Bay Area residents are flooding Sacramento. What’s it really like living there?

  • 74446 920x920 Bay Area residents are flooding Sacramento. Whats it really like living there?



Debra JonesI do not have “plans,” I have dreams. San Francisco is my home. It’s where I was born and raised. I am a graduate of SFUSD, SF State and UC Berkeley. I bleed blue and gold. I rep the Warriors, Raiders, even though my heart belongs to the Pittsburgh Steelers. But I ache for another 49er championship. I miss Muni, BART, flaming hot days in September, foggy damp mornings, the fog horn, the siren on Tuesdays at noon. As I age, my income level will not allow me to age in the place that shaped and molded who I am and my world view. less

Photo: Max Whittaker/Prime, Special To The Chronicle

The weekly music art scene, the abundance of everything delicious (whatever you crave: ice cream, shawarma, burrito, poke, acai bowl, banh mi, artisanal cocktails) all within walking radius, the convenience how easy it is to get around (walk, bike, Muni, BART, ferry) and last but not least, my rent-control apartment. less

Photo: Steve Yeater, Special To The Chronicle

Sacramento is seen in a file photo.

Sacramento is seen in a file photo.


SFGATE is exploring how people’s lives change after leaving the Bay Area, for better or for worse, in a new series. Today we’re focusing on those who have relocated to Sacramento. We’ll explore other relocation areas in future articles, so follow SFGATE for more.

“I lived in a Victorian, four blocks from work, one block from a grocery store and next door to a wine shop and bar,” said Briana Mullen of her first room in midtown Sacramento.

Mullen spent the first 22 years of her life in the Bay Area, having grown up in Concord before attending UC Berkeley. Upon graduation, she moved to Sacramento for a job in the state superintendent’s office.

“Everyone at Berkeley was really skeptical of the move,” she said.

Two years later, Mullen is still in Sacramento, and she considers herself somewhat of an ambassador for the city that many of her Bay Area friends consider a “cow town.”

Why did she uproot from her dreamy midtown digs?

“I just bought a house,” the 25-year-old said. “And my mortgage is only a couple hundred dollars more than my apartment’s rent.”

Click through the slideshow above to read the stories of people who left the Bay Area for Sacramento. See what they like better and what they miss about the Bay. Responses have been edited for clarity and length.

When asking people why they left the Bay Area for Sacramento, the stories can begin to blend together.

“Moved from a basement apartment in East Bay to a whole house in Sac for less,” said Nichole McKenna, 33, a dentist with three years of Sacramento living under her belt. 

Aminah Ikner, 42, shared a similar tale: “I was able to buy a house, something I could never do in San Francisco.”

Then there’s Katheline Tran. She’s 26 and “bought a spacious house for the price of an old, dated condo.”

Anecdotes such as these reveal the obvious: Sacramento boasts an affordable housing market, at least compared to the skewed standards of Bay Area residents. That’s enticement enough for many to pick up and move to the state’s landlocked capital.

The median home value in Sacramento is slightly short of $300,000, according to Zillow. San Francisco’s median home value is nearly quadruple that number, at $1,194,300.

Cow town stereotypes aside, Mullen said such a cheap cost of living was an undeniable draw, especially as a recent graduate with hefty student loans.

“I knew I wanted to work in public service,” she said, “but even earning a higher salary in the Bay Area, the cost of living would totally negate what I earned.”

In Sacramento, she has disposable income and the opportunity to save money.

“The financial stress of living in the bay just wasn’t worth it to me anymore,” she added.

VIDEO: Things you’ll miss if you leave the Bay Area

You may be thinking of leaving the Bay Area in search of a more affordable to live… but think of all the things you’ll miss!


A city on the rise

While Sacramento hasn’t always been a glimmering refuge for those sick of the pricey Bay Area, the winds have begun to blow northward. Real estate prices aside, many of those who made the leap from the Bay Area to Sacramento have discovered a city coming into its own, with a burgeoning food, arts and culture scene.

When Michael Bauer visited Sacramento in 2016, he discovered an explosion of new restaurants, some of which were run by chefs trained in Bay Area kitchens. Despite a handful of restaurants lacking “focused execution,” Bauer says he discovered a “fresh energy in the dining scene” and “some things to love.” 

