarly got a ~25% income increase with a new job, about a year after leaving the bay area and moving back to Ohio.

I also have a ridiculously lower cost of living - my 15-year mortgage for a nice house on an acre of land is about 1/2 of what rent was in San Mateo, and about 1/4 of what I know friends were paying for apartments in SF.

Please tell me what tech jobs are available with good salaries in Ohio. Most of my friends are in Indiana/Ohio/Kentucky, my parents are in Northern Virginia (very drivable from Ohio) and I would love to be closer to all of these. However, I've not seen anything at even half my current salary (though I do like my job so I haven't been the most motivated job-seeker).

Well, I work remote for IBM, but we do have a few offices in this area if remote isn't your thing. Here's my link to the IBM job site if you're interested: http://u.rfer.us/IBEiwV2J5c

Before that, I freelanced which ended up turning into a full-time gig with a startup in SF that liked my work.

I'm (probably) months away from doing something similar, although I'll be moving back from NYC.

I am confused by the part you say that you left the Bay Area, not Silicon Valley, and then you said that good salaries are possible outside SV. Did you mean outside Bay Area?

Yes, out in flyover country.

You mean "long term affordability" country.

> Plus the gender ratio is much better for men almost anywhere else.

Could you elaborate?

Silicon Valley has one of the highest male/female ratios in the world, if not the highest.


At least by that metric, that means it's the toughest place for single heterosexual men to find women to date. I'm curious if women find the imbalance awesome or awkward when it comes to dating (probably a little bit of both?).

Come to DC which has one of the best ratios (for guys, at least), and the women are pretty much all highly-educated, if you're into lawyers, policy wonks, biologists, or NGOers.

Plus, salaries at pure software companies and startups are pretty good. I have had four people in the last week quote me 200k salaries.

What type of positions in DC @ $200k?

Full-stack Angular, Node, Spark, Hadoop, Java, Scala, AWS, etc.

Dang. I hate moving. But that sounds appealing.

My guess, it's not as hard to find women in the office in tech companies in key roles outside of SF at least not as bad as it's made out to be in CA and the tech centric news sources that tend to focus solely on Silicon Valley as representative of tech as a whole. Some of us work in regular old Fortune 500 companies that aren't based in SF, and generally, but not always, they seem to do a better job on the gender mix and attracting female talent granted its not 50/50. Maybe companies in other areas provide better work life balance and stability than start up culture tech companies, I don't know. This is also purely anecdotal and based on my experience.

Might just mean in general, if the person's single maybe the odds are better of meeting someone, no idea.

I believe SF has a much better straight male to female ratio than the rest of SV. A lot of single women want to live in the city.

If you had bought a house in the Bay Area at that time, it would be worth almost double now. Houses that were $500k are now $900k-1M

$500k in 2010, at the depths of the housing crisis, would have gotten me a little over 1000 sq ft near an oil refinery in the East Bay. It's academic though, since that means a $50-100k down payment, which I could not have saved. Everyone gets hung up on the real estate appreciation in the Bay Area, but forgets that down payments are very hard to save up.

Edit: I wasn't considering condos. Go fee simple or go home.

Uh, $470k got me 1100sqft right near Caltrain in Willow Glen, a desirable suburb of San Jose. Last year.

The situation is crazy, don't get me wrong, but I think you're a little overselling it.

And $1.35m got me 1800sqft in Willow Glen last month. Afaik, avg sales price in Willow Glen over the past year is just over $1m.

Condo vs single family home :) I'm over by Tamien station off Minnesota Ave if that provides some context. (I call it the ghetto side of Willow Glen, as if there were such a thing. It's still a lovely neighborhood.)

Good for you! Maybe we'll run into each other sometime. :)

Actually I know someone who bought a 3 bedroom place 2 miles from Apple's new HQ in 2010 for 650K. They took out an FHA loan for 3% down with a PMI. This was a really smart decision because in 3 years their house value increased to 850K, bringing their loan to value ratio within 0.8 thus allowing them to refinance and get rid of the PMI. They had a monthly PMI of 350 dollars. That amounts to $12,600 extra for 3 years. 17% savings in downpayment amounts to 110,500. So essentially they saved 98K.

I have a 1200 sqft house with a nice yard in a cool neighborhood midway betwen Berkeley and downtown Oakland that we got for under $350k (including some largish repairs & upgrades) around that time. Admittedly we timed it well and property values around here have practically doubled since we bought it, but I think that was partly due to a lack of investment in new construction for a few years following the recession.

To be fair if you had bought a house almost anywhere at that time it would be worth almost double now. OP did even better and bought two!

Many parts of the Bay Area, yes. Not all metros.

In a huge number of places, 6 years ago was pretty much the low-point in house prices after the crash.

Which metros have increased the same percentage as the Bay Area?

For anyone interested… We just moved back to Atlanta in September after five years in the Bay Area, to be closer to family, and to be able to afford a house, ever.

I was well paid at Google, and loved working at YouTube. I also severely miss our many friends, as well as beautiful San Francisco: I used to walk up Bernal Hill one or two days a week with my toddler. Pictures of oceans and hills and everything else make me sad…

That said, we could never afford a house in San Francisco. And to get affordable, we'd have had to have gone way out, and the commute would have been terrible.

I was lucky enough to find out that Square has an Atlanta office, full of very smart people, so I was able to keep doing Silicon-Valley-style programming, which is a big win.

My pop bought his place in the east bay right after Viet Nam for ~70k. They pay ~100 a month in taxes and whatnot as the mortgage was paid years (decades?) ago. The exact same footprint ranch house next door just sold to a couple with a little boy. She is a 'local' teacher, he is a recruiter in tech somewhere in SF city. Take a guess how much they paid for a 3 bed, 1 bath on 1.7 acres about 1 hour (on a good day) commute for him.

