SF Bay Area - Analyst / Associate Pay in Real Estate...Super Low?

I'm a 4th year associate that was just promoted from analyst at a REPE firm in the SF Bay Area. I do both acquisitions and asset management. Came from a top school in Southern California (USC/UCLA).

Is it just me, or is SF Bay Area pay for real estate just way below market for what it costs to live here? I'm earning a base salary of ~$95,000 and a bonus that ranges from 10-30%. All in I'm at approximately $110,000 to $120,000. 

Friends who have gone the consulting / investment banking route that are 4 years out are pulling in $200,000+. Computer Science majors fresh out of college are pulling in $200,000+. Even janitorial staff and transportation drivers out here without college degrees are pulling in $175,000+ with overtime. Staff police officers are pulling in $300,000+ with overtime. 

Is there a reason real estate pay is so low in the SF Bay Area compared to the cost of living? 

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Comments (39)

Most Helpful
  • Associate 2 in RE - Comm
Apr 28, 2021 - 8:34pm

Everyday we get a version of this question. Read this thread for insights from more experienced professionals. TLDR- it does not get better lol. The harsh reality and a bitter pill to swallow is that there is way more supply than there is demand (I am not joking, I see 100's of applicants for one analyst/associate posting) and combine that with the number of suckers we have in the industry particularly in the junior level because of "carry" and "promote" and the idea that you have to put up with low pay in your 20's for the privilege of learning how to invest in deals yourself which is laughable btw as this is not rocket science. https://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/rea-estate-hours-vs-other-fields?page=0#comment-2416101

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  • Analyst 3+ in RE - Other
Apr 28, 2021 - 10:27pm

I think it's especially bad for SF Bay Area. At least in other "non-tech" markets a commercial real estate gig will at least get you into the middle to upper middle class. 

I'm barely scratching middle class in the Bay Area, the lifestyle is rough. Saving money has been better with the pandemic due to lower rent and no commuting / eating out, but I can't see a path to actually getting a house or building a life here with the salary path I appear to be on. Does it magically get better at VP? Doubt it.

Apr 28, 2021 - 11:07pm
teddythebear, what's your opinion? Comment below:
Analyst 3+ in RE - Other

Even janitorial staff and transportation drivers out here without college degrees are pulling in $175,000+ with overtime. Staff police officers are pulling in $300,000+ with overtime.

Wait what? How true is this? Im not from SF or even Cali but this seems ridiculous.


  • 1
Apr 29, 2021 - 4:31pm
teddythebear, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Did some digging and its partially true



  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Apr 29, 2021 - 12:39pm

I interned at a REPE firm in SF you will have heard of. Don't know analyst pay, but I know someone ~5 years out of college (2nd year analyst) was making ~190k all in. (Don't want to say exactly cause he told me in confidence). He was expecting a promotion in 2 years (he ended up getting it) and is now making "double"

  • Associate 2 in RE - Comm
Apr 29, 2021 - 12:51pm

I am on the east coast but it seems like to me you are comparing your comp (which I am assuming is at a very small repe shop) to computer science folks at higher tier jobs within their fields.  Are those 200k fresh out of undergrad working at the BX, Brookfield, or in case of SF Stepstones of the world?  That being said you wouldn't make that money year one but you would have more insight into trajectory and comp to come. 

  • Analyst 2 in RE - Comm
Apr 29, 2021 - 1:25pm

This is actually very true in the Bay Area. I know a good amount of analysts / associates that work in IS, acquisitions and asset management and overall total pay is definitely VERY low compared to other markets. It's true that police officers and even janitorial staff is making over 6 figures in a comfy 9-5 job. Someone made a good point that there are literally hundreds of applicants for a role so I think it really is an issue of supply/demand. If you quit your job tomorrow, your manager could easily replace that role with an eager analyst/associate who would happily take half your salary for the experience. It's a bit sad to see but it's the nature of this business until we get into more senior roles. 

  • Analyst 3+ in RE - Res
Apr 29, 2021 - 2:30pm

I'm comped at $140k + 25% bonus with 4 years of RE exp. No bonus this year tho and base would be 10-15% higher if not for COVID, raises put on hold. 

  • Analyst 1 in RE - Comm
Apr 29, 2021 - 7:51pm

yah, I am also in the Bay and pay does seem low here especially compared to COL. It is quite frustrating, and pay is not standardized. At smaller lesser known shops I feel that they take advantage of the amount of jr staff that wants to be in "REPE". Compared to tech, banking, and consulting you will definitely get paid less at the Jr. levels, and frankly even at some of the Sr. levels as well ( especially if you make MD or partner at bank or consulting firm). So where does that leave you ? Gain as much experience and contacts as you can and hopefully you can go off and do you own deals, just make sure you ask your tech/banking/consulting friends to help you with the initial capital ;)

  • Associate 2 in PE - Other
Apr 29, 2021 - 8:14pm

You need to specify firm size - there are small family offices that market themselves as "REPE", but are extremely cheap when it comes to paying employees. I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt and assuming you aren't at one of those, but if you are, that explains the low pay. If you aren't, you should probably move shops. I know friends from undergrad who went to SF REPE and they were clearing $100K-$120K all-in first year and this was half a decade ago. 