SEE ALSO: Michael Bauer’s picks for the top 10 restaurants in Sacramento

Bauer also points out Sacramento’s position as a vibrant agricultural sector – it produces 80 percent of the world’s almonds and caviar – which has inspired the Sacramento Visitors Bureau to promote the city as the “Farm to Fork Capital.”

Outside of up-and-coming restaurants, hints of an oncoming hipster makeover are scattered across the city. When the monthly art walks, microbreweries and third-wave coffee shops begin cropping up, the young and hip can’t be far behind. 

For a 20-something like Mullen, the city offers “everything I could want,” including trendy shops, bars filled with young people, and farmer’s markets — all accessible by foot or bike.

“You could be at a beer garden playing cornhole behind a giant mural of John Stewart, then you walk to the art pop-up, then on your way you pass the arcade bar,” said Mullen, describing the trappings of a typical night on the town.

Mullen thinks the “scene” is undeniably geared to a “younger crowd,” and U.S. Census data backs up her observations.

Between 2014 and 2015, the most recent years for which census data is available, nearly 170,000 people moved to Sacramento, the majority of which (25 percent) were aged 25 to 34. In just five years, Sacramento’s population has grown by six percentage points.

In the most recent influx, 12,000 people came from the Bay Area; according to Trulia’s annual “migration report,” those looking to leave the Bay Area are most likely to move to Sacramento.

Besides the “outstanding quality of life in Sacramento,” the Greater Sacramento Economic Council says the city has begun to attract non-agrarian businesses, including a handful of startups.

While San Franciscans were consumed with drama at Uber and the NBA Finals, Sacramento’s mayor was striking a $100 million partnership with Verizon to upgrade the city’s tech infrastructure and create a more connected, less digitally divided city. 

Growing pains

Not everyone is happy with the Sacramento’s shifting identity.

Hunter Watkins, 25, is a native Sacramento resident. He says he’s watched rent prices “skyrocket in the last five years.”

“There’s more people, there’s more traffic,” he said. “And, unfortunately, there are a lot of people here that can no longer afford to live where they grew up.”

It’s hard not to draw comparisons between Watkins’ sentiments and those of Bay Area natives, who have also watched a city morph before their eyes. Watkins said his early attempts to purchase a home were foiled by quick-closing sales and buyers paying in cash – sound familiar?

SEE ALSO: Is the grass really greener? People who left the Bay Area for the Pacific Northwest tell us why

Despite his city’s growing pains, Watkins is staying put for now. He was finally able to purchase a house – it closed in just 12 hours on the market – and is getting accustomed to all the newcomers.

One thing hasn’t changed for Watkins: “Sacramento has always been a place I’m proud to be from.”

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Bay Area residents reportedly ‘flooding’ Sacramento and finding it … not terrible

For years, one of the few perks of living in Sacramento was said to be its proximity to the Bay Area, which allowed residents an easy escape to cooler, livelier, more cultured San Francisco on the weekends.

Now, it seems, Bay Area residents are the ones trying to escape – chased out of the region by exorbitant housing prices. In increasing numbers, they are heading northeast to the calmer, more affordable environs of Sacramento, which is experiencing its own civic and cultural awakening.

And they’re finding it … not terrible.

The San Francisco Chronicle on Monday published a story exploring the trend and talking to people who had made the move, which ran under the headline: “Bay Area residents are flooding Sacramento. What’s it really like living there?”

Not only, it turns out, are the roads paved and mostly free of tumbleweeds, but Sacramento is “a city coming into its own, with a burgeoning food, arts and culture scene,” the story states. Furthermore, one is able to enjoy these amenities with the disposable income, the result of not paying a small fortune to live in a closet in the Bay Area.

As the Chronicle points out, the real estate website Zillow lists the median home value in Sacramento at $299,200. The median home value in San Francisco is $1,194,300. Affordability is one reason Sacramento was the fastest-growing big city in California last year, its population increasing 1.4 percent to 493,025, The Bee reported in May.

