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Moving To California: The Pros and Cons of the Golden State

By Landing | Apr 23, 2024
A view from above of Mission Beach's palm boulevard. San Diego. A place to consider when moving to California.

Moving to California? Landing has you covered. Here’s everything you need to know about housing costs, culture, and the NorCal-SoCal rivalry.

Breathtaking landscapes in Yosemite. Tech-savvy communities in Silicon Valley spreading innovation around the world. The iconic glitz and glamour of Hollywood. California radiates with its one-of-a-kind mixture of natural beauty, invention, and culture. And the list of reasons people flock to the Golden State is longer than its coastline.

If you dream of moving to California, start with this guide. Here are the pros and cons of living in California and Landing’s favorite places to stay in the land of opportunity.

Is California a Good Place To Live?

It’s a great place to live. California is the third-largest state in the country — and its most biodiverse. From the misty Redwood forests in the North to year-round sunshine on Southern California beaches, Californians have a picturesque landscape no matter where they look.

The state’s unique natural beauty matches its cultural diversity. California’s truly a melting pot of people, politics, and passions. Cultures from around the globe come together, including the tech-savvy innovators of the Bay Area and the immigrant-rich rural communities of the San Joaquin Valley.

But embracing California’s abundance also means getting comfortable with its inflated cost of living, expensive housing, and competitive job market. It can be especially tough in coastal oases and major California cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego.

California’s hustle and bustle attitude and sky-high prices may not be for everyone. But for those who aren’t afraid of the price tag, the state’s unique culture, economic opportunity, and natural beauty offer a dream living experience.

Pros and Cons of Living in California

If you’re asking yourself if it’s worth moving to California, here are 10 pros and cons to help you decide.

Pros of Living in California

California’s allure isn’t just in its geography. It’s a state that overflows with professional opportunities, tight-knit communities, and diverse lifestyles. Here are some advantages of calling the Golden State home:

1. There’s a Climate for Everyone

California has a reputation for being drenched in sunshine from January to December. But that’s not true. California covers 164,000 square miles and stretches across 840 miles of coastline — so it would be impossible to have the same weather everywhere.

Earth scientists divide the state into 11 different geomorphic provinces, including distinct landscapes like the Mojave Desert, Sierra Nevadas, and Great Valley. So whether you want to live in San Francisco‘s cozy, fog-heavy afternoons or the warm, Mediterranean climate of Santa Barbara, there’s a place for everyone.

2. There Are Plenty of Career Development Opportunities

Although competition can be stiff, California’s job market covers nearly every sector. Military, entertainment, and agriculture (to name a few) help make California one of the largest economies in the world. Likewise, digital nomads and entrepreneurs naturally fit into the startup culture with opportunities to find angel investors and a community of fellow self-starters.

3. Culture Is King

Artists and creatives of every stripe will find inspiration and entertainment and every turn. California’s cultural diversity shines in its festivals, restaurant scene, and artist communities. It’s truly a melting pot — and its vast culture extends far beyond the creative arts.

Celebrate the Lunar New Year in San Francisco, home to the world’s largest Chinatown outside Asia. You can also enjoy authentic Mexican cuisine in Los Angeles, which has more Latinos than any other county in the U.S.

4. Californians Lead Innovation

Everything starts in California, or so they say. The iPhone, blue jeans, and landmark sustainability acts all got their start in this state. And its public and private university system is part of the reason it leads in tech and politics. Schools like Stanford, the University of Southern California, and Berkeley are world-class and prepare California’s future leaders.

5. Nature’s Always at Your Doorstep

California residents never have to leave the state to get a nature fix. And it’s not just because of nine national parks — more than any other state. You can ski slopes in Lake Tahoe, hike through towering sequoias at Yosemite National Park, or explore the vast deserts of Death Valley. Plus, the state’s unique geography means you can catch the sun rising over the desert and finish your day next to a warm fire by the beach.

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Cons of Living in California

It’s not cheap to live in paradise. While you figure out how to move to California, keep in mind a few major hurdles to daily life.

1. There’s a Housing Squeeze That Won’t Quit

High housing costs are nothing new for California residents. According to data from the California Legislative Analyst Office, mid-tier home prices are twice as expensive as an average U.S. home. The median home value was $765,000 in February 2024, with monthly payments for a mid-tier home averaging $5,500.

It’s possible to find some affordable housing. Prices vary enormously depending on location. Payments for a home in Fresno country average $2,000, whereas in San Mateo, costs climb to $7,700.