Yeah, 850k, and that was a steal. The mortgage alone is, what ~3k/ mo? Taxes and everything else push this up to ~4.5k to 5k/ mo, right? And this is going to go for how long? Oh yeah, 20 years.

My folks have no illusions that this sweet couple and little Benny next door are going to be there anymore than 5 years. Even all the way out in the East Bay, it is just not possible.

Get out now before this bubble pops again. Beat the rush.

This isn't as outrageous as it sounds. In the time that your dad's house went up 12X, the S&P went up 20-30X. (In the 1970s it was in the 65-100 range, and now it's over 1900)

While the calculation isn't quite this simple (dividends on stock versus not paying rent, and interest deductions) it highlights that real estate appreciation isn't quite as crazy as it's made to sound.

This is an interesting "investment" example. In addition to the listed trade-offs, the mortgage would've likely allowed 25% cash down in 1976, approximately $18,000. Furthermore, savings in rent would've largely gone toward mortgage interest, repairs and capital expenditures. Given these assumptions, the result over a 40 year period would be an annual return of 10.12%[0].

Even so, the approximate return from the S&P 500 (reinvesting dividends) over the same period would be 11.468%[1].

[0] http://www.moneychimp.com/features/portfolio_performance_cal...

[1] http://dqydj.net/sp-500-return-calculator/

One thing to add... It's only in rare parts of the US that real estate appreciated so much, but you would have gotten those equity returns anywhere in the country.

It shows the effect of inflation, though. Someone who put $1900 under a mattress 40 years ago would find it's worth about $65 today.

According to the BLS’s CPI inflation calculator, $1900 in 1976 is the same buying power as $456 in 2016. Where are you getting $65 from? (Edit: that’s a rhetorical question.)

There’s a huge difference between 300% inflation the BLS claims vs. 2800% inflation you are suggesting.

Inverting the S&P 500 numbers the grandparent posted.

On a practical level, inflation is always relative to what you're actually buying. If you're buying S&P 500 index funds, the inflation rate is the price appreciation of the S&P 500. If you're buying real-estate, the inflation rate is the rate of increase in housing prices.

(Perhaps this is a bad example because you typically wouldn't be buying stock index funds after 40 years of earning, but the point is to illustrate opportunity cost. If someone's goal is to pass wealth on to their children, for example, then the price of income-producing assets is a lot more relevant than the price of milk.)

That doesn’t make sense. If your goal is to leave your children an inheritance, presumably they are supposed to either directly buy goods with it, or hire people to do useful work for them.

The price of goods, services, salaries, etc. have all gone up by roughly 3–4x in the US (with some notable exceptions like housing in certain areas and college tuition). Someone who invested in the S&P 500 and has 29x as many nominal dollars as they did in 1976 can buy about 8 times as much of other people’s labor as they could before.

Some fixed percentage of the total size of the S&P 500 is a practically useless measuring stick. If we use that as a standard, 90%+ of the population in the USA is 8x poorer than they were in 1976.

I don't understand what you're saying. If you put money under a mattress, doesn't it stay the same in worth? If I put a $20 bill under the mattress 40 years ago, it's still a $20 bill, worth exactly $20 today. What did you mean?

Instead of "worth", perhaps "purchasing power" would be more accurate. The purchasing power of cash is generally reduced over time due to inflation.

How are there taxes so low?

I know in Chicago if you were old past a certain age you got some tax breaks (MAYBE at some point a tax freeze). Does SF have some kind of tax rate freeze?

But ya, live is too short to spend a million bucks on a 2 bedroom house.

CA property tax increases are limited to 2% a year and only get re-assessed after a change of ownership or new construction.


Bingo. Prop 13 is the elephant in the room that is not mentioned. All discussions of CA property markets have this giant red flag in them. It very much distorts the free markets.

Not to argue in favor of all aspects of Prop 13, but the alternative of just letting valuations for property taxes float with the market means that a lot of people who own houses and have lived in them for a long time get forced out of their communities by increasing taxes. Which I don't see as generally a good thing.

The alternative is to do what Florida did: cap only primary residences. Why California extended the freeze to all property is beyond me.

The largest non-primary residence sector is the residential property for rent. Considering that any tax increase very quickly finds its way into a rent increase, what's the rationale for punishing renters?

It's almost a double whammy for someone who wants to buy a house, but can't afford the current prices or was outbid by a cash buyer going over asking price. Cheer up as we've incorporated the price increase into your rent.

> The largest non-primary residence sector is the residential property for rent. Considering that any tax increase very quickly finds its way into a rent increase, what's the rationale for punishing renters?

Assuming we're talking free markets, then the rent should already be set at the maximum price the market will bear. (If not the landlord is leaving money on the table.) Increasing property taxes is to depress the price of real estate. A simple property tax could also discourage new investment, while a land value tax incentivizes owners to maximize the value of their holdings.

> The largest non-primary residence sector is the residential property for rent. Considering that any tax increase very quickly finds its way into a rent increase, what's the rationale for punishing renters?

So, treat primary residences as primary residences, whether or not they are the primary residence of the property owner. For multi-unit rental properties, the total value of the property is divided among units proportionately to the rent charged for each unit to assess this.

Is your primary goal here to extract more revenue from timeshare owners and people who own a pied-à-terre? Don't those constitute negligible portion of California real estate market (as opposed to some places like Hawaii, where absentee ownership is significant and property taxes on timeshare / second home owners are very high)?

While it's probably not a bad idea, I don't see it moving the needle much.

> Is your primary goal here to extract more revenue from timeshare owners and people who own a pied-à-terre?

I'm discussing ways to achieve the goal upthread of insulating people from property tax uncertainty on their primary residence.

I would expect that the larger purpose of that is to allow full-value taxation on all other real property; of which non-primary-residence residential property is a subset (and a fairly small subset, at that.)

Remember that Prop 13 applies to all real property, not just residential property.