A recent Bloomberg report said Sacramento was the most popular destination searched by San Francisco residents looking to move during the first quarter of this year on the real estate website Redfin. (That report also described Sacramento as “the California capital whose last flirtation with national prominence arguably was during the 19th-century Gold Rush”).

The result is a bit of a domino effect. Housing prices in Sacramento are rising. The Bee reported that homes in Sacramento County sold for an average of $330,000 in May, the highest prices in 10 years. While the increase may pique some residents, Bloomberg says it has “helped facilitate the economic recovery of Sacramento” after the recession.

A vibrant food and beer scene, urban development and a still-fresh downtown arena are all indications of a vitalized Sacramento. Still, new residents coming from the Bay Area may feel they have to compromise.

As part of its report, The Chronicle asked 20 people who had moved to the Sacramento area whether they are “better off” now. While most answered yes – for reasons such as cost of living and lower stress levels. However, one responder distilled the conflict. “Financially I’d say we’re better off,” she told The Chronicle, “culturally no.”

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Yes, that’s Mayor Darrell Steinberg on the bucket drums

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg (front-center) joins members of the local arts community and the Sacramento Mandarins drum line in a performance outside the R Street Warehouse Artist Lofts on Wednesday during an event asserting the city’s support of its arts and culture scene.

Matt Kawahara

3adef afternoon Bay Area residents reportedly flooding Sacramento and finding it ... not terrible 

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Bizarre ‘sea pickles’ invade the West Coast by the millions

People who study the coastal waters from Oregon to Alaska are rather familiar with the inhabitants of the area, but one new arrival has stumped many.

Media: GeoBeats

As if the West Coast didn’t have enough to worry about what with earthquakes, ridiculous real estate prices and North Korean nukes, now there’s something new to keep you up at night.


“Sea pickles” to be precise, millions of them, clogging fishing nets, snagging hooks and littering the Northwest’s beautiful beaches. The gelatinous critters, called pyrosomes, are actually colonies of multi-celled animals known as zooids.

Pyrosomes can grow to more than 30 feet in length, but most washing up on beaches resemble transparent, tubular worms ranging from a few inches to over a foot long. Covered with small bumps, they are firm like cucumbers, but when touched they ooze a jelly-like pus, the National Geographic‘s Craig Welsh notes.

During a cruise to study the creatures off the Oregon coast two weeks ago, one team of researchers reportedly scooped up 60,000 pyrosomes in five minutes.

“There were reports of some pyrosomes in 2014, and a few more in 2015, but this year there has been an unprecedented, insane amount,” researcher Olivia Blondheim told the Guardian.

No one knows where the gummy, bioluminescent critters are coming from or what is fueling their population boom. If fact, little is known about pyrosomes at all, other than that reproduce assexually. What they eat or what eats them largely remains a mystery, writes Welsh.

Previously, their range has been limited to tropical or semi-tropical areas such as parts of the Mediterranean Sea or off Australia.

  • 5508f 920x920 Bizarre sea pickles invade the West Coast by the millions



Some scientists think warmer ocean conditions are to blame for their sudden concentration in the Northwest, but unusual sea currents or a change in diet could also be factors. According to the Smithsonian, Sitka (Alaska) fisherman have stopped fishing for salmon altogether because waters are so choked with sea pickles.

Normally pyrosomes, also known as “fire bodies,” stay submerged fairly deep, but recently they have invaded the upper depths of the ocean, especially in Alaska. Scientists worry that their numbers are so great, they may be sucking up oxygen that other marine life need to survive.

Pyrosomes have already been spotted in Monterey Bay. Whether the San Francisco Bay Area will see the same level of infestation as the Pacific Northwest remains to be seen.

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The Week In Real Estate Industry Deals: June 19-23, 2017

While real estate agents chase leads and close deals on houses, there’s another level of deal-making that takes place within the real estate industry: mergers, acquisitions, integrations and partnerships.

We’ll be recapping every week’s noteworthy deals that didn’t make it into print (and some that did) for your perusal.

We missed you last week!

