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West Coast / Bay Area - Tips

West Coast / Bay Area - Tips

Old Oct 22nd 2017, 3:57 pm
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Default West Coast / Bay Area - Tips

Hi all,

Looks like my wife will be relocated by her company to the Bay Area - although it could be negotiated to Los Angeles.

She would have an L1 visa which would give me an L2 and the thrill of looking for a new job (I'm a Creative Producer working in Marketing and PR)

We have both been working in London for over 13 years and have an 8 month old and a shared household income of £150,000 a year.

If she were to accept it, and we were to move to the Bay Area, what is your experience when it comes to family life, commuting etc...

She would open an office for them in San Francisco city, rather than Silicon Valley, and we prefer having up to an hour commute, to gain space and nature, rather than living in the middle of the city.

I have read a lot about Marin county and Walnut Creek as good family friendly areas.

My questions are, is it really that impossibly expensive?

How much money do we need to keep a normal comfortable life? (3 bedroom house, going out once a month, good groceries, think Waitrose / Wholefoods etc...)

For reference, we live between Highgate and Crouch End in London, so that type of lifestyle, nice cafes and parks, but it's not Kensington

Would $200,000 a year (our equivalent combined) be enough?

Which areas within the 1 hour commute would you recommend?

Any tips and experiences on life there with kids would be much appreciated.

Thanks!
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Old Oct 22nd 2017, 4:23 pm
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Default Re: West Coast / Bay Area - Tips

Several of our members live in The Bay Area...they will probably be along soon to help you. In the meantime there have been several recent threads on the area...

http://britishexpats.com/forum/usa-5...-going-899323/

http://britishexpats.com/forum/usa-5...rea-ca-896564/

http://britishexpats.com/forum/usa-5.../#post12185951
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Old Oct 22nd 2017, 6:35 pm
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Default Re: West Coast / Bay Area - Tips

Originally Posted by NeoCroMagnon View Post
She would open an office for them in San Francisco city, rather than Silicon Valley, and we prefer having up to an hour commute, to gain space and nature, rather than living in the middle of the city.
How much flexibility is there likely to be in the precise location of the office?

Commuting into San Francisco by car is time consuming and parking is extremely expensive. While public transit within San Francisco is better than in many US cities it is nothing like what you are accustomed to in London.

All of this means that devising a tolerable commute strategy is very much dependent on precisely where you live and work and the transportation options that are available between those two locations.

"Ideally" you would probably want to live somewhere in either the East Bay or just south of San Francisco within a few minutes of a BART station and, similarly, have a workplace that is within walking distance of BART at the San Francisco end.

Marin Country, north of San Francisco is very nice (and correspondingly expensive), but the commute options are more limited - car, bus and ferry are your only options. If can live and work in places that make the ferry a viable option then it might be workable - personally, I wouldn't even consider it.

It also matters exactly when you need to travel to and from work - every year it seems that more and more hours of the day turn into peak commuting times, but it is still helpful if you have reasonably flexible working hours. If you have to be in the office by 9am most of the time then your commute will almost inevitably be significantly worse ...
I have read a lot about Marin county and Walnut Creek as good family friendly areas.
Yes, they are, but both have commute issues that, realistically probably put both of them beyond your 1 hour target.

My questions are, is it really that impossibly expensive?
No - it's almost certainly going to be even more impossibly expensive than you think.

Would $200,000 a year (our equivalent combined) be enough?
You could probably get by on that, but I don't think that it would give you an equivalent life style. Since your wife will be on an L1 visa setting up a new office for her company a lot will depend on how generous a relocation package she can negotiate. There are lots of one time costs associated with relocation which will easily add up to several tens of thousands of dollars in the first few months. If that all comes out of your proposed $200k then the first few years will be particularly tough - if her employer picks up most of those costs then life will be easier (but be aware that the money will still be counted as taxable income).