Biggest issue is it applies to commercial property too

This happens to renters when the market rate rises. If you can't afford to live somewhere, you go live somewhere else. This applies to everything else governed by a market, why shouldn't it apply to property taxes?

Prop 13 is a blatant wealth transfer between people who are new to the area (mostly the young) to the people who were originally here (mostly the old).

> This applies to everything else governed by a market, why shouldn't it apply to property taxes?

Taxes aren't governed by a market; the same rules don't apply. Arguments against government protectionism in markets don't also apply to protection against the actions of the government itself.

That said, proposition 13 doesn't seem like a good implementation of this. There's no good reason for a sudden increase upon sale; that breaks the ability to buy a home. There should be a hard cap on property taxes that doesn't change on sale.

Why should taxes get to increase without bound or control on existing property? Once you've paid off your home, you should not have an ever-growing expense to keep it.

(You shouldn't have an expense to keep it at all, but that's a separate argument.)

Property taxes are based on property values, which are governed by a market.

My view is that property taxes fund the very things that make a particular neighborhood desirable, like good schools, roads, parks, and other local services. Your property's value is what it is because of these things, and you shouldn't be able to reap these benefits without paying taxes proportional to the value you've captured.

> My view is that property taxes fund the very things that make a particular neighborhood desirable, like good schools, roads, parks, and other local services.

In California, that's less true than it might otherwise be, given the prop 13 limits on both assessments and tax rates. Lots of those things are funded by sales tax revenue, income tax revenue (primarily state income tax funding local programs), development fees, and other revenue sources other than property tax.

They typically mostly fund schools, which long-time home owners generally aren't even using. One of the whole reasons to buy property is to have some long-term residential stability, which doesn't happen if property taxes can increase rapidly. If I'm holding onto my home, I've only captured value in a theoretical sense. I don't have any cash to pay for the increased property taxes until I sell.

> My view is that property taxes fund the very things that make a particular neighborhood desirable, like good schools, roads, parks, and other local services.

I think you're arguing that richer neighborhoods should have nicer schools, roads and parks. Granted, SF is an exception here, but that's precisely how things work elsewhere in California.

And if richer neighborhoods don't get that, California made annexations pretty easy, which is why you see those tiny municipalities in the vicinity of Los Angeles, San Diego, Anaheim, etc.

I'm arguing that richer neighborhoods DO have nicer schools, roads, and parks. Prop 13 says you may live in such valuable neighborhood while not paying taxes in proportion to that value, merely because you happened to buy a long time ago.

I an questioning how big of a problem that is empirically.

One can't really arbitrage that effectively.

Municipalities can't run consistent deficits, so the new schools, roads and parks will be built after a wave of newcomers buys properties, locking in higher prices and higher tax base.

In case there are no such newcomers (i.e. everybody is maximizing their Prop 13 benefit by not selling), the municipality just sticks to the last year's budget with a 2% increase permitted by Prop 13. But in that case new schools, parks and roads that make the neighborhood better don't appear either.

> I'm arguing that richer neighborhoods DO have nicer schools, roads, and parks.

That's a really good reason to stop funding those things through property taxes.

> This applies to everything else governed by a market, why shouldn't it apply to property taxes?

Does it apply to anything else you own? If 2004 Honda Civics suddenly got really popular and I already owned one, I wouldn't suddenly be priced out. Or if I own gold or stocks, and the price goes up, that doesn't affect me at all unless I sell.

> If 2004 Honda Civics suddenly got really popular and I already owned one, I wouldn't suddenly be priced out.

In California, since the state has ad valorem taxation on vehicles (the vehicle license fee, which is 1.15% of the market value of the vehicle) which does not have prop. 13 style limits, you, in fact, could be priced out of your 2004 Honda Civic if the market price suddenly and radically increased.

Oregon solved this problem differently: there's a hard annual cap on property tax increases period, which doesn't change when the property changes hands.

That prevents people from being taxed out of their home, without creating a situation that makes it hard for people to buy new homes.

The Oregon system started out with good intentions but ended up being devilishly complicated to understand and unfair to many people. It's probably a great case study in the long-term unintended consequences of laws intended to control real estate taxes.

The Deschutes (Oregon) County Tax Assessor's office made a really good video explaining how three almost identical houses in the same location can have completely different tax bills:


In addition to what the video says, I wanted to point out that the 3% hard annual cap you mention is only on the property's Maximum Assessed Value, which is only one of the many inputs into the computation for a property's tax bill. For example, one thing that can cause taxes to go up more than 3% are general bonds approved by voter measure.

Portland Commissioner Steve Novick also wrote a really good article about all of the problems with Oregon's tax system and made some recommendations:


Our property taxes are still actually pretty low -- around 1%. My sister just bought a house in Ohio for 20% what our Bay Area house host, but their taxes are more than half as much as ours. In fact, their taxes are half their mortgage while ours are practically negligible.

I mean schools need funded somehow.. many states fund them almost all through property taxes.

A lot of places I have lived capped property tax at 2% of market value. In Ohio are their taxes significantly higher than 2% of property value? I wonder if they have tax missing somewhere else, like no local income tax or something... Ohio doesn't strike me as a high tax zone.

Taxation distorts the free market. Prop 13 is not an elephant in the room, everyone knows about it and it's a hot topic of public discussion even long after it was passed.

For those unfamiliar, you can think of Prop. 13 as an effective cartel to discourage people from selling their property.

Basically, it subsidizes keeping property and never selling it. This is because every year the owner's property taxes essentially go down, presuming any normal level of inflation. And because of follow-on propositions, you can transfer that advantage from parents to children. Yes, this does let existing residents stay somewhere indefinitely. Equivalently, we can say it strongly discourages mobility.

The crazy real estate prices you see are simply a result of the proposition-established cartel. This drives up prices for new arrivals, which California depends on to keep this going, which makes the people holding on to their property think two things: "I'm rich because my home is worth so much" and "I could never get by without Prop. 13 because my home is worth so much." This has made Prop. 13 untouchable — it would basically have to be overturned at the state Supreme Court level at the behest of broad popular opinion.

