Bold Move

Hey everyone, I'm ready to move and change my name from bostonnanny to SFnanny but need some advice about agencies, housing and traffic in the city of San Fran. I plan on moving in May 2013 when my current contract is up but know basically nothing about the area. I have a dog so live in positions are out of the question. I have never visited the area and just wanna jump right in without visiting because I know I will chicken out, finding an excuse not to go. I would appreciate all advice provided!


Sarah said...

Do you want to actually live in SF or outside the city? SF housing (as well as penninsula) is extremely expensive. You can find great positions on the penninsula and visit the city easily whenever you want. Rent for a one bedroom is easily over $1600/month.

There are a lot of good agencies. Town and Country and Stanford Park Nannies are two I have worked for and would recommend. Traffic is terrible. Always. I currently work in Palo Alto/Menlo Park area (near Stanford) and live in San Jose, it usually takes me 45 minutes to an hour to get home (I leave at 5:45, but if you leave earlier, you're probably screwed).

It's a beautiful area though, close to mountains, lots to do, positions for experienced nannies can easily pay $50k+

Bethany said...

I don't know anything about the SF area so I can't offer advice.

But good for you. I wish I were that brave, I have wanted to move to that area for years now, but always find a way to talk myself out of it.

I hope everything works out for you!

Teddy Westside said...

My advice to you is to line up a job BEFORE you line up an apartment! The Bay Area is HUGE, and you may very well choose to live outside the city limits (South Bay/East Bay) due to the lower rent and easier accessibility, and depending on whether or not you own a car. If you do, I do not suggest living in SF Proper. South or East bay might be a better move. Either way, it would be a mistake to pick a neighborhood/city to live in before lining up a position. If you secure an apartment first, you severely limit the positions you can take without adding a hefty commute (time + $$$) into the equation.

I speak from experience here. I lived in the city and got a job in Livermore (45 miles away). I thought i could hack the commute but it was way too hard on me. My SO and I eventually moved closer to my job to save time and money, and get a bigger space. We definitely made the right decision for us, but then again we are sortof suburbanites so I know that wouldn't be the right move for everyone.

nycmom said...

It is not dissimilar to Boston in many ways, including high cost of living and high nanny salaries. However, it greatly matters if you live in SF proper, the Peninsula, Berkeley area, etc.

Compared to NYC, most nannies are Spanish speaking (vs Caribbean in NYC) so many parents do want the language benefit, but not all. Unless you live in the city, you must be a good driver and expect to ferry the kids around a lot. The change from NYC to SF for us were as follows though we are on the Peninsula not the city proper so that makes a difference. None of these changes were a big deal to me, but I was a bit confused at first and had to learn the norms. Sorry I cannot compare directly to Boston for nanny duties, but we had an au pair when we lived in Boston or I was childless.

1. In NYC, nanny hourly wage tends to settle around $15. In SF, it is closer to $20. Lots of individual variability of course, but a rough comparison.
2. In NY, nannies assumed they would be working about 50 hours. In SF, many nannies want 35-40 hours.
3. In NY, nannies routinely take on more basic cleaning (small apartments!). In SF, nannies regularly assume more household errands such as grocery shopping and picking up dry cleaning (since they drive).
4. Nanny shares are extremely common in some areas of SF Bay, but rare in others.
5. Nannies are primarily hired via Mother's Groups out here and there are several: Golden Gate MG for SF city; Berkeley Parents Group; Burlingame Mothers Group; San Jose MG. They are very active here. Otherwise, I know some use agencies.
6. Due to the need to drive in most areas except the city, the competition from illegal nannies is greatly reduced. I believe many parents see that as a whole 'nother risk level. This is good for legal nannies and, I believe, helps keep the wages higher.

ITA with Sarah about living in the city. It is crazy expensive, but I understand the allure if you are young and have the desire. The difference here compared to NYC is that the commutes are SO much easier. That is one of the main reasons we moved. In NYC, there was NO way to live in a reasonable suburb with good schools and have a commute less than an hour regardless of transport method. And many commutes end up being 1.5hrs each way due to various traffic and delays. Here the commute can literally be 20-25 minutes door to door driving your own car. Since commuting is the number one source of dissatisfaction for working parents, we really wanted to minimize that.

