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Cost of Living in San Jose, California — 2019 Guide

It’s no secret that San Jose, CA is an expensive place to live. If you’re considering diving in and joining the more than one million people who already live there, you need to know what to expect. Keep reading to learn about San Jose’s cost of living below.
It’s no secret that San Jose, CA is an expensive place to live. If you’re considering diving in and joining the more than one million people who already live there, you need to know what to expect. Keep reading to learn about San Jose’s cost of living below.

Do I make enough money to live there?

You should always ask yourself that question before you decide to pack up and move. It’s no secret that it is more expensive to live in some places than others.

You may discover that the new job you’re getting doesn’t come with as big of a pay raise as you think. If you move from a cheaper area to a more expensive one, more of your paycheck will go to necessities. Sometimes you may even find out that you end up with less money in the end.

Thus, to get an accurate picture of whether you can afford to live in a new city, you should check out the cost of living first.

San Jose, California is not a cheap place to live. If you’re coming from a more affordable area of the country, it may surprise you how much the basics eat away at your paycheck.

Thus, before you go you should have an idea of what you’re getting yourself into. Let’s take a look at the cost of living in San Jose, California to help you decide if this is the right move for you.

Cost of Owning a Home

57% of San Jose’s residents own their own homes. However, to put things in context, this figure is about 10% lower than the national average.

It’s easy to see why. Owning a home in San Jose is no easy feat. At $1,083,000, the median home value is well above the national average at $226,800. Additionally, the overall cost of owning a home scores a 579 on a cost of living index, where 100 is the national average.

Thus, if you are coming from a place where housing is cheaper you’ll need to be prepared for the high cost of homeownership in San Jose.

Cost of Renting

With how expensive it is to own a home, you may be thinking that it’s a better idea to rent instead.

The one factor that’s always a problem with renting is that, while it may be cheaper in the long run, renting doesn’t give you the opportunity to build up equity in your home. You pay your rent every month knowing that you’ll never see that money again. While there are many expenses involved in buying a home, the potential return is often worth the extra cost.

If you plan to be in San Jose for only a few years, however, renting may make more sense depending on your financial situation. Of course, while you may save a bit, it still costs a pretty penny to rent a home in San Jose.

The median rent price is $3,480. Depending on the type of home you rent, this figure could be significantly higher or lower. Regardless, it’s safe to say that you’ll need a significant source of income to rent a home in San Jose.

Food in San Jose

Housing may be the most expensive part of living in San Jose, but that doesn’t mean that the rest is cheap. Cost of living is estimated by using an index where 100 is the national average. The overall cost of living in San Jose is 260 — 160% more than the national average.

Food, however, though more expensive than the national average is not too bad. The index is only 110, or 10% more than average. In a city as expensive as San Jose, you can appreciate getting a break where you can.

Of course, this only holds true when you eat in. Eating out in restaurants will be a different story. Be prepared to fork over the green for a scrumptious dinner in one of San Jose’s myriad of restaurants.


Food might not be too expensive but getting around San Jose can get up there. The index is 170, meaning that it is 70% more expensive than the national average. The index is calculated using both the cost of maintaining your own car (gas, insurance, maintenance fees) and using mass transit.

Unless you plan on walking everywhere, be prepared for this expense. You should also be prepared to while away many an hour sitting in traffic.

To save money on transportation, try to find a place to live near where you work. If you can get close enough, walking is an excellent option. Bicycling is another great option if you end up living a bit farther away. The generally nice weather in the city make both of these viable options. They’re even environmentally friendly.

Mass transit options can also be good, just be careful about the placement of your home and work. San Jose’s system is a little all over the place and you may have to change buses or trains multiple times just to get to work. Bring this cost down by buying San Jose’s ClipperCard, which offers the best transportation rates.

Diversity and Activities

San Jose is an incredibly diverse city. Only 42% of the population is white. The next largest cohort are Asians and nearly 33% of San Jose’s residents are Hispanic or of Latino origin.

With so many different types of people all in the same place, you can “travel the world” without leaving your city! Learn about different cultures by sampling foods and attending cultural activities.

The diversity of its population is reflected in the incredible diversity of activities in the city. Malls, parks, movie theaters, an array of international flavors in restaurants, museums, hopping nightlife, and more — San Jose quite literally has something for everyone.

Buying a Home in San Jose

Without a doubt, buying a home in San Jose is one of the biggest hurdles new residents face. High prices make it very difficult for many people to afford a home in the city — especially in a desirable location.

Planning to move to San Jose? Interested in buying a home? One of the best ways to stretch your purchasing power is by finding your real estate agent through Clever.

Clever Partner Agents may offer either a flat $1,000 home buyer’s rebate on homes that sell for up to $150,000 or up to 1% of the purchase price on homes that sell for more than that. You can use this rebate towards your down payment, closing costs, or squirrel it away to help with your mortgage payments during those months when money is tight.

Let’s put that in context. The vast majority of residential real estate transactions in San Jose will probably qualify for the 1% rebate. With a median home value of over $1,000,000 dollars, you’re looking at potentially more than a $10,000 rebate at closing.

Now that’s Clever.

Ready to learn more? Feel free to contact us today and we’ll get you in touch with a knowledgeable, local real estate agent.


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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