However, this is just another bubble. California as a state has done relatively quite well in the last thirty years, so it continues to inflate. However, California and local governments have also spent a huge amount of future revenue on state workers, so it has become harder to sustain. But for the huge amount of income tax receipts from the investment class of California, things would already be in rough shape.

Someday, the bubble will burst. If Prop. 13 was ruled unconstitutional tomorrow, it would cause a real estate crisis, followed by an economic crisis, that is hard to imagine. But that might be preferable to having Prop. 13 crumble in the middle of a statewide economic crisis, which is the most likely ending of this story. In the meantime, yes, it does keep grandma in her tidily-appreciating house instead of some filthy tech hipsters chasing the next gold rush.

Ah that is pretty nice if you got in a hot area before a boom. Kinda like rent-control in a NYC apartment where you pay 1/4 what your neighbor pays.

If you don't mind me asking, how does your absolute salary fare when moving to a lower cost of living region? Do employers tend to keep you at the salary you had, or does it take a hit (even though it is supposedly "equivalent" in some sense)?

My base salary went up slightly, and my total compensation went down. We'll see how the options turn out.

How did total comp went down if base went up? What was it that went down specifically?

Outside of a few hot areas, total compensation for even the best people is usually 85% base salary.

How is that possible? example please

Total compensation is base salary plus stock/options. If your stock grant goes down by enough, total compensation may fall even if base salary went up.

I'm actually a stock trader, so it's even more skewed for me and would be a good example. Let's say I get paid $50 per year. At the end of the year, depending on my/our performance, I will get paid between $0 and $200 as a bonus, which I wouldn't count as part of my base comp.

Other forms of non-base include stocks/options/etc.

Performance bonuses?

I think many ask you to take a hit. If you relocated to SF, you would expect your compensation to go up, wouldn't you?

Fun calculator for relocations:


Like most of these things, this calculator makes some broad assumptions.

For instance, it assumes transportation costs in Manhattan are higher than most other places. This is unbelievably inaccurate in my experience. Maybe it assumes people here take taxis all over the place? I've found transportation to be cheaper in NYC than anywhere else in the USA. No car or gasoline or insurance or maintenance, etc. A car costs on average about 9k/year to own according to AAA. In a place like NYC if you take the Subway every day your cost is about 1,300/year. Throw in a few hundred for cabs and you're looking at 1,800/year. It doesn't cover the rent gap compared to most places but it helps.

In effect this calculator says a salary in Chicago goes nearly twice as far (so if you make 200k in NYC that would be 106k in Chicago. In my experience that is simply untrue. 200k in NYC would be closer to 170k in Chicago.

I think this calculator is making the assumption someone would require the same resources, like a car in all places. Or that someone who had 1600 square feet of living space would expect the same in NYC, which would be ridiculous. No reasonable person would assume they would move to NYC and get a car and garage it. That simply isn't the typical lifestyle here. Most my friends born and raised in the city don't even have licenses.

It also claims that living in San Francisco is significantly cheaper than NYC which is untrue as well.

I also find it frustrating that this [and similar tools] don't break down by something more granular, such as neighborhood or zip code.

For example, it's not exactly sound to average the price of all neighborhoods in Manhattan.

COL indexes are flawed? Who knew.

I hope it would be apparent you should reference many different sources when comparing salaries in different locations.

I moved to Chicago from SF and took a substantial hit. But I was doing a lateral move and am still early in a career change. If you are moving to a higher position or you have lot of experience you may carry better across geos. Like a guy I know is long time marketer and got wined and dined by 20ish startups in Chicago. Im sure he did fine on salary.

honest question: what does "Silicon-Valley-style programming" mean? I've been living in SF for 5+ years and I'll prob stay for a few more. But I can't see myself living for too long mainly because of rent and house prices. Europe, to me, looks a lot better (I'm thinking Berlin).

But re: "Silicon-Valley-style programming", I don't see any difference here than any other similar place.

Silicon Valley style programming means working on consumer apps that have a chance of being used by thousands and millions of people.

Especially in Europe, most programming goes to custom software for banking and various industries. There are very few Microsoft, Square or Google style companies in Europe, where software is the product. A lot of software is a cost center for something else. For some, it doesn't give them the same feeling of accomplishment.

Dated, but still worth reading: http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/FiveWorlds.html

Software development != software development

It's the same in Silicon Valley. Software developers are a "cost center" and balance sheets and accounting reflect that - even at companies like Google.

I've spent large chunks of my career in the Midwest as a consultant. Senior devs go into very long term consulting gigs because then companies can afford to pay us much more: we count as 100% capex.

Companies that might pay an employee $110K a year will have zero problem paying rates that end up with take-homes of +$200K a year after paying your own benefits and taking vacation time off.

Could you expand on that? I've snubbed contracting gigs in the past because I enjoy the often very generous healthcare plans at tech companies.

Actually, assuming you're not just maintaining a code base (i.e. you're mostly adding features or making something new), the cost of software development is typically an asset on the balance sheet

So there are lots of programming jobs out there at places that are not like the valley. Thing Initech from Office Space - business casual dress code, gantt charts, dreary cubes, long death march schedules you have no control over, people are resources first, salaries are intentionally below market rate...

I landed at one of these a few years ago and got out ASAP. They're out there, but not so much in the Bay Area because the talent war is so hot - any place like that wouldn't be able to hire or keep anyone.

Most shops aren't like that.

I don't do "SV style programming" but we have no dress code, no death March schedules, no charts, no meetings, etc. Same thing as my last job in another city.

Though we also don't have ping pong, Foosball, stocked fridge, or many young people if that's what you are looking for. Oh, and not a lot of turnover either.

It usually means working on apps used by a lot of people, entertaining stuff and exciting new technology. That "style" is not available in every part of the world.