June 14

Open Mortgage LLC, a leading provider of traditional and reverse mortgages throughout the United States, announced their expanded Wholesale Program for Traditional and Reverse (HECM) Channels. The wholesale program offers a wide range of products such as FHA, USDA, VA, FHA DPA, HECM (Reverse) loans as well as Prime, Alt A (Non-QM Near Prime, Non-QM Non-Prime) with competitive rates and no lender fees (on wholesale transactions). It also provides fast underwriting, in-depth training, and a dedicated operations team to help partners grow their business.

The MLS-CLAW, a Southern California-based MLS, has been awarded Real Estate Standards Organization’s (RESO) Data Dictionary 1.5 Platinum Certification, the highest level of certification offered by RESO. The MLS-CLAW earned this level of certification for its internal system, as well as for the Palm Springs Regional Association of REALTORS and the Imperial County Association of REALTORS, both of which license its software.

Realty ONE Group, a dynamic, full-service real estate brand and thriving franchise system, announced six new regional additions to the franchise network: the Northern California/Reno Region, led by regional directors Greg and Kathrine McClure of Realty ONE Group Complete in Rocklin and Sacramento, Calif.; the East Bay/Central California Region, led by regional director Navid Ali of BMC Associates in San Ramon, Calif.; the West Bay Peninsula/Santa Clara County, led by regional director Wendell Jones of Realty ONE Group Infinity in Campbell, Calif.; the State of Utah, led by regional directors Ravath and Joan Pok of Realty ONE Group Signature in Midvale, Utah.; the State of Colorado, led by regional directors Gary Carlson, Derek Kliner and Bob Bronswick of Realty ONE Group Premier in Lone Tree, Colo.; and the State of Arizona, led by regional director Daniel Collins of Realty ONE Group Mountain Desert.

This week’s deals

June 20

Intero Real Estate Services, a San Francisco Bay Area brokerage owned by Berkshire Hathaway Home Services, recently added the widget Kukun to its property search site with the aim of curing buyers of “Renophobia,” the company announced. Kukun makes estimates of the cost and return on investment of renovation projects available on listings. “The Kukun solution not only offers the cost but the equity you can build and also the list of contractors that the neighbors have used so you can vet them,” said Derek Overbey, director of innovation at Intero Real Estate Services. has announced that, Utah’s largest Multiple Listing Service, will join’s MLS Partnership Program. The new partnership will offer’s 14,000 members and over 17,000 listings free exposure to’s audience of more than 14 million monthly transaction-ready consumers. will also provide members access to the Connect Lead System.

June 21

Birmingham-based Lake Homes Realty announced it is now licensed and operating as a real estate brokerage in New York and Connecticut. This expands the company’s brokerage operations footprint to 13 states.

Leading Real Estate Companies of the World has selected Clareity as a preferred provider through its Solutions Group program, which identifies business resources for its global community of 565 residential real estate firms. “While many of our members utilize Clareity’s services through their MLSs, we are excited to introduce them to DASH, their full-service platform for brokers,” said Robin LaSure, LeadingRE vice president, corporate marketing. “This platform gives our brokers a convenient way to support their agents through a secure mobile-friendly dashboard that centralizes applications and streamlines communications.”

Email deals and partnerships information to

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Bay Area home prices vault to all-time high

There they go again: Bay Area home prices soared in May to a record high for the second straight month, as springtime buyers hit the streets.

Motivated buyers drove up home prices to ‘wacky’ levels in an eBay-like auction on the Peninsula, while home sellers in gentrifying neighborhoods around the region got out on a high note.

Single-family homes across the nine-county region notched a median all-time high of $818,000 last month. Home sales also rose, though activity remained tepid.

“We’ve got a pressure cooker situation where new home construction doesn’t come close to meeting the demand for housing,” said Andrew LePage, research analyst for the CoreLogic real estate information service, which crunched the May numbers for prices and sales.

Faced with a chronically low housing supply, buyers kept pushing prices higher for existing single-family homes. Along with the Bay Area-wide record median price of $818,000 — up 8.9 percent from a year earlier — new peaks were reached in Santa Clara County ($1,093,000, up 9.3 percent) and Marin County ($1,250,000, up 5.2 percent). Alameda and Sonoma counties matched their all-time highs of $805,000 and $600,000, respectively, while Contra Costa County’s median climbed 9.2 percent to $595,000.