However, in contrast to both Boston (love the T) and NYC, public transport here is odd, slower, and confusing. There is the CalTrain, Bart, Muni, Cable Cars and I am probably missing some. They don't all connect. In my husband's office a coworker commuting from IN the city is pleased his commute is an hour on public transport.

Overall, we really love it here and feel it is much healthier for the kids and our family. I loved Boston, but hated NYC. I do think SF and Boston are similar in many ways. GL.

Chelsea said...

Sarah -- I work in Palo Alto/Los Altos and live in San Jose as well!

I agree on the traffic. Even when I was working in Los Gatos, and my commute was only 10-ish miles, it would take me upwards of 25 minutes to get to and from work.

There's really no GOOD way to commute from the South Bay, but the South Bay is definitely the most affordable area without being dangerous or excessively trashy.

On the other hand, I know a handful of people who work or attend school in the San Francisco area, and if you're open to public transportation, there is plenty of that available. There are also "affordable" places in San Francisco, but they're old and dingy and from my research, it seems that if you're looking to spend less than $1,500 a month on rent, you're going to end up in a 500-sq. ft. loft with a shared bathroom--I doubt most of those places allow dogs, unfortunately.

You kind of just need to decide if you're willing to commute into the city or if you'd prefer to pay exorbitant portions of your income towards rent.

luckoftheirish said...

Traffic will always be an issue. Where you live in relatiob to where you work will make a huge impact on your quality of life. You can not underestimate this!! What would take you twenty minutes on the east coast would take you an hour in California. I would definately find the job & base your living arrangement around it, not the other way around. The economy is really bad here & everyone out of a job tries to be a nanny, open a child care or become a photographer! There are some very unsafe areas in the bay area. Its not the kind of place where you you can gauge the quality of an area based off of the housing costs as even the bad areas are very expensive. If you want more specific info, Id be more than happy to help. I grew up in the SF bay area. But also have the advantage of having lived in other states, so I can compare based upon expeeience. A great site to find more detailed information is GL with your adventure!

bostonnanny said...

Thanks so much everyone!
I contacted town and country and they seemed put off by the fact that I'm not already in SF. I wanted to line up a job first then find a room in an apt for the first few months until I learn the area and know where I want to live. I was considering living in the city because I was going to transfer to SF state pt but I don't want to pay outrageous prices so if I can find something outside the city with an easy commute that would be great. I'm also not used to commuting more then 30 mins so I'll have to adjust.

Some facts:
I'll have at least 10-15k before I move
Have a new car, small dog
Not afraid of living in the ghetto
I'm used to working 50+ hours a week in nannyshares
I don't do errands or cleaning besides the children's but wouldn't mind running errands once in awhile.
26 years old with 6years as a full time nanny, i have a certificate in early childhood but still working on my BA
Intermediate Spanish but if I really practice I can be fluent ( was my first language but stopped speaking)

I guess I just need to know what my chances are of finding a decent paying job and where to live. I prefer city but could deal with the burbs if necessary. Also how hard is it to meet ppl, Boston can be unfriendly unless your forced into a social situation like college.

Michelle said...

I'm just making the jump from NYC to CA in the next few weeks! My new job is in Orange County though, so I can't offer any advice about places to live, etc... in the bay area.

I lucked out and got a job before moving, but it has been my experience that a lot of CA agencies don't want to work with out of state applicants since they want to meet you in person first. Would you possibly be able to fly out for a long weekend to interview with some agencies at some point? That way you could get a jump start on the job search. Besides Town and Country I would also try The Help Company and Westside Nannies as they both place in the San Francisco area as well.

Best of luck to you!

Lyn said...

Wow! That is a BIG move! Good for you for being so adventurous! Do you know anyone in the area? Or will you be moving entirely on your own?

nycmom said...


I think you will do great! I don't think you will have trouble finding a job if your salary expectation is around $20/hr. If you are willing to care for 3 kids or more, you may be able to ask for a bit more. Spanish is nice, but not necessary. I haven't seen too many people expecting tons of housework and those that want nanny/hker seem to be honest and advertise as such. I'm sure there are exceptions.