I guess the bottom line is that I would feel reasonably comfortable with your wife getting $250k (or, possibly, ~$200k with a really good relocation package) and then hoping that you could find a job which would supplement that income. Of course, once you are both working you will be paying lots of money for daycare for your child.

Last edited by md95065; Oct 22nd 2017 at 6:59 pm.
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Old Oct 22nd 2017, 9:21 pm
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Default Re: West Coast / Bay Area - Tips

Few people in the Bay area make anywhere near $200K/year. With that kind of salary why move to the US?
The Bay area generally is overcrowded and over priced. If that doesn't bother you then it is a good area for climate and amenities. Living in Landon you will be used to high prices, crowds and traffic, as mentioned public transport is virtually non existent.
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Old Oct 22nd 2017, 9:48 pm
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Default Re: West Coast / Bay Area - Tips

Originally Posted by johnwoo View Post
Few people in the Bay area make anywhere near $200K/year.
Agreed, but ...

Very few people are asked by their employers to relocate to another country to set up a new office.

With that kind of salary why move to the US?
The Bay area generally is overcrowded and over priced. If that doesn't bother you then it is a good area for climate and amenities. Living in Landon you will be used to high prices, crowds and traffic, as mentioned public transport is virtually non existent.
Well, presumably, because once you get to an income level > $200k living in the Bay Area doesn't seem quite so over priced and, as you mention, there are still quite a few good things about living here.
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Old Oct 23rd 2017, 2:29 am
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Default Re: West Coast / Bay Area - Tips

Originally Posted by md95065 View Post
Agreed, but ...

Very few people are asked by their employers to relocate to another country to set up a new office.
I would presume if someone was asked to set up an office, all moving expenses would be paid by the company. My moving costs were paid for and I was hired in the UK.

Well, presumably, because once you get to an income level > $200k living in the Bay Area doesn't seem quite so over priced and, as you mention, there are still quite a few good things about living here.
I wouldn't dispute one could live quite well pretty much anywhere on $200k, but it doesn't get you a traffic free commute or a seat on BART.

I've given up any attempt to attend an event in the Bay Area because the crowds are just too overwhelming. I used to go to the Blue Angels Air displays, but the last time I went it was so overcrowded it was no longer enjoyable and the same applies to many other events, even those more local.
Perhaps I'm coming at it from a different perspective having first moved here in 1970 when it was a truly great place to be. Now I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.
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Old Oct 23rd 2017, 3:04 am
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Default Re: West Coast / Bay Area - Tips

Originally Posted by NeoCroMagnon View Post
Hi all,

Looks like my wife will be relocated by her company to the Bay Area - although it could be negotiated to Los Angeles.

She would have an L1 visa which would give me an L2 and the thrill of looking for a new job (I'm a Creative Producer working in Marketing and PR)

We have both been working in London for over 13 years and have an 8 month old and a shared household income of £150,000 a year.

If she were to accept it, and we were to move to the Bay Area, what is your experience when it comes to family life, commuting etc...

She would open an office for them in San Francisco city, rather than Silicon Valley, and we prefer having up to an hour commute, to gain space and nature, rather than living in the middle of the city.

I have read a lot about Marin county and Walnut Creek as good family friendly areas.

My questions are, is it really that impossibly expensive?

How much money do we need to keep a normal comfortable life? (3 bedroom house, going out once a month, good groceries, think Waitrose / Wholefoods etc...)

For reference, we live between Highgate and Crouch End in London, so that type of lifestyle, nice cafes and parks, but it's not Kensington

Would $200,000 a year (our equivalent combined) be enough? .....
Beware, expected salaries for a "reasonable" standard of living has led to some contentious arguments on BE, primarily between those of us who have a spouse and children on one side, and on the other side those who are retired and whose experience of running a family budget with children, and financing a vehicle, or two, are 30+ years out of date.

