Disappointing photos show what living in San Francisco on a tech salary really looks like

Even tech workers in Silicon Valley struggle with the region's housing costs.

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Even tech workers in Silicon Valley struggle with the region’s housing costs.
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HBO

  • Tech workers come to Silicon Valley in droves with dreams of working for one of the world’s biggest tech companies, like Google or Apple, or with hopes of founding their own startup.
  • Such a position entails a comfortable salary, but having a tech salary in the nation’s most competitive real estate market doesn’t always promise a life of luxury.
  • Here’s what working in Silicon Valley’s tech sphere really looks like.

The dream of working for one of Silicon Valley’s many tech behemoths, along with the luxuries such a six-figure salary would afford, has resulted in droves of engineering degree-toting techies coming to the Bay Area.

Though, in reality, earning a tech salary is not all it’s cracked up to be.

In the nation’s most competitive real estate market, it can be next to impossible to find affordable living accommodations. The housing crisis has left thousands struggling, and has done nothing to help the city’s homelessness epidemic.

It costs $3,360 on average for a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco. That means, when the average starting tech salary of $91,738 is taken into account, some techies are shelling out a good portion of their paycheck solely on rent.

And when it’s time for those tech workers to buy a home, forget it: a recent study found that 60% of them felt they couldn’t afford one.

That’s all before factoring in other lofty expenses in the city, like $7 bacon strips.

From fraternity house-style “hacker houses” to sleeping in a Google parking lot, here’s what a tech salary in the “Tech Capital of the World” looks like.


Due to a housing shortage, the high demand for living accommodations has sent real estate values skyrocketing in the Bay Area.

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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

And the region’s behemoth tech companies aren’t slowing down on talent recruitment. Engineers are constantly pouring in.

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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Many arrive viewing their new lives through rose-colored glasses, holding high expectations of what a tech salary will look.


Fancy cars, colossal homes, and a more-than-comfortable lifestyle fill their minds.

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Dale Cruse/Flickr

The reality is oftentimes much different than what they expected.

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IMDb/Warner Bros.

The biggest wake up call? The astronomically-priced rent.

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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

They end up spending a good portion of their salary purely on rent, leaving little else to cover the other outrageous expenses in the city.

Source: RENTcafe and SF Gate


And so tech workers, both seasoned and newly-minted, have had to get creative with how they can outsmart the city’s notoriously absurd rental costs.

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Richard Heyes/Flickr

Like the people behind The Negev, a communal living organization that houses tech workers in San Francisco.

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Gabrielle Lurie/Reuters

Source: Business Insider


It’s one of many communal spaces in the city designed to help techies circumvent the housing shortage and high rent. The home offers 50 rooms across three floors.

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Gabrielle Lurie/Reuters

Source: Reuters


Many of the Negev residents sleep in bunk beds and shell out $1,900 a month to live here.

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Gabrielle Lurie/Reuters

Source: Reuters


The tenants are software engineers, UI designers, operations analysts, or virtual reality engineers, and most are under the age of 30.

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Gabrielle Lurie/Reuters

Source: Business Insider


There’s also a social element to The Negev. Residents are encouraged to bounce ideas off of each other, and to code and create apps.

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Gabrielle Lurie/Reuters

Source: Business Insider


Resident Zandar Dejah (left) told Reuters that it’s “basically an extension of college. We sort of live in a frat house.”

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Gabrielle Lurie/Reuters

Source: Business Insider


Every Sunday there’s a communal dinner for housemates, and on the weekend the house hosts parties.

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Gabrielle Lurie/Reuters

Source: Reuters


As convenient as it is for its occupants, the home has been criticized for depriving natives of affordable housing.

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Dejah eyes a pizza place near the Negev house.
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Gabrielle Lurie/Reuters

Source: Reuters


But many young tech workers can’t afford conventional housing…

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Gabrielle Lurie/Reuters

…especially if they have a family.