You should visit and see the major areas to live. They are very different in character, traffic, etc. Marin is another gorgeous area to consider (and the prior weekly columnist Rebecca Lubin lives and works there in a high paying job so you ask her input too). I see a few posters commenting on the long commutes, but that is our exact opposite experience from the Peninsula and commuting to SF so clearly where you live matters.

If you give me any email account I can email you the recent survey from Burlingame Mothers Group which is a great insight into the benefits and pay for nannies on the Peninsula. Berkeley Parents Network has a nanny survey from 2008 you can google. I would imagine it is similar in pricing to now since it was pre-recession but we've been recovering for 4 years. Nanny shares are extremely common in Berkeley area (most like Cambridge), and seen on Peninsula but not as common. There is also the city group, Golden Gate MG, but I don't belong and haven't been able to google a survey there.

Random thought: It would be really interesting to see all these surveys complied in one place to truly compare across the country.

Evie said...

I would check the Stanford parents list. They always have nanny positions advertised by professors or other staff members. They also pay well with great benefits.

jessica parra said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bostonnanny said...

NYCMom, my email is

Anyone who can provide more information can email me as well. The more information I gather the easier this huge move will be and I would be do grateful.

Thanks for all the agency and mom group listing, I am already looking into it but will have to make a trip to SF to actually interview.

My biggest concern now is where to live. I didn't realize how big SF is and i'm a little concerned about affording an apt that central to everything. If Berkeley is similar to Cambridge Ma that would be a comfortable area for me since I live in Cambridge now. I just don't think I'm ready to 1500 per month for a 1 bedroom. I'd like to keep it under $1200 until I know what i'm making. I would most likely need to make around $4000 a month (my current salary) to feel safe but could budget more if need be. San Jose sounds cheap but how far is it from the city? are we taking 1 hour or 3?

Im just a little lost, let me know the best options.

Chelsea said...

San Jose isn't exactly CHEAP. It will still be difficult (but not impossible) to find a 1-bedroom in your price range unless you'd consider a studio.

I've been doing a lot of research on apartments lately, and with my budget of $1,500-$1,600 for a one-bedroom non-studio, I'm still struggling to find anything actually WORTH the money. Do your research--look up reviews on, Yelp, etc. if you find something that seems amazing within your price range, be sure that you know what people are saying about living there and be sure to do LOTS of research of the area, because San Jose does have dangerous areas.

San Jose to San Francisco is around an hour without rush-hour traffic. I've heard horror stories of it taking up to 3 hours in traffic. However, like I said before, if you're open to public transportation, I know lots of people who use CalTrain to get them to the city daily, and it can definitely be more timely than sitting in traffic, so look into that!

Sarah said...

Wow, what a coincidence Chelsea, how old are your kids? I have a 12 month old and 3 1/2 year old, maybe we can get together for a playmate sometime :)

Bostonnanny $1200 budget housing would be very difficult, I currently pay $1385 for a one bedroom in the downtown area in an okish neighborhood (someone was shot at the McDonalds down the street, but he knew the other guy so I guess less scary). When I go to SF on weekends it usually takes an hour, tops. I don't know how big Berkeley is for nannying, around the Penninsula though (Stanford, Google, Facebook, etc.) I'm sure you would easily be able to get a position at your salary level. I would suggest Mountain View or Sunnyvale to be closer around those areas. San Jose is a bit far and as soon as my contract is up I'm going to look in south San Jose to work closer to where I live. (Though nanny market in San Jose never really recovered).

Sarah said...

*playdate. Damn phone

Phoenix said...

I don't know how expensive Boston is but SF is VERY expensive.

It is nice there. I hope you like earth quakes and really freaky hills that I would be scared to park my car on. Don't get a manual stick shift...

Phoenix said...

wow. I have my entire family posting here now. At least their names anyhow

My name
My sister Amber
And my little cousin Rhiannon

How funny. funny to me anyway

I'm waiting for Deserae to make an appearance.

luckoftheirish said...