In some places of Europe it's most of the time just working for bank, insurance, industry or european institution with too old technology, long and fixed schedules and not so much excitement or feeling of making something useful. Add this to under-market salary, suits everyday, ... Developers are not killing it there, they just cost money, they don't have that aura of hype, respect, perks and all.

But it's starting to change I guess (and hope).

Google's HQ is in Mountain View. Why did you have to live or buy a house in SF?

We have generally found that San Francisco housing prices are lower than Silicon Valley. Cupertino, Mountain View, etc are absolutely insane.

Housing prices in Mountain View are just as bad as those in SF.

Also, YouTube's head office is closer to the SF airport.

If only there was a bus straight to campus that went to like 5 counties...

> Also, YouTube's head office is closer to the SF airport.

Which is also not in SF.

It's geographically close enough.

It isn't geographically close enough to make the claim that living in SF is necessary because you work there.

Of course, even if the office was in SF that wouldn't be justified. It's hardly unusual for people to commute into SF from places with lower living costs.

Housing on the peninsula is incredibly constrained so most people are priced out. Right now in the East Bay, San Leandro and Castro Valley are probably the best price points for square foot per $. Commutes suck from both places but they are equally positioned between valley and city giving you access to both.

If the bubble continues I would expect that both places will get priced out in the next 2-3 years. At that point you'll have to look at the Tri-Valley area (Dublin, Pleasanton, Livermore) for the affordable price points.

The Tri-Valley is actually quite a bit more expensive than the mid East Bay region (Hayward, Union City, San Leandro, Castro Valley). It's still cheaper than the Peninsula or South Bay, though.

If you're looking at the East Bay you're too late. Castro Valley and San Leandro were marginally affordable about 4 years ago. Now, you are probably going to need a salary of over $200K to support buying there. Dublin and Pleasanton have good schools so you'll need more $$$ out there. Livermore is probably still affordable to a mere mortal but I'd start looking further out towards Tracy or Stockton at this point.

San Francisco is stunningly beautiful. Prices near YouTube (which is close to San Francisco) were also incredibly high.

I live ~1 mile from Google in mountain view and a few blocks from here: http://www.orolomahomes.com/site-plan/

tl;dr: 1300 sq. ft. new 2 bedroom townhome for 1.3 million.

SF is cheaper than SV. Unless it's Palo Alto.

I think you have that backwards. Especially since you mention Palo Alto as being the exception.

Do you mean East Palo Alto?

He worked at Youtube, which is actually in San Bruno. Living in SF is the trendy thing to do so he probably felt the 'real' experience would be more worthwhile (which it sounds like it was). From the southern part of SF (not South San Francisco, that is different) it's not a crazy commute to San Bruno. To Mountain View it would have been hell.

I'm about the furthest from "trendy" you can imagine. But our quality of life living in Bernal Heights was amazing.

Just wanted to point out one thing, the comparison between Atlanta and SF is a bit more nuanced. Atlanta is about 3x larger (in square miles) and encompasses an incredibly economically diverse area. Within two miles, you can find a house for $20,000 and a house for $1,000,000+. This certainly brings down the 'average cost of living', but does not account for the cost of living in a safe and desirable area, which is not quite SF price levels, but is equally in demand and short of supply.

Please define Silicon Valley style programming?

I was afraid I'd end up in a corporate IT department in a big company that does something other than technology as its main thing.

In Mikey Dickerson's talks about fixing Healthcare.gov he talks about two strains of programming: that descended from a more engineering mindset, and that descended from the IT department. (I'm paraphrasing badly: I'll try to find a better link when I have more time.) I guess I was using "Silicon Valley" as shorthand for the former.

If at all possible, you want to work where you're a net benefit and somehow directly visibly producing output the company is selling, not where you're a net cost.

Note how the word "computer" doesn't appear in that sentence; it's not unique to computer programming.

Said in traditional business-speak:

Work in a profit center, not in a cost center.

I'm on the Shared Systems team at Square, and was on Abuse prevention at YouTube, so I pretty much seem to only land in cost centers :-)

But I get to build RPC services and other cool infrastructure in Go.

I work at an NGO that manages investment in farming. We have beuracracy bigger than most governments.

Still get to write cool stuff in Go, Node, Elixir or whatever else takes my fancy and tinker with IoT hardware during work hours :-)

Thats a really nice way to phrase a sentiment I, and I would guess many other HN'ers have long felt.

I've been there. You are nothing but a commoditized resource when you are in a "corporate IT" job. That being said programmer-centric jobs can be found anywhere outside SV.

How do you switch from one strain to another? How do you know what strain you work in?

I am working for a large bank this summer in San Fran on their main website. This site has an Alexa score in the top 25 for the US, and is in the top 100 overall. They have said I would be working in NodeJS, as they are rewriting large portions of the site with node. Will this project most likely contain people of the Engineering, or IT mindsets?

If you're building a website for a bank, it is definitely IT work. Nobody sees you as anything but a cost center.

>How do you switch from one strain to another?

End up around people that already have that strain, get their attention, and become friends so you can learn and they can teach. You unfortunately just can't teach yourself everything.

It sounds like another form of pedigree selection. Or maybe dividing the field up into "us vs. them". Pretty understandable sentiment if you get pushed into fixing Healthcare.gov like he describes in one of his talks and working with guys arguing about tickets not existing because they're on different ticket systems and people with zero motivation to build a decent product. Wastage is immense in IT from the sounds of it in this talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Vc8sxhy2I4

IT mindsets.

Programming with an inflated salary.

You realize that that sweet $140,000 Silicon Valley base salary at FaceGoogBox is worth less than that very middle class $80,000 in Atlanta, once you adjust for cost of living, right? If you want to buy a house, it's more like $40,000 in downtown Atlanta. It ain't poverty, but no one's getting dirty rich off of that kind of salary, either.