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Exploring Alternatives/YouTube

Source: Exploring Alternatives


Micah, along with his wife Jana and their son, moved to the Bay Area to pursue a tech career.

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Exploring Alternatives/YouTube

Source: Exploring Alternatives


To avoid the city’s steep rental costs, they had a tiny home built for their family of three in Texas and lugged it out to California.

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Exploring Alternatives/YouTube

Source: Exploring Alternatives


The next step was finding a place to park it…

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Exploring Alternatives/YouTube

Source: Exploring Alternatives


…so they teamed up with a family already settled in the Bay who allowed them to post up in their RV pad, for a fee.

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Exploring Alternatives/YouTube

Source: Exploring Alternatives


They use an extension cord to stay hooked up to the house for power, and they also keep a generator outside for when they want to use the air conditioner or washer and dryer.

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Exploring Alternatives/YouTube

Source: Exploring Alternatives


They also keep solar panels in the yard for extra power.

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Exploring Alternatives/YouTube

Source: Exploring Alternatives


The pint-sized abode has everything the family needs.

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Exploring Alternatives/YouTube

Source: Exploring Alternatives


There’s a washer and dryer in the bathroom.

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Exploring Alternatives/YouTube

Source: Exploring Alternatives


Guests are educated on proper toilet use with a handy cheat sheet on the windowsill.

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Exploring Alternatives/YouTube

Source: Exploring Alternatives


And there’s a fold-down table for eating.

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Exploring Alternatives/YouTube

Source: Exploring Alternatives


The couple has a lofted sleeping nook, with another loft opposite them in the house for their son as he gets older…

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Exploring Alternatives/YouTube

Source: Exploring Alternatives


…at which point they said they might need to reevaluate living spaces since a teenager will make the home a tad more cramped.

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Exploring Alternatives/YouTube

Source: Exploring Alternatives


The D’Andrea’s are also new parents…

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Tech Insider/YouTube

Source: Tech Insider


…and like Micah and Jana, they’re accustomed to the small-living lifestyle.

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Tech Insider/YouTube

Source: Tech Insider


Googler Pete D’Andrea…

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Tech Insider/YouTube

Source: Tech Insider


…and his wife Kara shelled out $1,900 for a Winnebago van and moved to Silicon Valley from Chicago when Pete snagged a job with one of Google’s self-driving car teams.

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Tech Insider/YouTube

Source: Tech Insider


They parked their mobile digs in the Google parking lot and lived there for a year and a half to two years (before having their daughter,) putting 80% of their income into savings.

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Tech Insider/YouTube

Source: Tech Insider


An upraised Ikea twin mattress served as their bed…

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Tech Insider/YouTube

Source: Tech Insider


…and a small compartment opened up to a toilet, sink, and shower.

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Tech Insider/YouTube

Source: Tech Insider


The sink pulls out from the wall.

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Tech Insider/YouTube

Source: Tech Insider


The couple kept a mini fridge in their small kitchen…

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Tech Insider/YouTube

Source: Tech Insider


…and there was a stovetop for cooking.

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Tech Insider/YouTube

Source: Tech Insider


To maximize space, they placed a cutting board over the sink for when they’re not using it.

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Tech Insider/YouTube

Source: Tech Insider


Kara knows it’s not an ideal set up, but she didn’t mind in the least.

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Tech Insider/YouTube

Source: Tech Insider


“I think a lot of people think this is like the antithesis of comfortable, but I actually really loved it,” Jana told Tech Insider in 2016. “I was really happy.”

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Tech Insider/YouTube

Source: Tech Insider


They saved up enough to put a down payment on a house. Seven months after moving into it, they got a dog, four cats, and three chickens. That was also when their daughter was born.

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Tech Insider/YouTube

Source: Tech Insider


As for their van, they’ll hang on to it and use it for traveling. Pete told Tech Insider that he sees plenty of other vans parked in the parking lot at Google. “We’re not the only ones,” he said.

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Tech Insider/YouTube

Source: Tech Insider