No way would you possibly live in San Jose & work in SF. Ive lived in San Jose(briefly) & my commute was 40 minutes WITHEN San Jose! Total nightmare of a city, imo. Lots of traffic & crime. Yes, some areas are good.

nycmom said...

San Mateo is right near us on the Peninsula. It is very close to SF -- 25 minute drive -- and has a variety of neighborhoods. I do not know one bedroom rents since we were looking at houses, but virtually every nanny or sitter I interviewed lived just fine in the area on the salaries here. I believe my nanny pays $900-1000 for a studio in South San Francisco.

Can't give any more housing info as I would be guessing. I will say that due to the almost default to nanny shares in the Berkeley area (I love Cambridge too!) that your ultimate salary is likely to be in your range. I think you could easily make $1000/week on the Peninsula too, but it would be one family and longer hours.

I agree San Jose is too far South if you hope to go to SF regularly. If you want to live and work in a desirable area of SF you will likely be in a typical roommate situation to make it affordable.

luckoftheirish said...

Ive lived in the sf bay area for thirty one years. Along the faultline. I can recall just two quakes that were significant. The small ones are rare, not one per year and you'll likely not even feel them. You'll find out about them from friends or on the news. To the contrary, I experienced months of humidity, heavy rain, thunder storms and snow living along the east, for six years. The SF bay area has mild weather year round with no snow or humidity. But it lacks the history and beautiful old buildings and churches you find on the east. If you're a nature lover, you might want to see the beautiful redwoods in the Santa Cruz mountains.

Sarah, I didn't see that you lived in San Jose. I hope I didn't offend ya. I know San Jose has some nice areas. My apologies.

Bostonnanny, Ill help anyway I can. Lmk if you need anything at all.

Sarah said...

Lol @luckoftheirish. No you didn't offend me, we moved from Irvine in Socal up to San Jose because it's my husband's hometown and believe me, it was quite a culture shock. Everything up here seems so exorbitantly expensive. We had a really nice one bedroom apt in a super classy neighborhood for $1400 there and the best we could do for the same price up here is a "gated" complex with a pool (heated by body heat) and bums going through the garbage every morning. Ugh. But some areas are really nice. South San Jose, Almaden, Willow Glen neighborhoods, Campbell, etc.

Chelsea said...

Sarah -- My current charge is 6, but little brother is due any day now. I don't think the ages coincide with potential playdates though, unfortunately.

However! If you'd like to email me, perhaps we could meet up sometime? I'm always interested in finding new friends with common interests, and it's very rare that I run into other nannies--I have ONE nanny friend in the area. My email is

My first nanny job (in 2008) was in South San Jose. It was not exceptional pay even then, but I was living at home, it was my first REAL nanny job, and I was right out of high school. The family was AMAZING--they're like family to me to this day. But I haven't found a single well-paying nanny job that fits my criteria in the area since.

I've actually only been at my current job for 2 weeks now--previously I was working in Los Gatos. When I was looking for a new job, Los Gatos and Sunnyvale/Cupertino were the absolute closest areas I could find where there were jobs offering the kind of pay/hours that I was looking for--and even those areas were few and far between. On the other hand, I've never gone through an agency, so I don't know if that would have opened more up for me in more local areas.

I currently live in South San Jose--not in a particularly nice area, but I'm renting a house, not an apartment, so I kind of just went with it.

Dani said...

Don't get a stick shift, lmao! True dat!

Rebecca Lubin said...

bostonnanny, feel free to email me me as well. I have lived and worked in the Bay Area for twenty years as an east coast transplant. I have a lot of resources I could tell you about.
MPP has my e-mail address.

luckoftheirish said...

Thank you, Sarah! 8) Youre an understanding person & your post made me lol! Were in Benicia. We come to SJ on the weekends to shop sometimes. We stay @ The Hilton by Yahoo! hq. Have you ever been to the Mystery House?? Were going this summer.

Chelsea said...