Is someone making $80,000 for doing 60 hours a week of highly-skilled, highly-profit-bearing work "overpaid". In my opinion, that's underpaid.

If anything, we've seen recent evidence that SV salaries are "deflated" compared to other industries and areas of the country, due to collusion, frequent targeted hiring of very young, often naive grad, inflated time at work, etc.

I don't work in SV, for the reasons I outlined above, so this isn't some kind of self-justification.

Edit: To be clear, I don't disapprove of people working there, I know it's beautiful and a nice place to live. I'm actually defending SV engineers from accusations of "inflated" salaries. It's just not a good place to go to get rich as an engineer with a family.

I don't (and won't) live in the Bay Area, but I live on the west coast, in an area a lot more expensive than Atlanta. When I got serious about moving to a "low cost of living" area and started doing the math, I found it to not be nearly so cut and dried. While housing and taxes are cheaper, many other things cost the same or more. For example, it's often MORE expensive to go on vacation from a cheaper area because the airport is smaller and there aren't direct flights to as many places (granted, not an issue in Atlanta). And of course everything on the other end costs the same regardless of whether you're coming from SF or Des Moines. Buying a car costs roughly the same (sales tax and car registration may make a small impact). Gadgets and electronics cost the same. Food may cost slightly less, but not in proportion to the pay difference. Cable, internet, cell service, health insurance, etc. all cost about the same.

When I put everything on a spreadsheet, the lower housing costs in other parts of the country didn't sufficiently make up for the drastically lower salaries. YMMV, but I encourage everyone to very carefully do the math before making these kinds of decisions.

(I do think that SF may be a special case, since it's SO expensive, but even then it's worth doing the math.)

One thing I've noticed about cost-of-living discussions is that people fail to take into account that the cost-of-living isn't some abstract constant, but is still buying something "real". In general, which area has more crime: The 90th percentile cost of living area or the 5th percentile cost of living area? Which area has nice stores with a wide variety of organic fruits and veggies, and which area has stores where they can't afford to replace the floor tiles when they pop out? As you say, you can't just do a cost-of-living calculation blindly.

That said, adding in those factors often makes Silicon Valley come out even worse. I've visited it quite a bit and it is not nicer enough to account for cost-of-living difference, unless you simply can not stand to live somewhere with less than perfect weather. But I think that's special to the Valley.

> Which area has nice stores with a wide variety of organic fruits and veggies, and which area has stores where they can't afford to replace the floor tiles when they pop out?

It's interesting that you bring this up. In the case of food, at least, lower COL areas (which are typically more rural) have access to something far better than any store - farmer's markets and actual farms.

I suppose I'm lucky to live on the edge of a gentrified neighborhood in the midwest.

There's a "cheap basics" grocery store in a 5 minute walk, a farmer's market in a 10 minute walk, and a Whole Foods in a 15 minute drive.

I don't really care about organic produce, but that flash pasteurized OJ at Whole Foods is really worth the extra $2.

Some would describe the 'perfect weather' of the Bay Area as 'tepid' or 'freezing cold'.

It's a nice area for certain, but it makes me wonder about myself when I'm wearing a parka and everybody else is walking around with a scarf or light jacket.

Are you talking about SF or the peninsula? Because SF weather is much colder than the rest of the Bay Area.

Both, but more so SF-proper I suppose. In the city, I look like an astronaut, but further south I only look like a moderate weirdo, mumbling to myself about people wearing shorts while zipping my coat up over my chin.

> Buying a car costs roughly the same (sales tax and car registration may make a small impact).

Parking is a big difference though. You can rent an apartment in the Midwest for what it takes to park a car in some major cities. Not to mention higher gas and insurance.

That's probably true in the city of SF (at least with respect to parking), but I'm not sure it's true in the rest of the Bay Area, and definitely isn't my experience in several other west coast cities. It's been nearly 10 years since I've had to pay for a monthly parking spot, and the random meter here and there costs me WELL under $25/mo. Gas and insurance are a tiny part of my budget; moving somewhere that allowed me to even take them to zero wouldn't make a noticeable impact. And I honestly can't imagine they're more than 25-30% cheaper in most areas. That stuff isn't THAT expensive here.

> For example, it's often MORE expensive to go on vacation from a cheaper area because the airport is smaller and there aren't direct flights to as many places (granted, not an issue in Atlanta).

I live in Cincinnati with one of the most top 10 most expensive airports in the country (CVG). I also spend a lot of time traveling and searching for flights.

One strategy I've used to avoid this is booking Kayak-style "hacker fare" for a domestic ticket to a hub like LAX/ATL/etc. with an international flight out from the hub, then a return ticket from destination to home (with connections of course).

It doesn't sound like it'd be that significant, but it made a recent trip to New Zealand & Australia about 40% cheaper, though it does take some extra effort.

it also depends on what you care about. For example, in New York, you pay up for easy access to culture. But what if you don't care about culture and are happy to just watch netflix every night? then, living in NYC makes no sense for you, unless you can't leave for some reason

well if you care about your job and career, a lot of opportunity awaits you in Manhattan. That's certainly one reason.

According to Wolfram Alpha, $140,000 is equivalent to $85,000 in Atlanta, once you've adjusted for the cost of living.


Wolfram Alpha needs better marketing. This tool is amazing.

I wish I could figure out how to get it to run each statement in parenthesis as a separate statement then combine them. A lot of time when I'm trying to combine a lot of different values it'll get confused and just evaluate one of them individually. Same thing with happens with units sometimes.

Maybe I'm just not writing my queries just right but it's my major pain point with Wolfram Alpha.

> You realize that that sweet $140,000 Silicon Valley base salary at FaceGoogBox is worth less than that very middle class $80,000 in Atlanta, once you adjust for cost of living, right?

I find that very hard to believe. If you make $12,000 a month in SF and spend $3,000 a month on rent (which is pretty generous for one person), you still have more leftover money per month than your entire paycheck at an $80,000 annual salary.

