Cost Of Living In San Mateo, California (Taxes, Housing & More)

Kirbee Anderson
by Kirbee Anderson

Many states lament on the number of California transplants they receive as Californians exit the state due to the high cost of living. San Mateo holds true to that stereotype with a fantastical cost of living, but the tradeoff is high-paying Silicon Valley jobs, proximity to San Francisco, the ocean, mountains, and more.

When accepting a job in Silicon Valley, be aware of the costs that come with living in the area. The cost of living in San Mateo is nearly three times the national average. On a cost of living index with 100 being the national average, San Mateo’s cost of living is 270.6.

Let’s take a closer look at the subsets of expenses that contribute to the high cost of living in San Mateo.

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Cost of Homeownership in San Mateo

The cost of homeownership in San Mateo may knock you over with sticker shock when you look at homes for the first time. Housing is the number one contributor to the inflated cost of living in San Mateo. On the same cost of living index, housing is 610. The median home price is $1.2 million, with modest 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom homes selling for around $1 million.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the average monthly mortgage payment in 2019 was $3,533 per month.

It is expensive both to rent and buy in San Mateo because so many people are moving to the area for job opportunities, and home construction is not keeping up with the demand. Tens of thousands of jobs have been added each year for the last several years, but new construction numbers only a couple thousand per year.

The Cost of Property Taxes in San Mateo

Prospective home buyers should remember that the cost of property taxes is tacked onto your monthly mortgage payments by the lender, but San Mateo’s, and California’s overall, property taxes are less expensive than the national average.

Real estate property taxes are calculated on the assessed value of the home, which is usually not the list or sell price, and is actually a percentage of the home’s value. Regardless, the more expensive the home, the higher the property taxes.

The national average property tax rate is 1.07 percent. The rate in San Mateo is only .650 percent. The average in California is .730. Mercifully, rates are low in California, but the assessed values of homes are still weighty given the sky-high property values.

Cost of Renting a Home in San Mateo

The median rent is $2,316 per month. Renters will quickly find themselves above that median when looking for multi-bedroom dwellings.

Here is the average price for several common sizes:

BedroomsMonthly Rent
1 Bedroom$2,195
2 Bedrooms$2,950
3 Bedrooms$4,200
4 Bedrooms$5,295

Utility Rates in San Mateo

Utilities actually come in a little below the national average at 91 on the cost of living index. That figure includes electricity, natural gas, and any other residential fuels.

Electricity Rates

The average residential electricity bill in California is $88 per month, which is well below the national average of $107. In San Mateo, the residential electricity rate is $0.1559 per kilowatt, and is not significantly above or below the average rate in California.

How can the average utility bill be so much less than the national average when the electricity rate is quite a bit more expensive in San Mateo than elsewhere in the country? Californians are really good at conserving energy. California ranks 48th in the nation for power consumption and uses 36 percent less than the national average.

Child Care Costs in San Mateo

The cost of child care in San Mateo is another expense that comes with sticker shock. San Mateo’s child care rates on the cost of living index are 189.9, nearly double the national average. The average annual cost of child care in San Mateo is $18,000. The cost of infant care really drives that number, with center-based care for an infant averaging $21,500 per year.

Grocery Costs in San Mateo

Groceries bills in San Mateo are more than the national average, but they are unlikely to bring the same pain as the daycare bill or mortgage payment. Groceries clock in at 116 on the index with 100 being the national average.

Here is a list of some grocery items and prices in San Mateo; use this as a starting place to determine whether your grocery bills will be more or less expensive in San Mateo than where you currently live.

Milk – 1 gallon$3.82
Loaf of Bread – White – 1 pound$2.83
Rice – White – 1 pound$1.62
Eggs – 1 dozen$2.94
Cheese – 1 lb$4.96
Chicken Fillets – 1 lb$4.56
Tomatoes – 1 lb$1.34

Keep in mind that grocery costs in an area like San Mateo can be driven up by consumer behavior. Food preferences are shaped by many factors, including place of origin, health goals, income, education. Unfortunately, fresh, healthy, organic food is often more expensive than its processed counterparts. Preference for luxury or premium versions of goods also increases costs.

