San Diego

Report names San Diego the most expensive place to live in the US

Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and San Francisco also made the top 25 list — but none higher than San Diego

NBC Universal, Inc.

How much are you willing to pay for "72 and Sunny"? According to a new report ranking the most expensive places to live, locals dish out a pretty penny for that San Diego lifestyle.

The City of San Diego recently took the No. 1 spot on the U.S. News & World Report's list of the Most Expensive Places to Live in the U.S. in 2023-2024.

The report ranks cities based on the median gross rent and annual housing costs for mortgage-paying homeowners, according to U.S. News & World. The cities at the top of the list require the most wealth to live comfortably.

U.S. News & World categorizes their ranking on four indexes:

  • Quality of Life Index - 36%
  • Value Index - 23%
  • Desirability Index - 22%
  • Job Market Index - 19%

Within each of those indexes are various qualities. Click here to see how each one is measured.

"Living in San Diego is not particularly affordable," the report reads. "Home prices are considerably higher than the national median sale price. Additionally, many living in the downtown area have to pay homeowners association fees, used to maintain common areas in apartment and condominium complexes. San Diegans are willing to pay these elevated prices, though, often referring to the cost-of-living differences as the "sunshine tax," or the price of enjoying a year-round temperate climate."

San Diego quick stats from U.S. News & World

  • Average annual salary: $67,200
  • Median monthly rent: $1,842
  • Median home price: $919,507
  • Median age: 36.3 years old
  • Metro population: 3,296,317

A renter's story

There are San Diegans who don't know our city is the most expensive to live in the U.S. and then there’s Cierra Morris. She wishes she didn’t know San Diego’s price tag like the back of her hand.

“I just moved from Denver, so I think I chose the wrong timing to come out here,” Morris said. “I'm struggling. I'm like 27, just looking for a place on my own.”

Denver is actually No. 16 on U.S. News & World Report’s list, but Morris had no clue what she was in for renting in No. 1.

Two years in and Morris still can’t find a place of her own she can afford to rent.

More than 3 million people live here and pay an average $3,000 in rent. If someone wants to buy, there's a 50% chance it'll be more than $1 million.

Randy Waynick, Point Loma Nazarene University management professor, said San Diego has been expensive for a long time.

He said San Diego salaries are higher than the national average, but not high enough to keep up with housing costs. Post pandemic remote work drives people to our coasts, making housing even more scarce.

His advice is to make a budget.

“Do the hard but simple work of actually just understanding the money that's coming in,” he said. “Where is it going?”

One of the sneakiest expenses are those subscriptions — they add up quick.

“I've been paying for things for years that I never even realized I was paying for,” Waynick said. “So, I think there's a lot of opportunity for people to pull back.”

The good news is there are things you can do to save and make money like dog walking … yard work … the side hustle list goes on and on.

The bad news is — there’s no telling how high San Diego’s price tag will climb.

“You have wars and natural disasters going on,” Waynick said. “So, we're in a really uncertain time. So just pump the brakes a little bit, hold off, use caution.”

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