$140k after taxes in California nets you about $7,100 per month. $80k after taxes in Georgia nets you about $4,500 per month. A ~700 square foot apartment in a luxury building runs $1,300 in Buckhead (the most desirable location downtown). Looks like a similar apartment runs $3,800 in a desirable part of San Francisco. So immediately, your pay difference is swallowed up by the rent differential. But everything else is substantially cheaper in Atlanta too. It's not the land of $4 toast. Prices at a nice restaurant will be ~70% of that in SF.

Yeah, at that point it really comes down to whether your personal utility from living in San Francisco outweighs the disutility of having a smaller apartment or sharing an apartment. I don't know of anyone (who's not independently wealthy) who pays for a 700 sq. foot SF apartment with just one income. Most people I know pay around $2k a month on rent.

Sure, you may weigh the benefits of living in SF higher than the cost of doing so, but that doesn't mean the cost differential when comparing like-with-like isn't significant. Moreover, once you have a family, the cost-benefit analysis changes in a surprising way. My wife and I are dedicated urbanites and currently live in downtown Baltimore. We could afford an awesome house in a dense urban neighborhood walkable to restaurants, bars, our daughter's nursery school, etc. But we're relocating to D.C. where a house in a similar neighborhood would cost 5x as much, and are facing the prospect of having to move out to the 'burbs (or the more boring suburb-y parts of the city).

> but that doesn't mean the cost differential when comparing like-with-like isn't significant.

That is kind of true, but it's also not realistic to just compare identical housing arrangements in very different regions. It makes more sense to compare not just median costs of two regions, but also median housing size/type. But of course, if spacious housing is very important to someone, that's perfectly fine, and it's a perfectly good reason to live somewhere else.

Bingo. And the calculation just gets worse when you include expenses for a family.

I make 50% more here than in Utah. Before stock, I am saving less than I did in Utah. I had a $1100/mo mortgage in Utah (4 bed, 2 bath). I'm paying $3800/mo in rent here (3 bed, 1.5 ba). Utilities are about 2x. Food about 30% more. I pay roughly 10% salary more in a taxes.

It's expensive to live here. That doesn't mean I don't like it though :)

To be clear, I'm writing from the perspective of having a family with children. Believe me, I've run the numbers and there's no way I could buy or even rent a decent house there without a massive commute (which I can't stand).

Glad to be proven wrong here. I'd go back and entertain offers I've had if I knew I was wrong.

Are there other family-related costs that are significantly lower in Atlanta than in SF? I'm still having trouble making the math work out.

Childcare in the peninsula is hugely expensive even when it is available. 150 person waitlists for 50 kid facilities are the norm. A dirty daycare will run 2k per month, and a nanny around 3k. I'm not sure what the situation is elsewhere but I have to imagine it is better. Home daycares aren't available because no one can afford a home. The crazy prices lead to shortages of services because none of the people who would provide them can live there.

Childcare is substantially more expensive and the public schools are not very good. You almost have to put your child in private school, and you are looking at $20k-$30k/year/child. The city is not very kid friendly in general.

And any surrounding districts with good public schools will of course have ever higher real estate costs.

Consider daycare which ranges between $1500 to $2000 per month in SF. Nannies are $2000 to $3000 per month.

I did a quick comparison. This doesn't include all the costs, but it should give you an idea of what he/she means:

The median sales price of a Santa Clara County 3 bedroom house is $820,000. This is $3,877/mo, plus $850/mo property taxes, for a housing cost of $4,727/mo

That $140,000/yr is taxed at $48,922 in the state of California, leaving $91,078, or $7,589/ mo income.

CA Income ($7,589) - CA Housing Costs ($4,727) = $2,682 leftover.


The median sales price of a Cobb County 3 bedroom house is $173,000. This is $818/mo, plus $140/mo property taxes, for a housing cost of $958/mo

That $80,000/yr is taxed at $23,600 in the state of Georgia, leaving $56,400, or $4,700/ mo income.

GA Income ($4,700) - GA Housing Costs ($958) = $3,742 leftover.


I'm not saying my numbers are valid for every person's situation, only that this is an example of a situation where the numbers work in Atlanta's favor.

Your numbers are way off. Salary doesn't paint the entire picture. Median total comp for a fresh out of college (L3) at Google is ~165k.

L4 is ~215k. L5 (Senior) is ~265k.

Factor in free breakfast/lunch/dinner, free gym, free laundry, generous 401k matching, other perks and discounts, and the gap widens even more.

And those scenarios represent a small fraction of the total number of engineers in the Valley. There is a reason Google is so selective in its hiring.

Throwing those out as typical is disingenuous.

Google is a huge outlier when it comes to salary. There are thousands of tech companies in the bay area, and median salary is around $100K.

Do you have a source of this data? I have tons of friends in the Bay Area who work at a wide variety of tech companies, and none of them are making $100k or less. I guess maybe they really are "all above average" but I find it hard to believe that the median salary for software engineers in the bay area is really $100k.

Sure. [1] [2]

Of course, this is just "a couple minutes of google research"--I am not a subject matter expert, as someone on HN kindly pointed out last time I posted these here. Also, they are based on self-reported surveys and don't include sellable equity, so take it with a grain of salt. I don't know where better data would be published. I'm intuitively not too surprised by these figures--I think the HN demographic is probably pretty skewed towards the higher end, judging by all those threads where people toss around $150K and $200K salaries as "normal".

1: https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/san-francisco-software-en...

2: http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Software_Engineer/Sa...

$140k is what we're discussing in this thread. You're welcome to join us.

You left out tax differences and inflated costs for other necessities such as food, transportation, entertainment, etc.

12,000$/month is pre taxes. You get taxed more on 80-140 than 0 to 80, and California has higher income tax rates to make up for messed up property tax rates.