Costs of Entertainment and Recreation in San Mateo

There is much to do in San Mateo; the real question is whether you can afford it.

ActivityPrice Range
Coyote Point Recreation AreaFree
San Mateo Farmers’ MarketFree – Cost of Produce
San Mateo Performing Arts CenterPrice Varies by Production
CuriOdyssey$12.95 – $15.95
Japanese GardenFree

San Mateo has a full, vibrant menu of community offerings for residents and visitors alike. Besides, whatever the city does not have can easily be found in one of the nearby locations in the Bay Area.

The area is home to a multitude of sports teams, so people who call the area home can pick their sports poison and have a home team for which to route. The San Jose Sharks, San Francisco 49ers, Golden State Warriors, and San Francisco Giants are all looking for new fans.

For the outdoorsy, hiking and water sports are all around in the copious nearby natural areas. Getting out of the city and into nature is just a quick drive out of town.

Education Costs in San Mateo

San Mateo may be most well-known for its proximity to Stanford University, which is only 16 miles away. There are several post-secondary educational options within the city itself.

The College of San Mateo is one of three community colleges in San Mateo County. It offers 79 two-year degrees, several certificates, and many transfer programs for students who intend to transfer to a four-year university. The transfer programs offer transfer admission guarantees for several public and private colleges in California. Tuition is $46 per unit for residents, but most end up getting free tuition through the College Promise program.

Gurnick Academy provides specialized coursework for the medical field. Students can pursue degrees or certificates in many medical programs, including nursing, ultrasound technology, dental hygiene, and more. Tuition varies by program.

Draper University is a private, for-profit university in the city founded in 2012 in a former hotel. It is known for its entrepreneurial focus, and tuition varies based on the program selected.

Related Questions

What do most people earn in San Mateo?

The per-person median income for people living in San Mateo is $61,545. The household median income is $122,641. About 6.1 percent of San Mateo residents live at or below federal poverty guidelines. Fifty-one percent of the workforce has a bachelor’s degree or higher.

What else is near San Mateo?

San Mateo is part of a large urban area that includes San Francisco, San Jose, Berkeley, Los Altos, Oakland, Napa, and many, many others. Over 7 million people live in the area that includes 101 cities and 9 counties over 6,900 square miles.While many cities are physically very near, the headache of traffic can make them seem very far away.

What is the weather like?

San Mateo enjoys gloriously mild weather. It produces absolutely Goldilocks temperatures for transplants hoping to escape frigid winters or blistering summers.December and January are the coolest months with average lows in the 40s and average highs in the upper 50s. September is the hottest month with an average high of 74. San Mateo’s average days of precipitation are 77 and days of sun are 265. The climate may just be worth the high cost of living.

What are the main industries in San Mateo?

San Mateo and the Bay Area enjoy a boisterous economy. San Mateo is in the heart of Silicon Valley and is very near the Napa wine area.Major employers in San Mateo proper include investment management company Fisher Investments, business services Motif Inc., government offices, and medical facilities.The number of software and technology companies in San Mateo is astounding and a huge reason behind the influx of people to the city.

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Is San Mateo, California right for you?

San Mateo has many alluring qualities. Between its delightfully mild weather, great job opportunities, and proximity to so many other cities with everything from ballet to airports to wineries, it really has something for everyone who can handle the high population density and traffic.

If you can secure a job to fund your lifestyle, San Mateo can be a great place to live. Expect to encounter pricey homes, big grocery bills, and sticker shock at daycare costs. In return, you will get to live someplace that puts the world at your fingertips.

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Kirbee Anderson
Kirbee Anderson

Kirbee is a licensed attorney and real estate broker, but DIY projects of all kinds call to her. Kirbee loves being at home with her husband, daughter, and dog and investing her time and energy into projects to make their home a unique and comfortable place for all of them. Her favorite projects include gardening, building new items, and creating solutions to manage clutter.

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