I am in the former group and have posted several times about what a household budget would look like in some of the cheaper states in The South (south east US). In short, I concluded that anything below $100k would mean cutting out some relatively basic expenses, and that a starting point for "comfortable living" meaning you can afford to eat out at a chain restaurant a couple of time a week, and can afford a couple of average cars (say a Mondeo/Fusion and a mid-sized 4x4/SUV), and a resort holiday or return trip to the UK each year, would start at around $120,000.

Your problem is that my "South budget" assumes a rent of around $1,500-$1,800/mth (which would get you an average detached home in the burbs), but you face paying much more for rent, probably in the $4k-$5k range, and probably for an apartment, not a detached home, or even a terraced house. So if you're paying $3k more after-tax a month for rent, that is about $4.6/mth of gross income, or about $55,000 of annual salary. .... just for the extra rent!

Then there's childcare/daycare. Over in The South, decent daycare for your child runs around $1,000 - $1,200/mth, depending on the age of the child. In larger cities it is 2-3 times as much. I honestly don't know, but given how eye-wateringly expensive SF is, it wouldn't surprise me if it was even more expensive there, but let's say that you find daycare for $3k/mth, as per my rent calculation above, than means $55,000 of gross income to put one child in a dedicated daycare facility. You should be able to get a tax break on at least part of the cost (unless Donald Trump's tax reform ends that tax deduction), but I'd still budget for $40k/yr of gross income to pay for daycare for one child.

You'll likely save by only having one car (though that depends on where you live), but petrol is 50% more expensive than in most of the US. But you'll have public transport costs that most people don't have.

I have never lived in SF, and have no desire to do so - in fact I told one recruiter flat - I am not interested in the job he was touting, full stop. And I refused an interview for it. In order for the job to make financial sense I would have wanted a salary of close to $1million. No I am not joking, but that was at least three if not four times what the likely salary was.

One of my colleagues lives in SF. She pays $5k/mth for a one bed apartment!

It's some of the little things that will add significantly to your costs. If you are both working and get a cheap sandwich, crisps, and a drink for lunch, it will cost you $10 each per day - $100/wk, or $4,800/yr. Add a morning coffee at Starbucks or similar, that's another $5 each .... or $2,400/yr. That $7,200, is going to need over $10k of gross income to pay for lunch and a coffee each.

Last edited by Pulaski; Oct 23rd 2017 at 3:15 am.
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Old Oct 23rd 2017, 5:35 am
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Default Re: West Coast / Bay Area - Tips

Originally Posted by NeoCroMagnon View Post
Hi all,

Looks like my wife will be relocated by her company to the Bay Area - although it could be negotiated to Los Angeles.

She would have an L1 visa which would give me an L2 and the thrill of looking for a new job (I'm a Creative Producer working in Marketing and PR)

We have both been working in London for over 13 years and have an 8 month old and a shared household income of £150,000 a year.

If she were to accept it, and we were to move to the Bay Area, what is your experience when it comes to family life, commuting etc...

She would open an office for them in San Francisco city, rather than Silicon Valley, and we prefer having up to an hour commute, to gain space and nature, rather than living in the middle of the city.

I have read a lot about Marin county and Walnut Creek as good family friendly areas.

My questions are, is it really that impossibly expensive?

How much money do we need to keep a normal comfortable life? (3 bedroom house, going out once a month, good groceries, think Waitrose / Wholefoods etc...)

For reference, we live between Highgate and Crouch End in London, so that type of lifestyle, nice cafes and parks, but it's not Kensington

Would $200,000 a year (our equivalent combined) be enough?

Which areas within the 1 hour commute would you recommend?

Any tips and experiences on life there with kids would be much appreciated.

Thanks!
Commute to the city from Walnut Creek on BART is around 1hr 15 mins, depending how far you need to travel to/from the stations at either end. Cost is $14/day including parking ($3/car, $11 per person for BART return).

Full time infant daycare will likely cost around $2K/month. Nanny shares might work out cheaper, though.

