Why Locals Love Living in San Jose (+ Why They Don't)

Pros and Cons of Living in San Jose, CA Photo | Jason Doiy, Canva

Searching for honest information about life in San Jose, California? 

We’ll be direct and informative for a simple reason: you’d probably prefer it. 

There are good and bad things about moving to San Jose (obviously). We all know that each city in California (and the world) has its upsides and downsides. Knowing and weighing these pros and cons is the key to living in the best area you can.

Santana Row in San Jose

Santana Row in San Jose - via Amy Meredith on Flickr

6 Reasons Why Locals Love Living in San Jose

San Jose is not your average American city. We’ve been set up here for over 15 years, and living here for many more. 

Here are the honest reasons to live in San Jose California, from a local’s perspective.

Abundant Employment Opportunities

San Jose and the rest of Silicon Valley have garnered international recognition. Google, Adobe, Apple, and Cisco are just a few of the biggest names here. As a driving force in the tech sector, ‌employers here have global reputations that are second to none.

Most people who end up living in San Jose’s best homes, don’t just show up out of nowhere. Many single people and their families arrive after accepting job offers. If you’ve been lucky enough to get such an offer, congratulations.  

Apple Campus at One Infinite Loop

Simon S took a great shot of the Apple Campus at One Infinite Loop

What’s the median salary in San Jose, CA? 

According to real-time payroll data, the median salary is $113,100 (in March 2024). 80% of salaries fall between $43,500 and $217,500.

Vice presidents, product managers, software engineers, data scientists, and directors have the highest average salaries. Still, there are plenty of ways for talented individuals to get ahead. San Jose also seems to make employees happy and ranks in the top 10 cities for job satisfaction.

An Endless Selection of Cuisine (and Wineries)

Living in San Jose, residents expect a fantastic food scene. The good news is that this city is known for that and goes way beyond a few nibbles.

San Jose’s culinary landscape is just like the actual landscape; worth exploring from top to bottom. The residents come from all over America and from around the globe, bringing their cuisines for us to try.

Adega is one of the many places your tastebuds will thank you for visiting. This Portugese restaurant received San Jose’s first Michelin Star back in 2016. They also boast more than 200 vintages that are difficult to find in this part of the world to pair perfectly with a meal. 

If you eventually buy a home in San Jose, these are 3 of the best overall restaurants, according to reviews from real diners over the past 4 months (we especially recommend the sautéed  prawns at the #3 restaurant):

  • PintxoPote - Rated 5☆

Yes, we know that’s a hard name to pronounce. This Spanish restaurant’s name sounds like ‘pincho potay,’ but you’ll have a much easier time finding tasty dishes on the menu. As you choose from tapas and tortillas, you’ll taste flavors from the Bay of Biscay in Northern Spain.

  • Firehouse No. 1 Gastropub - Rated 4.8☆

The essence of a gastropub is alive and well at ‌Firehouse No. 1. There’s the casual and comfortable atmosphere, but also creative dishes and cocktails. After New York strip and perfectly cooked sides, you can always ask the friendly Firehouse staff where your next downtown stop-off should be. 

  • Inn at Tres Pinos - Rated 4.8☆

Where cowboys used to kick back and have dinner, you can too. The Inn at Tres Pinos is one of the oldest eateries in San Jose (built in 1880), but the menu hasn’t gotten dusty. The current owner’s philosophy is to keep things simple and fresh, which seems to be working well. The prices are reasonable, but the Prawns Provencale is worth paying a few more dollars for.   

The Mediterranean Climate is Ideal 

If the weather wasn’t so ideal, it would really put a damper on the locals’ lifestyles. Being so close to the ocean, San Jose has near-perfect Mediterranean weather throughout the year.

Expect 45-60°F lows and 60-80°F highs. The temperatures don’t spike or fluctuate too much and typically stay quite mild.

  • The highest recorded temperature in 2023 was 95°F (according to a weather-watching service). This happened four times during the year, on October 6th, October 5th, August 30th, and August 23rd.
  • The lowest recorded temperature in 2023 was 33°F, which came on February 18th, February 1st, and January 21st. 
  • The most daily precipitation was 0.8 inches in 2023, which fell on March 21st.

San Jose Streets in the Afternoon

San Jose streets in the afternoon - via Photo by Andrii Ganzevych on Unsplash

To those living in San Jose, the local climate means that they can enjoy the city more. No frigid blasts for months on end, like some Canadian cities up the coast. And, no scorching summers to torture your houseplants.

Public Transportation is Decent

Life in San Jose CA is a little cheaper when you can avoid parking fees. Adequate public transportation can help you with that. 

By 2040, San Jose’s government says that only four out of ten commutes will be with single-occupancy vehicles - at least that’s their plan.