On net you get an extra ~2,600/month after taxes.

>>If anything, we've seen recent evidence that SV salaries are "deflated" compared to other industries and areas of the country, due to collusion, frequent targeted hiring of very young, often naive grad, inflated time at work, etc.

Conversely, they're also being propped up by the massive amount of VC money at play there, which is driving an arms race for programming talent not seen elsewhere around the country. I'm not saying you're wrong about your point about collusion, but there are multiple factors at play there.

It's also the case that going back decades, moving to very high cost of living areas like Manhattan and Silicon Valley has tended to result in paying out relatively more for housing than salaries tend to increase. Yes, the situation today is particularly bad but such places have long been something of a "luxury location."

> You realize that that sweet $140,000 Silicon Valley base salary at FaceGoogBox is worth less than that very middle class $80,000 in Atlanta, once you adjust for cost of living, right?

You're ignoring equity here, which after a couple years will be more than your base salary anyway.

With a total comp of $300k+, a lot SV workers don't mind paying $30k/year more in rent to live in the Bay Area. As many others have noted, it really is beautiful here...

A beauty that's getting harder and harder to appreciate. And that's not even exclusive to the Bay to begin with.

> And that's not even exclusive to the Bay to begin with.

What other place is like this? I mean a lively, diverse city where everyone is from everywhere, mountains nearby, and 3000 hours of sunshine a year?

You mean where everyone is from an upper middle class family, a private highschool, and one of 20-30 prestigious engineering schools at which they studied under one of the same four degree programs, after which they decided to go and work at "this really hot tech company!"

Boy that's diverse.

The area basically vacuums everyone who fits the exact same mold from anywhere in the world – that does not make the area more diverse.

That's literally the sales pitch for Denver (we're working on the diversity bit). Although we get more sun.

Oh, and the warm winters bit :)

Came here to read this.

Are there "a lot" of SF workers with 300k personal income on their taxes?

I call b.s. I pulled numbers off a few sites that estimate cost of living in Atlanta at ~$26k/year. Just ran my own numbers, and my own costs last year were ~22k. For reference, I live in Santa Cruz with that sweet job as FaceGoogBox. There are a few places I'd consider moving to for a $80k pay cut, but Atlanta isn't one of them.

I don't think anyone on my team in Austin makes less than $135K/year. I'm the youngest on our team at 33 though.

It is not unusual for someone in that position to be renting an apartment for $1,000 per month which, accounting for the increased salary by living in the bay area less opportunity cost of buying vs renting in ATL, is still a net win for that individual in their stage of their life. They key here is that this person can buy the so-called $40K house after 1-2 years of saving and living here, where as you will still have a mortgage.

$140k is only a base salary at "FaceGoogBox" if you're relatively young in your career. And it overlooks the meaningful equity/bonus.

It's not really true in my experience. If you can live in the East Bay, there are definitely still really nice and affordable places to be found. Yes, the prices have gone up significantly over the past few years in the East Bay too, but it is still cheap enough where it probably will make the high Bay Area salaries financially worthwhile.

Houses in downtown Atlanta haven't been $40,000 for decades.

That wasn't my argument at all. $40,000 was in reference to salary (ie, a $40,000 salary in Atlanta can get you the same type of house as $140,000 salary in SF).

By the way, many here assuming I'm in Atlanta. I am not (and don't wish to be, because of the crazy traffic).

"Not living in Georgia" is worth a premium.

I agree, no offense to anyone who loves Georgia.

SF is too expensive though. I like Seattle just fine.

You mean market-based salaries

How about programming with a market-based salary in an inflated market?

Does this really exist? If a company could meet the need cheaper, wouldn't they? Instead, you're either referring to using the wrong tool, and hence a high salary, or you're being relative to a given location. If that's the case, then pretty much everyone's salary is inflated, since there's certainly someone in the world who will do the job for $20k USD.

It's useless trying to talk sense into someone who clearly has a deep sense of resentment.

I suspect this refers to the languages and frameworks in vogue (Rails, Node, Angular/React/Ember), emphasis towards open source, and using Apple hardware. There's still a ton of work done in unsexy companies on Dells and HP using PHP/ColdFusion/.NET/etc.

Not at all. See my other comment.

> ...unsexy companies.../.net...

At unsexy companies, and at StackOverflow

Welcome back (my office is in the 201 building too). As you'll soon find Atlanta has a lot to offer but you just have to look a bit harder or drive a bit further.

You can't fix the lack of proximity to the ocean, but being able to get a direct flight to most airports in the Caribbean almost makes up for that.

in my personal experience, sf is better to visit than to inhabit. los angeles is the opposite.

Agree 100%. I will say though that there are many suburbs of SF that are way better to inhabit than visit, and give SoCal a run for it's money (cycling through vineyards on the way to downtown Livermore for example)...

Really? Los Angeles seems like an awful place to live. I've been spending quite of time there recently. The hours that people spend in their car is absolutely horrific.

> The hours that people spend in their car is absolutely horrific

here's a tip: don't do that. problem solved.

What does it take to be at that level (e.g. working at known, established tech giants and/or startups), knowing people or being knowledgeable + luck?

> (e.g. working at known, established tech giants and/or startups), knowing people or being knowledgeable + luck?

Passing an interview gauntlet will usually suffice. Be really good at sophomore level data structures/algorithms class materials.

working at one of the premier SV companies, google still doesn't provide sufficient income to purchase a home?

Sure it does on a sustaining basis, but you still have to save enough for the initial down payment.

> I was lucky enough to find out that Square has an Atlanta office

Was the salary the same, or was it adjusted?

The best way to afford housing in the bay area is to have already bought when the market was low. You can use that money to put in for a 3 bedroom house in or very close to SF. Unfortunately, it's too late to do this for anyone interested now.

Great advice!

Yes it was, too bad not many listened...

Luckily, you have the opportunity to follow this advice every 5-8 years.

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