I've been to the mystery house a few times and I will say it's not all that it's chalked up to be. If you're really just interested in the story try to go on a weekday and avoid being stuck around big groups or they don't really get into it as much. I wouldn't go again for a normal tour. I've heard the flashlight tours are totally worth it though!

bostonnanny said...

Thanks Rebecca, I will def send you an email.

Bay area expert said...

I've worked with town and country and lived in Oakland 20 years (Chicago native), there are great nanny jobs here, but it can take time to find one. I'd try town and country again, I know they have placed at least one live in with a small dog. There are lots of families that would be ok a live in with a dog, maybe you could do skype interviews with pup present. Berkely parents network is a must to join they have a weekly childcare wanted email, you can also place a profile. It is expensive here, but you can charge more. Many people want to take taxes out so expect that to dip into your $18-$21 an hour rate. Many people want laundry and house upkeep, you'll have to bite the bullet on that one because there are lots of nannies competing for jobs willing to do it all. A car is both an advantage and burden as city parking/traffic sucks, but it opens you up to transport nanny jobs and many well to do families in the bay area live in the hills or other neighborhood that are tricky to impossible to take transit to. If you really want to live in the city find a live in job before you move that will happily take your pooch and you, an infant position in the city might be your best bet. Then you won't need to drive unless family provides the car. Lots of families have separate in-law units that you and your pooch and live pretty separately in when your off the clock. I gotta head to work now, but I'll check back in later. Aunt ann's acency is one to look into.

bostonnanny said...

Bay area expert,

I was actually just looking into Oakland after hearing that Berkeley is similar to where I live now. Berkeley seems a little expensive for me first moving to CA, I want to find a place that is cheap but central until I get settled. My worst fear is not finding a job and going through my entire savings. I'm also concerned about my income vs cost of living. I currently take home about 4200 a month and my rent with utilities is about $1000 with a roommate. I would prefer living alone and increasing my housing to $1200-1300 if necessary. I want to keep my lifestyle as similar as possible. That way I can continue to save. I posted my email and if you have any links or advice you can provide please email me.

Village said...

I think this is too cool for school. Move coast to coast just because I want to, without a job. I love it!

I agree that you shouldn't get an apartment until you get a job. You don't know the location you will need. 10K to 15K may sound like a lot of money, but it is likely to cost $5000 to secure an apartment. Hotel living can get expensive quickly. You might consider a hostel. They can be very affordable, but you have to consider your dog. If you can't have her/him at the hostel, perhaps a vet can suggest a foster mom until you get settled. If your dog is pure breed, consider contacting the association for that breed in SF. They might have suggestions for caring for your dog while you job search.

I can understand why the agencies are annoyed with you. You aren't in SF. They can't place you unless you are available for interviews. You are just blowing smoke up their skirts. Can you imagine how many calls they get a month from people who plan to move to SF to nanny? I'm guessing it's a lot, and they have no way of knowing you are the exception. You may be the first person who called, and actually moved!

Once you get a temp base established in SF, you will be available to interview at both agencies and with parents, get a great job, and a great apartment. Good luck!! I hope you keep a journal here, and let us make the journey with you. Again, bon chance! I hope you have a blast!

Bay area expert said...

Ok I thought of more helpful hints. Berkeley might be good for you it is urban, but small and easy to find your way around compared to SF. There are lots of roommate situations you could check out on craigslist, shared housing, lots of students do this, but end of august is the best time to find those. If you plan a trip out here before hand you can set up interviews with agencies and they can try to match you with expecting moms that are also planning way ahead (sometimes also on BPN) . If you really want your own place Oakland, has cheaper rent. Oakland has a bad rep, but there are great neighborhoods. You could find a place within walking distance to Bart (train) and the commute to SF is 20 min, but you'll have to catch other transit once you get to the city. Downtown Oakland, Rockidge, Temescal are hip and close to Bart stations. You can find a studio for around $900 in downtown Oakland if you can get a month to month with parking you could move closer to work later. If you week looking for work on your visit you just might get an offer and then you could just go for it sooner. Definitely bring a resume on your visit. It's true about the nanny share being popular here, but it can be complicated (usually two children under two from to different families that pay $10 each an hour) and a lot of work. You'll have to be street smart and be aware of you surroundings. I think it might be easier to find a family that wants a live-in, it might give you a safer feeling, and the family will help you to get to know the bay area. Don't worry too much about your dog, be up front immediately about the dog and you'll save time. Many families have dog or would be fine with it. The families I've worked for have been fine with me bringing the children to walk the dog at lunch, I always let them know about the dog right away and they've been great. Good luck and I'm sure you'll love it here, I do!

bostonnanny said...