Biking around the city also has advantages, but that’s not everyone’s cup of tea. So, while you are living and commuting in San Jose, here are some of your options:

  • Take the VTA Light Rail or a VTA Bus 

In the downtown area and surrounding suburbs of San Jose, there are light rail and various bus services to use. 

The light rail can take locals from the southern tip of the Bay to down South San Jose, and back. It also runs from Mountain View in the west across to Alum Rock in the east. Here is the full map of the VTA routes

The VTA Light Rail in Downtown San Jose

The VTA Light Rail cutting through downtown San Jose - via Daniel Ramirez on Flickr

Quite honestly, the light rail system isn’t always the fastest option. Some of the light rail journeys may take just as long as a bus ride. There are a few different kinds of buses to choose from in this city, like Rapid, Frequent, and Local Busses. The good news is that you will probably have a bus or train route that takes you where you need to go.  

Every journey will be different, and researching your route before you start living in San Jose will give you peace of mind. It may even affect the area you choose to settle down in. For that reason, it’s a good idea to check the VTA transit routes ahead of time, not as an afterthought.    

  • Use Ride-Sharing Apps 

Locals usually take Uber or Lyft for short trips around town or Blacklane and Carmel for comfortable rides to dinner. All of these apps have luxury and large-sized options, but the latter two offer limousines (among other affluent automobiles).

Merge is an app that does things a little differently, setting up ongoing carpools, so riders can split commuting costs.

Traditional taxis can be hailed from the street or from an app. They start the meter at $2.50-$3.50, then run between $3 - $3.60 per mile. It may cost upwards of $10 just to go a few miles, which explains why locals (and not just the younger ones) are looking to more modern ride-sharing apps these days.

  • Rent E-Bikes and Scooters

Lyft Bay Wheels is just one of the bike-sharing programs in San Jose, but it offers locals a few advantages. Scan a QR code or use the Lyft app and unlock your classic bike or e-bike. Pricing starts with a base charge of about $3.50 for 30 minutes. After that time runs out, the bike will charge your app at about $0.30 per minute. That works out to about $9 per 30 minutes, after the initial charge. 

Some of San Jose's suburbs aren't ideal for public transit, because bus stops might be right next to homes. In this case, most of us take an Uber to get closer, hop on a bicycle, or make time for a short walk. For moving between San Jose and further out cities, you can use different bus and rail services.

San Jose is Green and Working on Being Greener

San Jose has been recognized for its green attitude, ranking sixth out of all American cities (and second in California).

Good news for residents who want to buy a new home in San Jose, CA: The city has several lofty goals and a Climate Smart action plan to become even greener.

The plan states that “It all begins with transitioning to a renewable energy future,” likely through efficient and clean electricity sources. In fact, the hope is that household electricity will be 100% carbon-neutral by 2030, just a few years away. 

On top of that ambitious eco-goal, San Jose plans to:

  • Be creating 0% landfill waste by 2040.
  • Reducing residential water consumption by 30% by 2030 (compared to 2009 levels).
  • Become the world’s first GW solar city by 2040.
  • Have 60% of vehicles running on electric power sources by 2030.

Overlooking San Jose

Overlooking San Jose - Photo by Jose Rago on Unsplash

You can track some of these goals on the Climate Smart Data Dashboard of San Jose, though the data might not be as current as you’d like. There’s a massive amount of information in each annual report, which can apparently take years to compile. 

The Diverse Community 

The economy and lifestyle on offer in San Jose attract people from all over the globe. 

Over time, this has made California one of the most diverse states to live in, which has a trickle-down effect. This merging of humanity brings new values, overseas talent, vibrant cultures, plus brand-new cuisine, and arts.

The festivals and celebrations pop up year-round in San Jose, each themed a little differently. 

Here are a few notable events that showcase San Jose’s cultural palette:

  • Viva Fest Mexican Heritage and Mariachi Festival
  • Obon Festival: A multi-day festival in Japantown
  • Vietnamese Art & Culture Festival at San Jose City Hall
  • Foodie Land Night Market at the County Fairgrounds
  • Saint Patrick’s Day Music Festival
  • Annual Mexica New Year Festival in San Jose

There’s also nothing like the Rosicrucian Museum, a lovely building full of Egyptian artifacts. It all began with a single statue, a Sekhmet (lion goddess). The exhibitions are constantly changing and you can also book workshops inside the museum.

Farmers markets, night markets, and cultural celebrations happen every week in this fantastically diverse city. After you buy a home in San Jose, CA, all of these wonderful events will be booked into your calendar.

6 Reasons Living in San Jose Can Be Difficult

There are downsides, disadvantages, and cons of living in San Jose, CA. Anyone who tells you otherwise isn’t being realistic because every city in the world has negative aspects.

