10 Things to know before moving to San Diego

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To many, life in San Diego is all sunshine & acai bowls (or fish tacos if you prefer), but in reality our picture perfect lifestyle reflects that Instagram IG versus Reality challenge. If you decide to live here, it’s important that you truly understand what it’s actually like. In fact, knowing these 10 things about San Diego will help you decide if you’re ready to invest half a million dollars into purchasing a condo or giving up larger chunks of your salary to state income tax. Life is not without it’s trials and tribulations, and while San Diego is an absolutely stunning place to live, we’re here to give you the facts with what you need to know before moving to San Diego.

10 Things to know before moving to San Diego


#1 – San Diego is much bigger than you think

Unlike many other major U.S. cities, San Diego’s borders extend far beyond its downtown area. In fact, the city of San Diego includes major areas that you may have read or heard about already; such as Pacific Beach, North Park, Mission Valley, Clairemont and even La Jolla.

However, compared to a typical major city, outside of the downtown area of San Diego, the rest of the city is more like a suburban area with more condensed streets. There are few high rise buildings, and most places to live are single family homes and condominium complexes that only reach a few storeys high (in fact, this lack of high rise lodging could be part of the reason why there tends to be a housing shortage, especially for lower income families). With the lack of skyscraping architecture, you will often feel a sense of calm and community. It’s like driving around your local neighborhood, but one that extends over highways and zip codes.

An important thing to know is that there is San Diego city, and there is San Diego county. The San Diego county line extends far beyond San Diego city, and includes what we call North County, East County and South County San Diego.

The majority of residents live as far east as Santee, and from southern Imperial Beach up to the northern border of San Clemente. So while the screenshot map below shows the county line goes much further east, there aren’t too many living out there.

Screenshot map of San Diego city and San Diego county

#2 – San Diegans live life at a slower Pace

What we really mean here is that you’ll notice San Diegans tend to show up late to things. We enjoy living our lives at a slower pace, and with good reason – San Diego is always showing off her beauty and it reminds us to take our time and ‘smell the roses’ as you might say… or in SD’s case, you’ll probably be smelling fresh brewed coffee, salty ocean air and if we’re being totally honest a quick whiff of CA cannabis; it’s Southern California, life here is a it more liberal than anywhere else.

All of that to say, if you’re used to a fast paced lifestyle, where you show up ten minutes early or live by the mantra of ‘If you’re on time, you’re late’, you may need to adjust your expectations for others. But we believe that in a few short weeks, you’ll be doing the same (although I personally, still show up early to every appointment. It’s like a bad habit I can’t avoid).

San Diego coastline at sunset, 10 things to know before moving to San Diego, Living in San Diego real estate

#3 – San Diego does NOT have Gorgeous Weather Year Round

The idea that San Diego has perfect weather year round is a lie. Yes, we have that coveted mid-70’s Fahrenheit temperature and clear skies with puffy, white clouds most days, as well as the standard warm toned sunsets that make you fall in love with tie dye & cotton candy colors all over again. But in reality, it’s not like that year round.

Winter months in San Diego can drop down to the low 40’s, and summers reach highs of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit with some humidity! Plus there’s the annual May Gray and June Gloom months, where the skies are bleak from dawn to dusk.

Luckily though, San Diego’s ‘bad weather’ days are most other places ‘good weather’ days. And I’d be lying if I said that I don’t wear chunky sweaters and boots in San Diego when it’s 65 degrees outside. It’s quite easy to acclimate to the mild weather in San Diego. While it will most likely outperform your expectations of quality of life compared to where you live now, don’t expect straight sunshine 365 days of the year. Either way, it beats those long, dreary winter months the east coast has.

#4 – Suncare is taken seriously

All of our annual sunshine means San Diegans are well aware of proper suncare protection. If you decide to move to San Diego, then you’ll build out your own suncare protocol, and you’ll be inspired by others’ tactics. The standard of course includes reef safe & cruelty free sunscreen (from brands like Sun Bum, All Good and Amavara), but also quality sunglasses, hats and oftentimes gloves for the car. Yes, you read that correctly. People in San Diego will wear gloves while they drive to protect their hands from sun damage, and for good reason. Your extremities are the most exposed parts of your body. So while it may look ridiculous to wear gloves in 70+ degree weather, your skin will thank you later.

girl applying sunscreen, 10 things to know before moving to San Diego, Living in San Diego real estate

#5 – Rain = Terrible Driving

You know what they say, ‘When it rains it…”

…it means the roads become more treacherous than usual. Why is this? We’re so used to dealing with ideal weather, that when it does rain in San Diego, many aren’t prepared to safely drive in it. This leads to many uncomfortable drivers who prefer to ride their car brakes in fear of sliding, as well as an increase in fender benders for those who don’t realize their cars can slide on water.