Bay state expert,

Thanks, that was my plan. I'm going to head up about 2-3 months before I actually move for a few days, interview with agencies, look at the area and possibly search for apts. I'm also going to post my website on parent boards online along with all the childcare websites and craigslist. I have a great portfolio that I email with my resume to parents and they can also visit my website. Hopefully that will make it easier to find a job. I've actually been in two different shares long term with children under two (infant and toddler); So I'm comfortable with them. I always thought SF area paid more but its pretty similar to Boston, I make $20 now and rent is cheaper here.

Oakland seems to be the best fit financially and I lived in the ghetto for many years so nothing surprises me anymore. My neighbor was a drug dealer and their was a shoot out with police the street over (the shooter died) last year. My ex roommates were robbed at gun point right after I moved etc etc. I think I'll try for a sublet for the first few months or a month to month roommate situation. I don't plan on shipping my furniture until I get my own place.

Bay area expert said...

All right I feel obligated to share my feelings on good bad neighborhoods, but do not wish to offend anyone reading thus living in the bad neighborhood reading this.
I know you are feeling pretty exposed to the underbelly of life, but you really want to steer clear of poorer neighborhoods here. West and east Oakland would be too dangerous for you and not the best environment to start out in. Break-ins (car & apartment), muggings, and shootings are more common in those neighborhoods. As a single girl you'll want a secured building with parking if you pick downtown Oakland (there a parking stickers and street parking, but if your cars new it might get the window broken, or hit and run while it's parked), the Grand lake area is nice, but far from Bart, Jack London square is the bay side of downtown Oakland. Other safer communities are Alameda, El Cerrito, Berkeley all around feels safer (though it has issues too). Affluent areas are Piedmont, Claremont, Crocker Highlands, Berkeley and Oakland hills and further out Orinda, Moraga. These will be the tags used on craigslist for rentals. This is only east bay info there are lots of places to nanny in the bay area. Good luck!

bostonnanny said...

Thx so much!! I was gonna ask for the best areas. I'm actually considering visiting this August for 4 days during my vacation week. Would it be to early to interview with agencies then? I wouldn't be moving there until between may and aug 2013 depending on how quickly I can save.
When I visit I'm gonna spend a day in Oakland and Berkeley to see if I like it then the rest of the time in SF

LAnanny said...

I live in Los Angeles and it's pretty easy to make 20+ an hour, especially with your experience. That being said, I only get those rates through agencies. are not the way to go.

I live in an area about 20 minutes from most of the jobs posted, and I live in a nice two bedroom for 1,600 a month. Maybe studios/1 bedrooms can be found between 900 and 1,400 depending on the area.

Just letting you know!

bostonnanny said...


Thx for letting me know! I was really concerned about location vs wage because I don't want to leave a great paying job to go somewhere I would struggle to make ends meet. SF still sounds like a great start for me but Ill really decide after I visit this summer.

luckoftheirish said...

BostonNanny, parts of Oakland are ***beyond*** bad neighborhood. I think Oakland is like the #1 murder capitol in this country? If not, its very close. You don't want to live somewhere that is so bad the city of Oakland has microphones throught the city, so that they can pinpoint where all of the gunshots are coming from. That is just so bad! There is constant gunfire.

Yes. Oakland has its beautiful parts. But for an outsider, you'll need direction. Personally, I avoid Oakland all together. :(

SFnanny said...

i see so many people here recommending Town and County agency, i trued working for this agency almost fours years ago and it was a disaster! BE AWARE! if you want to know more details please contact me and if you are looking on working for them be careful what you post here vecuae they found something i said here about their agency and it was an annonimous post, i still dont understand how they find out.