Cost of Living is Anything but Low

While the city of San Jose hasn’t made our top 5 list of most expensive places to live in the Bay Area - it’s still not cheap. 

We’ve written a full guide that will help you understand the cost of living in San Jose. It should take you less than a few minutes to read. You’ll find that some items are even more expensive than expected, but the article will shed light on living expenses.

There are ways to cut expenses, like living in eco-friendly San Jose homes, changing transportation options, and exploring up-and-coming neighborhoods.

Traffic and Congestion is Tough to Avoid

Desirable San Jose neighborhoods might not be served by the best public transit, but you’ll also face traffic during some times of the day. What time is rush hour in San Jose, CA? Usually, it’s 6-9 am and then later in the day at 4-7 pm. Your weekend drives will be less delayed, as Saturday and Sunday aren’t as busy. 

Downtown San Jose Traffic

Traffic in San Jose - via Sundry Photography

For more detailed information, visit TomTom’s website and view the traffic data. You can see that travel speeds slow by up to 50% during rush hour compared to the best travel times. Early morning is the easiest time of day to navigate San Jose city (before 6 am), but this might not suit everyone’s schedule. 

As a developed and bustling city, this is no surprise. As locals, we all have to plan our days around commutes. We can either factor in extra time or adjust our travel times to avoid congestion.

Balancing Work and Life Isn’t Easy

Paying for a Bay Area lifestyle, with all of its perks, can unbalance some folks. Employment in Silicon Valley can have serious upsides and large salaries, but that might require more time at the office. 

Silicon Valley, and San Jose, are both competitive employment markets. The best talent in the world comes to our shores, hoping to out-work and out-perform. As much as we’d like to think 40-hour workweeks are enough to get ahead, reality doesn’t always agree. If employees aren’t prepared for the pace, they’ve got to be careful of feeling burnt out.

Then again, a lot of ‌locals enjoy giving it all, in and out of the office. San Jose isn’t short of ways to unwind and blow off steam. 

Work-life balance may be more tricky to attain, but it’s there.

Some Neighborhoods are Safer Than Others

San Jose used to be known as one of the safest big cities in America. However, the number of reported crimes has risen since 2015 in San Jose - something we see in the police reports and from our own experiences. Auto and property theft are big areas of concern, but no less are violent crimes and domestic violence. The police department has reported a 10% increase in violent crimes since 2020, which can be worrying.

San Jose even has a CrimeMapping service that you can use to browse different neighborhoods and see where crime incidents occurred. You should consult with other locals and ask your realtor about the safest places to live in San Jose. 

Statistics for the current year aren’t always available to the public until much later and words from a local’s mouth will tell you about the real state of crime and safety in San Jose.

Many locals are aware that San Francisco has much higher rates of crime and that San Jose is safer than may of America’s cities, but work still needs to be done. 

Homelessness is an Issue

As any local will tell you, San Jose does have a homelessness issue. There’s no clear solution, even though San Jose’s Mayor is likely to earmark a significant chunk of the city’s budget for the 2024-25 fiscal year. Mayor Matt Mahan’s plan calls for more temporary housing, reconnection to families, and camp sweeps (especially around rivers and waterways).

Mahan appears to be focusing on temporary housing, which costs around $100,000, according to him. He’s emphasized that the chosen designs must be “faster to build, more cost-effective, more scaleable, given the magnitude of the crisis”. Between 2020 and 2023, this kind of temporary shelter housed more than 19,570 people.

On a positive note, San Jose has decreased the homeless population by 3.7% in a single year, compared to a 1.7% decrease seen in America. 

Income Tax Cuts Into Paychecks

California has an eye-watering income tax that many locals wish was lower. In fact, the income tax can reach up to 13.3% depending on your tax bracket and the state has the highest income tax in the country. 

A large portion of your paycheck could go toward taxes in San Jose. After ‌federal, state, and sales taxes are deducted, the average local might miss out on 30% of their paycheck. 

Forbes has a handy Income Tax Calculator for 2023-2024 years that will give you a rough idea of what to expect.

With a message or a call, one of San Jose’s best real estate agents can tell you a lot more about living here. There may be something we didn’t cover here and you’ll need all the answers before you decide to rent or buy a home in San Jose. We’d like to help.

Our offices are in San Jose and we’ve been buying and selling homes in the area since 2008. We are locals with a deep understanding of our market and of what living in San Jose is really like. Tapping into our experience should be your next step.  

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If you have more questions about what to expect from the markets around the Bay Area, don’t be afraid to reach out to us today. Our experts are experienced in all property types and the entire San Francisco Bay Area, and we can help you to find what you need to know today.

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