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Average Cost of Living in San Diego: An In-Depth Guide

Want to move to sunny San Diego? Lovely beaches, lush canyons coupled with unique and charming neighborhoods make San Diego a desirable place to live and work. Take a look at the average cost of living so you know what to expect before you pack your bags.
Want to move to sunny San Diego? Lovely beaches, lush canyons coupled with unique and charming neighborhoods make San Diego a desirable place to live and work. Take a look at the average cost of living so you know what to expect before you pack your bags.

In beautiful San Diego, what’s not to love? Beyond the temperate climate, beautiful beaches, and lush canyons, San Diego's well-recognized university, medical community, and military presence keep its economy humming along with a low unemployment rate. Home to the San Diego Zoo and the infamous Comic-Con, San Diego has a variety of local communities each with their own distinct personality.

If you are considering moving to San Diego, you’ll want to consult someone with local knowledge to understand the cost of living in the city. The best resource for anyone interested in moving to San Diego is a top-notch real estate agent currently living in the region who can give you the low-down on the different communities, their home values, cost of living, character, and other region-specific expenses that will make a difference over the long run.

Typical Home Prices in San Diego, CA in 2019

Let’s face it. San Diego is one of the most expensive places in the country to buy a home. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to afford living there. If you are willing to check out the suburbs and perhaps make some concessions, such as commute time, it’s quite possible to purchase a home in San Diego without being a millionaire.

According to May data from Zillow, the median home value is $633,600 and definitely on the high side; the national average is $226,800. But keep in mind that San Diego’s home prices vary as widely as its communities. This average takes into account both million dollar homes on the beach and homes in quaint inland suburbs that average around $280,000.

For example, in communities such as Escondido, Santee, Poway, Imperial Beach, and National City, it’s not impossible to come away with a house under $300,000, while the wealthier neighborhoods such as Carmel Valley, Del Mar, and La Jolla, boast median home values about five times the national average, or $1,300,000. So you’re going to want to do your homework and get to know the neighborhoods San Diego has to offer because what you might find for your budget can be incredibly different.

Another difference that can factor into the price of a home is buying time. There are times of the year when it’s easier to get a better price on a home. Typically, hot selling months are in the spring and summer which means that the availability of homes and their prices may be at their highest.

However, regional trends fluctuate independently of national trends. Your best bet at trying to time the market is to get in touch with an experienced local agent who knows the area you are interested in and stays on top of regional trends.

How Much Are San Diego, CA Property Taxes?

In San Diego, your property tax is based upon the assessed value of your home which is calculated by the San Diego County Assessor’s Office. But according to Proposition 13, which was passed by California voters in 1978, when you buy a new home, the purchase price of a newly purchased home becomes the new assessed value.

In San Diego, the assessed value of your home is multiplied by 1% as the base rate for your property tax. So, you can roughly calculate the amount of tax you will owe ahead of time based upon the amount you plan to spend on a house in San Diego. While the value of your property will be reassessed over time, Proposition 13 caps the reassessed value at a 2% increase.

Also, if your home will be your primary residence, you are allowed a $7,000 exemption off the assessed value of your home before taxes are configured. You have to apply for this exemption so it’s important to remember to do this when you first move into your new home.

In addition to the 1% base rate, there are voter-approved bonds for collecting additional revenue for schools and other community services. The additional bonds will be listed on your annual property tax bill. To be in the safe zone, plan to put aside a bit extra or contact the San Diego Controller’s Office for more information on the property tax of a given piece of property.

You may also find something called Fixed Charge Assessments on your bill. These have nothing to do with the value of your home. Fixed Charge Assessments are voter-approved or county charges for things like sewage and other services. These can vary depending on where you live.

Average Homeowners Insurance in San Diego, CA

Homeowners insurance premiums will depend on several factors. Some of these factors are within your control and some are not. The insurance company, the type of coverages, the deductible, and the coverage limits are up to you and will all be calculated into the premium. The property’s age, condition, and location as well as your claim and credit record, which are outside your control, will also be calculated into the premium.