2. It’s Expensive

Housing is just the tip of the iceberg. The cost of living in California is 38% higher than the national average. Although monthly expenses vary depending on where you live, expect to pay up for utilities, food, and healthcare. California’s elevated costs require careful financial planning and budgeting, especially if you don’t work in a high-paying industry.

3. Droughts! Wildfires! Earthquakes!

California’s beauty and commitment to sustainability come with a caveat. The state regularly faces serious annual droughts that put strains on water resources — and your water bill. And wildfires, floods, and a much-anticipated earthquake along the San Andreas Fault have serious impacts on the safety of residents and their homes. 

4. Be Prepared To Spend Lots of Time in Traffic

The state played a big role in popularizing highway and freeway systems across the United States. But ironically, California is notorious for gridlock traffic. Population growth and underdeveloped public transport systems make for slow commutes and frustrating freeways.

5. California Has High Income Tax

California residents have some of the steepest income tax rates in the country. The state uses a progressive tax system, with million-dollar earners paying 13.3%. Sales tax, gasoline tax, and property taxes can also add significant financial strain to your yearly budget.

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10 Things To Know Before Moving to California

Here are 10 small details and tips for moving to California to make a move to the West Coast smoother.

1. You Need a Car

California is huge, and it lacks good public transport. If you need to commute to work or take a quick getaway to wine country, you’re going to need a reliable car.

2. NorCal and SoCal Are “Rivals”

Whether you’re arguing about sports teams, slang, or the best Mexican food, NorCal and SoCal have a (mostly lighthearted) rivalry with one another. Whether CenCal is part of either is a whole other debate.

3. The Food Is Amazing

Agricultural bounty and a rich cultural heritage make California a foodie’s dream. From Michelin-starred restaurants in San Francisco to street food in the Central Valley, you’ll never have a hard time finding a good meal.

4. You’ll Live a Healthy Lifestyle

Although sometimes it’s the butt of the rest of the country’s jokes, Californians are seriously health-conscious. The state makes it easy to stay healthy, with yoga retreats, fresh local produce, and endless hiking trails.

5. Public Schools Are Behind

Large class sizes, poor funding, and widening socioeconomic disparities put a lot of pressure on California’s public school system. There has been a sharp increase in the number of children enrolled in private schools, which could become a sizeable expense to your monthly budget.

6. Sunscreen Is a Must

California is one of the sunniest states in the U.S., and that means sunscreen isn’t just for a day at the beach. It should be part of your regular routine to protect your skin.

7. Get Ready to Hustle

California suffers from a high unemployment rate. COVID-19-era business closures, high tax rates, and strict regulations created a job squeeze. And the high cost of living and insufficient wages even cause some people to move away.

8. You Might Experience Natural Disasters

In certain parts of California, you need an emergency plan against wildfires, floods, and earthquakes. Get appropriate insurance and disaster-proof your home. It’s also a good idea to have an evacuation plan just in case, especially in the summer when wildfires run rampant.

9. Pack Your Closet With Layers

Although San Diego residents get away with shorts and sandals in December, the rest of the state experiences dramatic temperature shifts throughout the day.

10. It’s Easy to Protect the Environment 

Organic groceries, renewable energy, and eco-friendly vehicles aren’t part of a sustainable lifestyle. They’re just the lifestyle. California leads the country on green initiatives, lowering your environmental footprint.

The 3 Best Places To Live in California

Best is subjective, but these cities top the list of great places to live. Here are three fantastic cities in California:

1. Los Angeles

A view of Los Angeles' skyline, one of the top 3 places to live when moving to California

Beaches and mountains. Cultural representation from nearly everywhere in the world. A massive art scene. If you can handle all the sprawl, the “City of Light” has it all.

Lost Angeles is a dream for creative city dwellers. Make your grand entrance with one of Landing’s furnished apartments.

2. San Diego

A view of San Diego's skyline, one of the top 3 places to live when moving to California

Nobody’s blaming you for wanting a never-ending summer. San Diego has amazing weather and great food, and it’s a welcoming place for military members and young families. Find your beach dwelling in San Diego with Landing.

3. San Francisco

A view of San Francisco's skyline, one of the top 3 places to live when moving to California

The “City by the Bay” was a cultural oasis before it became the world’s tech hub. And that means it has the best of both worlds: world-class food, excellent urban infrastructure, and an innovative business community. Find your dream San Francisco apartment with Landing.

The West Coast Is the Best Coast

Ready to book your flight? Let Landing help you find the right furnished apartment with a flexible lease. Stay in a turnkey apartment with personalized assistance in California’s largest cities. Become a member today.