In San Mateo County — where a new record of $1.4 million was set in April — the median price remained far out of reach for much of the public, even though it dropped a hair in May to $1,385,000.

Bay Area single-family home sales jumped 19.2 percent last month from April, while rising just 1.3 percent from May 2016.

But the 5,913 May transactions remained 10.7 percent below the typical activity for the month, when averaged over the past 30 years.

Meanwhile, LePage noted, regional job growth, high consumer confidence and still-low mortgage rates continued to push prospective homeowners out into the spring marketplace.

“We’ve seen the buyers, and they’re out in droves,” said Adam Touni, a Pacific Union agent based in Palo Alto. “The market is nuts. It’s become typical for properties to sell for $300,000 or $400,000 over asking.”

Just ask Touni’s clients Alexi Miller and Erik Whitehorn, a divorced couple who for years held onto their south Palo Alto home, a 75-year-old Eichler, carefully maintained to show off its vintage details and design. They bought it in 1994 for $345,000.

After their separation, Miller moved down the block, so their daughter could bicycle between Miller’s new place and the Eichler, where Whitehorn resided. When their daughter began her freshman year in college last fall, the couple decided on a spring sale. They listed the Eichler house for $2.2 million and it sold — in nine days, with six offers — for $2.5 million.

“Palo Alto real estate is a special subset of wacky,” Whitehorn said. He likened Touni’s selling strategy to “an eBay auction,” where bidders feel compelled to keep bidding up the price.

4d82e sjm housing 0623 90 01 Bay Area home prices vault to all time high

Home prices spiraling higher only amplify the challenges many interested buyers face.

“The drop in affordability over the past year is worse than the rise in home prices suggests,” LePage said.

Yes, the Bay Area’s median price peak of $818,000 was up nearly nine percent last month over May 2016, but “the nearly half-a-percentage-point rise in mortgage rates over that same period means the principal and interest payment for that median-priced home has risen” more than 14 percent, he said.

Such pressures create elaborate migratory patterns among buyers: “As prices jump up, buyers are pushed into different neighborhoods, basically just following the neighborhood market values,” said Kevin Swartz, a Saratoga-based agent for the Sereno Group.

He gave an example: Mountain View’s Monta Loma neighborhood, where a modest home — 1,300 to 1,500 square feet — would have sold a year ago for around $1.5 million and climbed into the $1.6 million range toward the end of 2016. Earlier this year, he said, that same home sold for around $1.7 million and is lately going for $1.8 million or more.

“I had clients who were looking up to $1.7 million, and they got priced out,” he said. “Last year, they could’ve bought whatever they wanted in that neighborhood, and now they can’t get even the most basic fixer-upper.”

Some of those clients now are looking 4.5 miles down the road in west Sunnyvale’s 94086 ZIP code, which has similar homes selling for $1.5 or $1.6 million — up from as low as $1.3 million a year ago, Swartz said.

Similar migrations are happening in the East Bay, where higher prices increasingly push buyers toward more remote, but more affordable, areas. If buyers can’t afford Walnut Creek, they may try Concord, and if they can’t afford Concord, they may move toward Antioch and Pittsburg, traditionally lower-income communities where there are now signs of gentrification.

“Folks are getting priced out of other markets, so they go to the next city out there on the commute corridor,” said Kevin Kieffer, a Keller Williams agent in Walnut Creek. “You can’t get anything for $500,000 in Concord. It kind of cascades out there.”

Still, he was “a bit surprised” when he recently listed a house in Bay Point near Pittsburg for $519,000. It sold in 10 days for just over the listing price.

“Midway through the week, right after we’d listed it, I’m biting my nails,” said Jason Allen, who grew up in the house, owned it and sold it through Kieffer. “But on the seventh day, there it was — a solid offer.”

He has moved to Clayton, on the border of Concord, with his fiancee and her nine-year-old daughter. They are leasing a house for $2,800 a month and thinking about pooling their salaries to buy a place in a year or two.

“The timing was right” for the Bay Point sale, he said. “The market’s high. We just pulled the trigger and decided, ‘Let’s cash out.’”

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