Is It Better to Buy or Rent in San Diego? I’d buy, here’s why …

Buy a home or rent a home—this is the age-old question. There was a time, not too long ago, when this decision was an easier one. You either had the credit and income you needed to buy property, or you rented because it was the cheaper choice. But with rental costs soaring, many people have found themselves wondering if renting is even worth it anymore.

The decision of whether to rent or buy a home will depend on your individual circumstances. However, if you can afford it, buying a home is often the better alternative.

If you are thinking about moving to San Diego, you might be wondering, should I buy or rent a home?


Cost of Living in San Diego

The important thing to consider when trying to decide whether to buy or rent is your finances. Which one can you afford? However, before you can accurately calculate your monthly budget, you will have to have a general idea of the daily living costs in San Diego.

San Diego is the second-largest city in California and the eighth-largest city (in terms of population) in the United States. Although there are many wonderful reasons to live in this diverse city, the cost of living is quite high. In fact, some studies have calculated the cost of living in San Diego to be 43% above the national average. Yikes!

According to Numbeo, a family of four can expect monthly expenses to cost around $3,835 (not including the price of rent or monthly mortgage payment), while a single person can expect their monthly cost of living to sit right around $1,070 (before rent). With the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment averaging around $28,296 a year, a single person would need to make around $94,000 to live comfortably (only spending 30% of your income on rent).

How Much Does It Cost to Rent in San Diego?

How much you can expect to pay for a rental in San Diego will depend on several factors, including the neighborhood that you live in, the condition of the rental, and the size of the property.

That being said, Rent Cafe has calculated (by averaging the prices of actual rental listings in San Diego) the average cost of a typical apartment (around 870 square feet) to be around $2,756. That is quite a bit higher than the national average of $2,018. These prices reflect a 20% increase from 2021, and experts expect these prices to continue to rise in the coming years.

While these numbers reflect the average prices, they do not always reflect real-life prices. To get a better overall picture of the cost to rent in San Diego, we look at some current active listings.

  • Room for rent in a four-bedroom house — 350 sq ft — $644/month
  • One-bedroom studio apartment — 250 sq ft — $1,450/month
  • One-bedroom apartment — 594 sq ft — $1,795/month
  • Two-bedroom apartment — 900 sq ft — $1,920/month
  • Two-bedroom apartment — 650 sq ft — $2,453/month
  • Three-bedroom house — 800 sq ft — $2,700/month
  • Three-bedroom house — 1,142 sq ft — $3,400/month

Prices depend on the size of the unit, the neighborhood/building the unit is in, and the amenities that it offers. Keep in mind, that the average parking space is about 320 square feet, so a 350 square foot room is ridiculously small.

How Much Does It Cost to Buy in San Diego?

Before you can even consider buying a home in San Diego, you must meet a certain income threshold to qualify for a loan. According to HSH, the current average cost of a home in San Diego is around $845,000.

Lenders typically will not approve a loan if the monthly payment exceeds 30% of your income, and with an average monthly payment of $3,373 in San Diego, you will need to make at least $144,599 to even qualify for a home loan. Since the average income in San Diego is between $32k and $92k, buying a home would not be a choice for most people.

While this may sound scary, you don’t need to panic just yet. There are several programs available to help first-time homebuyers or people who want to buy property in specific locations. It is possible to find a program that is willing to help you pay the deposit or closing costs, which will increase the likelihood that you would be approved for a loan. Additionally, having a co-signer or a spouse who is buying the house with you may also increase your odds.

Should I Buy or Rent?

The pros and cons of each decision, and which one would be better for you will depend on your personal and financial circumstances.

Rent To Avoid the Hassle of Owning a Home

For many people, owning a home is an important milestone in life. They were raised during a time when people were expected to get married, have children, and buy a house. But owning a home is not always all it is cracked up to be, and there are a lot of benefits that come with renting.

For example, many rental properties come with everything included, meaning you pay one bill every month instead of five. Additionally, maintenance and repairs are not your responsibility when you rent. If something breaks, call the landlord.

Buy To Take Advantage of Tax Breaks

Although some states do offer a rent rebate to qualified individuals, there are almost no tax exemptions and deductions available to renters. However, depending on where they live, homeowners can take advantage of several tax exemptions.

For example, the Homeowner’s Exemption allows homeowners in San Diego a deduction of $7,000 off the estimated value of their home. Additionally, qualified individuals may be able to deduct a part of their interest costs on mortgage payments during the year (up to $1,000,000).

Rent If You Are Unsure About Settling Down

If you are unsure whether San Diego is where you want to put down permanent roots, it might make more sense to rent. This is especially true if you don’t plan to be here more than a couple of years. The exception to this would be if you are buying in a neighborhood that you know will appreciate drastically in value, because you may be able to turn around and re-sell after a few years and make a profit.

Additionally, if you are young, you may want to think critically before buying a home. Mortgages are long-term loans that typically span 25 to 30 years and a lot of things can change during that time. You may get divorced, you might outgrow the home you bought, or you might find yourself in a financial crisis and lose the home entirely.

Buy To Put Your Money Towards Something Tangible

There are many great reasons to rent, it is usually better to buy when you can. When you rent a property, you are really paying someone else’s mortgage for them. They will eventually own the house, and you will have nothing to show for the years of payments you made.

Furthermore, buying a home gives you the stability of knowing that if you are making the payments, you will never be forced to move. Property owners have a lot of freedom when it comes to terminating a lease or refusing to renew a lease, and you could spend ten years in a home only to be forced out because the landlord decided to sell.


Renting used to be a favorable choice for people who either could not afford a house payment or who wanted to save money towards their eventual goal of buying a home. However, recent inflation has caused the price of renting to rise to historic prices, and it often costs the same (if not more) to rent as it would buy a home.

Ultimately, buying a home can be the better choice if you want to put your money towards something that you will eventually own, and you can afford the cost of living like a homeowner. Contrarily, renting is a good option for people who do not plan to live in the area long, or who simply don’t want to deal with the hassle of owning a home.

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John Cunningham

John is a writer, classic car and whiskey lover, men's shopping enthusiast and self appointed DIY expert. His greatest passion is repairing in the workshop, making old classics look and run like new again!

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