Baltimore vs. San Francisco: A Housing Face-Off

Baltimore Metric San Francisco
80.94 Size (sq. mi.)* 46.87
619,493 Population (2011)* 812,826
$40,100 Median household income (2007-2011)* $72,947
25.8% Percent with a Bachelor’s degree or higher (2007-2011)* 51.4%
$145,000 Median single-family home price (12-2012) $822,000
49.5% Homeownership rate (2007-2011)* 37.1%
32.8% Percent of Housing in multi-unit structures (2007-2011)* 67.3%
2,709 Homes for sale (01-24-2013) 375
34% Percent of offers written by Redfin Agents
that went into bidding wars (09-2012 - 01-2013)
10,975 Homes sold (2012) 6,751
1.3% Homeowner Vacancy Rate (Q3 2012)* 0.5%

*According to the latest U.S. Census data available at

Let’s Get Ready to Rumble Up Some Housing Stats!

There’s a little event on Sunday called the Super Bowl, maybe you’ve heard of it? This year the Baltimore Ravens will be facing off against the San Francisco 49ers for the chance to take home the XLVII title. Gone are the days when one clan would compete against another for land and resources – nowadays our guts and glory come in the form of touchdowns and rushes. Winning the Super Bowl is all about hometown pride. So how do San Francisco and Baltimore stack up?

While most of us at Redfin couldn’t tell you how many touchdown passes Joe Flacco has thrown this season, we CAN tell you which city is more competitive when it comes to shopping for homes. Read on for a glimpse into what it’s like to own, buy and sell a home in Baltimore and San Francisco.


Prepare to read this in your best Carrie Bradshaw voice: When it comes to home desirability, does size matter? The answer, like most things, is not really. While San Francisco’s population is slightly larger than Baltimore’s, at 812,826, compared to 619,493, it is geographically much smaller, at 46.87 square miles compared to Baltimore’s 80.94. Because it is so small geographically, but has such a large population, housing in San Francisco is in high demand and is often stacked (more on that later). As Landon Nash, a Redfin Agent in San Francisco remarked, “San Francisco is considered a ‘big city’ yet it is only 7×7 miles, which makes every corner of the city easily accessible. Whether you want to head to Baker’s Beach, Golden Gate Park, or Dolores Park everything is a quick jaunt away. It’s hard to imagine a better place to live.”

Median Household Income

The median household income in San Francisco is $72,947, and in Baltimore it’s $40,100. Surprisingly, the main industries are very similar– while Bethlehem Steel was once a major employer in Baltimore, now key industries include financial services, trade/shipping, technology, and healthcare. Although manufacturing plants are no longer major employers, Baltimore is proud of its past. As Redfin Agent Taylor Connolly notes, “We’re a gritty city that’s proud of our blue collar roots! Only in Baltimore would we be proud of the show, ‘The Wire.’ Our engineers are building bridges not software.”


In San Francisco a little more than half of the population over the age of 25 have a bachelor’s degree or higher. In Baltimore that number drops to 25.8%. “San Francisco is the young professional’s playground, with a bustling economy that gives you access to the entire bay area,” said Landon Nash, Redfin Agent. “You work hard and either play hard or relax hard.”

Median Single-Family Home Price

The median price of a single family home is a jaw-dropping $822,000 in San Francisco. Meanwhile, in Baltimore, it is $145,000. When you compare that to the median household income noted above, you can see that it doesn’t scale. Not surprisingly, few people can afford to own a home in San Francisco…

Homeownership Rate

With the price of homes so high, only 37.1 percent of the population in San Francisco owns a home, while in Baltimore nearly half – 49.5% – of the population owns a home. What kinds of homes do they live in? Well, condos…

Housing units in multi-unit structures

With so many people in such a small geographic area and housing costs so high, the majority (67.3%) of homeowners in San Francisco live in a multi-unit structure, i.e. condos and townhomes. In Baltimore, the majority of the population (67.2%) lives in single family homes. Ravens fans chant “protect this house, I will,” but in San Francisco they’d have to chant “protect this multi-unit apartment building, I will.”

Homes for Sale

As of January 24, 2013, there were only 375 homes on the market in San Francisco. With a population over 800,000, that’s an astonishingly small number. Meanwhile, in Baltimore, there are 2,709 homes on the market. This leads us to our next point…

Bidding Wars

Bidding wars are the norm when trying to purchase homes in San Francisco. We crunched the numbers and determined that in the last four months, 78% of all offers that Redfin Agents wrote went into bidding wars. In Baltimore we saw bidding wars with only 34% of the offers, so if you’re buying in Baltimore you might have a better chance of securing your first choice home.

Homes Sold in 2012

Despite Baltimore’s smaller population size, more homes were sold there in 2012. There were a total of 6,751 homes sold in all of 2012 in San Francisco, compared to 10,975 homes sold in Baltimore. With such a competitive market in San Francisco, people are staying put once they find a home.

Homeowner Vacancy Rates

The U.S. Census tracks homeowner and rental vacancy rates – essentially the number of empty homes in the area. The data is often used by public and private organizations to evaluate the need for new housing programs and initiatives, and it is indicative of job losses and foreclosures. In the third quarter of 2012, only .5% of all homes were vacant in San Francisco, and in Baltimore that number was 1.3%. With land value so high in San Francisco, it makes sense that there would be fewer abandoned homes, although foreclosures are definitely one reason why homes would be empty. After the close of Bethlehem Steel in 2003, many people moved out of Baltimore, leaving empty houses behind, which is why the number might be higher in Baltimore.

We’re looking forward to a great game on Sunday, and hopefully an active year for real estate in both cities! To see which neighborhoods we predict will be the hottest in San Francisco and Baltimore this year, check out Which Neighborhoods Will Be the Hottest in 2013?.


  • Diane

    Wow, great stats! Do you have any similar information about short term housing or rentals?