Groceries are pricey - Wholefoods is overrated and there's nothing that compares to Waitrose imo. You'll be surprised by how much you'll spend on decent food.

Budget $3,500 - $4K/month for a 3 bed detached house. Add another $500 or so for bills, not including cars & insurance.

If you didn't have a baby, I'd say to absolutely go for it on $200K. With a baby, there are a couple of caveats.
First, you say this is your combined income, but you don't have a job yet, so... you're somewhat counting your chickens here. What's your plan if you don't get a job?
Second, don't underestimate the effect of a 1hr+ commute on your family life. You're not going to see much of your baby if both of you end up working in the city.

It's a great place to live and raise a family in terms of amenities, access to amazing places to visit/vacation, and general atmosphere, but it's very much a rat race lifestyle. If you were to give it a go for a year or two, how easy would it be for you to return if you decided it wasn't for you?
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Old Oct 23rd 2017, 9:55 am
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Default Re: West Coast / Bay Area - Tips

Originally Posted by Pulaski View Post

One of my colleagues lives in SF. She pays $5k/mth for a one bed apartment!

It's some of the little things that will add significantly to your costs. If you are both working and get a cheap sandwich, crisps, and a drink for lunch, it will cost you $10 each per day - $100/wk, or $4,800/yr. Add a morning coffee at Starbucks or similar, that's another $5 each .... or $2,400/yr. That $7,200, is going to need over $10k of gross income to pay for lunch and a coffee each.

$5K for a one bed apartment. She might as well book a permanent all inclusive holiday for that money. But seriously I don't know how much longer this will go on and some signs are there.
Bay Area hammered by loss of 4,700 jobs – Silicon Valley



For $200K you could buy a large RV, park it on one of the resorts and just stick it out for a year and try and save as much as possible. Then sell the RV and back to Europe and buy a house by the med:-)
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Old Oct 23rd 2017, 12:25 pm
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Default Re: West Coast / Bay Area - Tips

Originally Posted by NeoCroMagnon View Post

She would have an L1 visa which would give me an L2 and the thrill of looking for a new job (I'm a Creative Producer working in Marketing and PR


Would $200,000 a year (our equivalent combined) be enough?
Hi,

You can't work on a L2 visa until you arrive and apply for a work permit (EAD) and this takes around 90 days to come through. So for at least 3 months you won't be able to do ANY work.

So any budgeting will need to take into account just one salary for a few months.

Claire
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Old Oct 23rd 2017, 7:29 pm
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Thumbs up Re: West Coast / Bay Area - Tips

Originally Posted by NeoCroMagnon View Post
Hi all,

Looks like my wife will be relocated by her company to the Bay Area - although it could be negotiated to Los Angeles.

She would have an L1 visa which would give me an L2 and the thrill of looking for a new job (I'm a Creative Producer working in Marketing and PR)

We have both been working in London for over 13 years and have an 8 month old and a shared household income of £150,000 a year.

If she were to accept it, and we were to move to the Bay Area, what is your experience when it comes to family life, commuting etc...

She would open an office for them in San Francisco city, rather than Silicon Valley, and we prefer having up to an hour commute, to gain space and nature, rather than living in the middle of the city.

I have read a lot about Marin county and Walnut Creek as good family friendly areas.

My questions are, is it really that impossibly expensive?

How much money do we need to keep a normal comfortable life? (3 bedroom house, going out once a month, good groceries, think Waitrose / Wholefoods etc...)

For reference, we live between Highgate and Crouch End in London, so that type of lifestyle, nice cafes and parks, but it's not Kensington

Would $200,000 a year (our equivalent combined) be enough?

Which areas within the 1 hour commute would you recommend?

Any tips and experiences on life there with kids would be much appreciated.

Thanks!
My biggest concern would be childcare availability and cost. There aren't many nurseries, similar to what we have in the UK, out here. Most are run in private homes, otherwise people rely on family or hire a nanny. The cost of childcare is astronomical.