Rain in San Diego, 10 things to know before moving to San Diego, Living in San Diego real estate

#6 – No Major Sports Team (except Padres), but plenty to do

Cities like Los Angeles and New York City are home to multiple major sports teams;

LA has two football teams AND two basketball teams:

The Los Angeles Rams, the Los Angeles Chargers, and

The LA Lakers and the Clippers

New York City has the Giants, the Jets, the Yankees, & the Mets (say that like a Dr. Suess rhyme!)

Whereas San Diego only has the Padres baseball team. And while Padre’s fans are loyal, through and through, many who transplant to San Diego have a difficult time getting behind a team that hasn’t brought many wins to the city. We will say that the San Diego Padres stadium is one of the most phenomenal stadiums we’ve been to. It’s located right in the heart of downtown, so is easy to access and hosts delicious local foods and drinks.

In addition to the Padres, San Diego is home to a handful of minor league rated sports divisions and have the following teams you can support throughout the year:

-San Diego Gulls (indoor hockey)

-San Diego Sockers (indoor soccer)

-San Diego Seals (indoor lacrosse)

All of which play at the Pechanga Arena off of Sports Arena Boulevard.

There is also plenty to do in San Diego, so many locals don’t even fret or realize the lack of professional sports. We’d rather watch local surfers ride the waves, or play a game of beach volleyball ourselves.

#7 – San Diego is a Major Military Area

While this may seem obvious to some, we can’t share this post without making sure you know that San Diego is a major military home base for many military regiments. The Navy, the Marine Corps and the U.S. Coast Guard all have places here in San Diego, ranging in areas from Coronado to Camp Pendleton and Miramar.

Once you live here though, you won’t even realize that there are so many military bases here. Each one is far from the other and they don’t interfere with any day-to-day life. In fact, it’s pretty fun having them here. You can watch as larger than life naval ships come into the harbor or go to the annual Miramar Air Show!

Navy ship in harbor, 10 things to know before moving to San Diego, Living in San Diego real estate

#8 – San Diego has a Great Food Scene

If there is one thing you need to know about living in San Diego, it’s that the food scene here is incredible. You can’t get better mexican food (unless of course, if you were in Mexico!) since we are so close to the Mexican border. And more & more restaurants are focusing on local farm produce and plant based meals.

In fact, as I write this, I’m currently on a vegan and gluten free diet and haven’t had any trouble eating out with this fairly restricted diet. That’s saying something about San Diego’s food scene.

There’s also been an influx of phenomenal chef’s moving to San Diego to open restaurants and partner with local restaurant groups to create mouth watering menus paired with instagram worthy interior design.

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#9 – Top Craft Brewery City

We hope you like beer, because San Diego is one of the nation’s largest craft brewery cities. Living in San Diego means you prefer to support local businesses, and this means supporting local breweries too. Many local San Diego breweries have gone on to become national brands that are enjoyed in all 50 states!

And if you aren’t a fan of beer, then be sure to check out our local distilleries too, like You & Yours Distillery.

No matter what your fancy, chances are if you walk into a bar they’ll be able to create you a craft cocktail or pour you a fresh local beer that will quench your palette better than any other domestic beer could.

different types of beers, 10 things to know before moving to San Diego, Living in San Diego real estate

#10 – San Diego Beaches are Accessible

I grew up going to the Jersey Shore, where you had to pay for beach access and fight for your space on the cigarette butts buried in the sand. San Diego beaches are the exact opposite. Every beach is accessible to the public for free, and they are incredibly well maintained and clean. Visiting a San Diego beach can easily feel like you’ve stepped into a tropical paradise.

There’s something to be said to enjoy a freshly brewed cup of local coffee while you walk along the Pacific coastline, watching yogi’s meditate to the sound of the waves or even better watching dogs skateboard down the boardwalk with their owners. And don’t get us started on the colorful sunsets here. Really no matter what time of day or which beach you choose to spend your time, it is well worth it.

sunset at Tourmaline in San Diego with surfer, 10 things to know before moving to San Diego, Living in San Diego real estate

Thinking of moving to San Diego, California?

There are a lot of forces in play when it comes to moving to San Diego and finding your perfect home. We get it, and we can help. Let us use our local expertise and years of experience to help you create a stress free process when it comes to buying your home in SD. Call or email us to schedule your zoom call!