The average annual insurance premium in California is currently $973. But this can vary greatly. To get a more accurate rate, The California Department of Insurance has a homeowners insurance calculation tool that can give you a better idea of the premiums offered by different companies for the coverage you desire based upon the location and age of your home.

Keep in mind that California has its own special issues that you need to consider. Wildfires, earthquakes, and mudslides are no strangers in California. Earthquake insurance is not included in standard California homeowners policies and must be purchased separately. If you want earthquake insurance for your home, you will need to factor in the premium cost in addition to your basic homeowner’s policy.

The bottom line when it comes to homeowners insurance is to shop around. Get quotes from different insurance companies and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Reaching out to an experienced local real estate agent can be a good first step. Local agents can provide more specific guidance and advice on coverage options available for your particular property and geographic location.

Common Home Maintenance and Repair Costs in San Diego, CA

While it's important to be able to fix smaller home issues on your own, if your roof fails or your water heater blows, you’ll need to fork out some change. Every home buyer should factor in the cost of repairs and maintenance when purchasing a new home.

In San Diego, the cost to replace a roof, for example, can range anywhere from $5,000-$10,000 or more. The costs of home repairs in San Diego are just as varied as the communities and the home values. You can pretty much bet that the higher the cost of your home, the more expensive the repair costs will be.

A good guideline is to factor in a percentage of your home’s value and budget that amount for future repairs. But you also need to consider the age of your home as older homes sometimes require more work. Some believe that saving 1%-3% of your purchasing price a year is a safe bet to cover any major repairs and home maintenance. It’s best to find out as much as you can about the history of the house you are interested in from a local realtor and judge accordingly.

Other Costs of Living in San Diego, CA to Consider

San Diego has one of the highest state income tax brackets. Online tools can help you calculate your expected state income tax based upon your filing status and your income.

California has special restrictions on the CO2 emissions of vehicles. When transferring your registration, you will need to pay for a smog check to make sure your vehicle passes the emissions requirements.

Although still not as bad as Los Angeles, as the traffic situation in San Diego and its surrounding areas worsens, people are spending more time and money commuting. As of May 2019, the average price of a gallon of gas in San Diego was around $4.00.

Due to the increasing traffic on Highways 5, 8 and 15 in particular, if you can’t live close to work, try to move close to an area with a transit hub to avoid the additional costs and time suck of long, slow commutes. If you live and work in an area connected by public transportation, you can get a monthly pass for $72 on San Diego’s public transit system.

Transportation problems are deal breakers for many people no matter how lovely the area is. To avoid getting yourself stuck in a bad commute situation, it’s really critical that you learn everything there is to know about the highways and traffic flows of San Diego areas before you decide on a house and location. When looking at properties in San Diego, a local realtor with inside knowledge of the transportation, walkability, thoroughfares, and local traffic issues can save you heartache in the long run.

Find a Top San Diego, CA Real Estate Agent

San Diego is a very popular place to live. It’s no mystery that anyone would want to purchase a home there. But it can also be extremely expensive and time-consuming if you don’t know the area.

To make a fully informed purchase and avoid pitfalls, its best to use an experienced, local, full-service real estate agent to advise you every step of the way. Clever Partner Agents are experts in their local markets and even offer Home Buyer Rebates to all new San Diego buyers. This guarantees you the best deal in any area of San Diego that fits your lifestyle and your budget.


Reuven Shechter

Reuven Shechter is the Outreach Coordinator at Clever Real Estate, the free online service that connects you with top real estate agents to help save on commission. He spreads the word about Clever, disseminating studies to journalists and developing relationships with media outlets. Reuven is passionate about investing in real estate and creating lasting success for families. His writing has been featured in Max Real Estate Exposure, Leverage Marketing, and more.

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