You'll also need to factor in healthcare premiums/out of pocket expenses

Rough monthly costs in the area (in my experience):

Rent (3 bed) $5,000-$6,000
Water $100
Gas & Electric $155
Cell Phones $200
TV & Internet $200
Gas (Car) $250
Groceries $500
Car Insurance $200
Rent Insurance $40
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Old Oct 23rd 2017, 7:39 pm
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Default Re: West Coast / Bay Area - Tips

Originally Posted by Wintersong View Post
Commute to the city from Walnut Creek on BART is around 1hr 15 mins, depending how far you need to travel to/from the stations at either end. Cost is $14/day including parking ($3/car, $11 per person for BART return).

Full time infant daycare will likely cost around $2K/month. Nanny shares might work out cheaper, though.

Groceries are pricey - Wholefoods is overrated and there's nothing that compares to Waitrose imo. You'll be surprised by how much you'll spend on decent food.

Budget $3,500 - $4K/month for a 3 bed detached house. Add another $500 or so for bills, not including cars & insurance.

If you didn't have a baby, I'd say to absolutely go for it on $200K. With a baby, there are a couple of caveats.
First, you say this is your combined income, but you don't have a job yet, so... you're somewhat counting your chickens here. What's your plan if you don't get a job?
Second, don't underestimate the effect of a 1hr+ commute on your family life. You're not going to see much of your baby if both of you end up working in the city.

It's a great place to live and raise a family in terms of amenities, access to amazing places to visit/vacation, and general atmosphere, but it's very much a rat race lifestyle. If you were to give it a go for a year or two, how easy would it be for you to return if you decided it wasn't for you?
Good summary of the Bay Area, but.

Good luck finding a parking spot in Walnut Creek. A parking permit costs $105/mo and you will be on a wait list for one of those.
Lunardi's is a better bet than Whole foods/Amazon for groceries.
https://www.lunardis.com/walnut-creek.html

There are plenty of great places to visit unfortunately the rest of the world will be along too. I've pretty much given up on day trips, preferring to stay overnight so as to pick the best time of day to be on the road. 2:00am being ideal, which I did recently.
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Old Oct 23rd 2017, 8:45 pm
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Default Re: West Coast / Bay Area - Tips

Originally Posted by Moses2013 View Post
$5K for a one bed apartment. She might as well book a permanent all inclusive holiday for that money. But seriously I don't know how much longer this will go on and some signs are there.
Bay Area hammered by loss of 4,700 jobs – Silicon Valley



For $200K you could buy a large RV, park it on one of the resorts and just stick it out for a year and try and save as much as possible. Then sell the RV and back to Europe and buy a house by the med:-)
In my opinion Silicon Valley and Hi Tech are the worst thing to happen in the Bay Area. Let them move to the South and all the techies with them.
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Old Oct 23rd 2017, 10:09 pm
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Default Re: West Coast / Bay Area - Tips

Originally Posted by johnwoo View Post
In my opinion Silicon Valley and Hi Tech are the worst thing to happen in the Bay Area. Let them move to the South and all the techies with them.
I'm quite happy here, thanks. Maybe if you dislike as much as your posts suggest, you should move away?
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Old Oct 23rd 2017, 10:36 pm
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Default Re: West Coast / Bay Area - Tips

Originally Posted by Giantaxe View Post
I'm quite happy here, thanks. Maybe if you dislike as much as your posts suggest, you should move away?
Thank you for your suggestion.
I don't dislike it I have very mixed feelings, love and hate. I have the disadvantage of knowing the city and how it was, and what it has become.

I had a very unpleasant experience in Union Square recently, My wife, my daughter and granddaughter were verbally and physical threatened by an obviously mentally disturbed man, very unsettling even so, fortunately a very large security guard outside the Disney store had a few words with him. At least he was cognizant enough not to pick on someone twice his size.

I am seriously thinking of moving away, the problem is where to. I'm leaning towards San Luis Obispo and the central coast.
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