There's also a 90% chance you're falling prey to "grass is greener on the other side" syndrome. Aside from PE(and credit)/HF/VC/IB, there are no roles in finance that pay as much as REPE, especially given the wlb. Consultants generally shouldn't make more than REPE and they're also forced to get an MBA (huge time and money sink). Software engineering does pay a lot, but it's hard and not everyone makes it to the top where the real money is. I know dozens of people from Google/Facebook who thought they were jumping onto the next Google/Facebook and are instead making $100K in SF at some sketchy start-up. 

  • Associate 2 in RE - Comm
Apr 30, 2021 - 5:59pm

Make a decision for yourself if you want to switch industries, dont have stockholm syndrome. We in the industry like to pretend we make much more money than we actually do or that we all will become Sam Zell one day and so its a rite of passage to put up with the low pay. In SF you cannot go to  bar without running into frat bros who are account executives at some tech company, just like real estate its not rocket science but if you are good at it, you sure could make a lot of money and this is assuming of course you are not qualified to be an engineer. Grab a drink with them and test the waters if that is something you want to do. You wont know if you like it or not if you do not try. 

Apr 30, 2021 - 11:25pm
BBA18, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Are cops really making $300k in SF?  Might be making a career change...

I come from down in the valley, where mister when you're young, they bring you up to do like your daddy done

May 3, 2021 - 1:40pm
b3h3lit, what's your opinion? Comment below:

My cousin is a cop in the SF Bay. SF is not the most desirable police department for obvious reasons. Most cops would rather work in Sunnyvale, Danville, Pleasanton, etc.. With several years of experience and significant OT it is possible to make ~200k although OT is more likely to be available in cities that have crime or trouble filling their positions for experienced cops (San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland).

Most cops have little attachment to the place they live/work- as long as it's not a hostile environment and they get paid and are more interested in grinding their time to early retirement (in their '50s) so that they can live somewhere cheaper on a fat pension. Not a bad deal IMO.

May 3, 2021 - 3:09pm
Fuhnance is WACC, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Received a job offer for an investment analyst role in an SF office. The offer was $100k base + 35% performance bonus. I have 1 year experience out of college.

I in fact declined that offer.

  • Associate Director in RE - Comm
May 3, 2021 - 3:24pm

This is an interesting topic. When my mother who works at a pharmaceutical company got moved to SF from another high COL west coast market, she received a 35% pay bump. She then went on to get another 20% bump within the year since the people she was trying to hire, all requested higher salaries than hers. From her observation, similar roles in SF were paying 50% more than comparable roles in her previous market. Yet in CRE, there is no premium to work in SF over working in lower cost markets such as the SE and there is big discount to NYC

  • Associate 2 in RE - Comm
May 3, 2021 - 4:14pm

Hate to say it as I am in the industry myself and like many real estate "finance" professionals, I like to think I work on complex stuff but since the work we do is actually not rocket science and since there are 100's of applications for every one analyst/associate opening, employers can definitely get away with not paying a premium. Engineers for example on the other hand, especially good ones can definitely make a better case for a premium. 

  • Associate Director in RE - Comm
May 3, 2021 - 7:11pm

I wouldn't discount yourself too hard. I think that engineering talent is overrated and I'd say most of what a lot of us do is arguably more complicated than what an average coder at Google does (not to mention the soft skills we possess). The issue is supply and demand. CRE runs lean and finance in general tends to promote that (limiting supply of jobs). Since jobs are so few, and CRE is so desirable from a pay (on the upside) and WLB standpoint, there are a lot of candidates gunning for few jobs. In tech, the demand is incredibly high creating a bidding war for candidates allowing top candidates to absolutely feast. 

SF must be a market outweighed by demand which is causing such low pay compared to COL. 

May 4, 2021 - 12:40am
NYL12, what's your opinion? Comment below:

From SFPD Web Site

Website. https://www.sanfranciscopolice.org/your-sfpd/careers/sworn-job-openings/salary-and-benefits

Salary $89,856 - $135,096/year

A Police Officer works 40 hours per week on different shifts and overtime may be required. San Francisco offers excellent benefits and the current starting salary is $89,856 per year. After seven years of service a Police Officer may earn up to $135,096 per year. You will receive comprehensive training, at your full starting salary.

Assuming this is base before OT.

Nov 29, 2021 - 9:48pm
Y13LD, what's your opinion? Comment below:

If you're getting blown up by recruiters right now for an associate position it should be about $200k all in. If you're not getting looks then maybe think about reaching out to them. If you're working PE hours you'll finally get (almost) PE pay. If that's not how your shop operates than don't expect the comp to match. Should get from $200K to $500k pretty quick once you start sourcing. 

Analyst 1: $110K

Analyst 2: $125K

Assoc 1: ~$200K 

  • Analyst 1 in RE - Comm
Nov 30, 2021 - 1:36am

2nd year analyst at a small REPE shop in SF.. I have a base of 90k with a bonus of 10-15%. It's low compared to other shops but I came here from undergrad and got hired during Covid. I'm gonna stick it out and ask for a massive bump during my review in early 2022.

Every recruiter has been blowing my buddies and I for analyst gigs at Starwood, Bentall and random smaller shops.. I've been quoted base of 120-140 with bonus of 20-40k for these roles. Shops are hurting for people in the city.

  • Associate 3 in RE - Comm
Nov 30, 2021 - 1:28pm

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Nov 30, 2021 - 5:53pm
porkbellies, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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