Relocating to Pennsylvania

Moving to Pittsburgh from California: A Comprehensive Guide for Relocating to Pennsylvania

California, known for its sunny beaches, Hollywood glamor, and tech-savvy Silicon Valley, is a world within itself. However, for various reasons ranging from the high cost of living to the pursuit of new opportunities, many Californians are looking eastward for a change. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with its burgeoning tech scene, affordable housing, and rich cultural heritage, has become an attractive destination for those seeking a fresh start. This comprehensive guide will navigate you through moving from California to Pittsburgh, ensuring a smooth transition to your new home. These tips generally apply when moving to Pennsylvania from California, regardless of the actual destination city in PA, so pay attention.

Understanding Pittsburgh

Before packing your bags, it’s crucial to understand what Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania offer. Once the steel capital of the world, Pittsburgh has reinvented itself as a hub for technology, banking, education, and healthcare. It’s home to world-renowned institutions like Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh. The city boasts a unique topography with its three rivers, hills, tunnels, and numerous bridges, earning it the nickname “The City of Bridges.”

1.   Climate Contrast Between California and Pennsylvania

One of the most significant changes you’ll encounter when moving to Pittsburgh is the climate. Unlike California’s Mediterranean climate, Pennsylvania experiences all four seasons. Winters can be cold with snowfall, while summers are warm and humid. Spring and fall offer a picturesque landscape with pleasant temperatures. Autumn in PA is a spectacular display. The state’s abundant trees transform into a vibrant tapestry of reds, oranges, and yellows. The distinct change in weather means you should update your wardrobe and prepare your vehicle for different weather conditions as a part of your move. Below are some climate examples of cities so you can directly compare the differences.

Los Angeles

In Los Angeles, average high temperatures in the summer hover around 84°F, while winter highs are around 68°F. The city receives an average annual rainfall of about 15 inches, mainly in the winter.

San Diego

San Diego’s climate is milder than Los Angeles due to its coastal location. Summer temperatures average around 76°F, and winter temperatures average around 66°F. San Diego gets about 10 inches of rain annually.

San Jose

San Jose has average summer highs around 82°F, while winters are mild and wetter, with average highs around 60°F. The city receives an average annual rainfall of about 15.5 inches.

San Francisco

San Francisco is known for its microclimates, but generally, it has a cool-summer Mediterranean climate. The city’s summers are colder due to the fog, with average high temperatures around 67°F. Winters are mild, with average highs around 57°F. San Francisco receives more rainfall than its southern counterparts, averaging about 23 inches annually.


In contrast, Pittsburgh experiences a humid continental climate. Summer average high temperatures in July are around 83°F. Winters in January have highs averaging around 37°F and lows around 21°F. Pittsburgh receives an average annual snowfall of about 41 inches and rainfall of about 38 inches.

2.   Cost of Living in Pittsburgh

One of the benefits of moving to Pennsylvania from California is the cost of living is significantly lower than in most parts of California. Housing is more affordable, and you’ll likely get more space for your money. Utilities, groceries, transportation, and taxes are also generally cheaper, allowing for a potentially higher quality of life.

The disparity in real estate costs between Pittsburgh and California’s major cities is stark and significant. In Pittsburgh, the median home price hovers around $200,000, a figure that is markedly more affordable when compared to the soaring real estate prices in California’s urban centers. For instance, Los Angeles boasts a median home price of approximately $750,000, while San Diego’s median sits around $650,000. The tech hub of San Jose pushes the envelope further with median home values around $1,000,000, and San Francisco tops the chart with prices exceeding $1,200,000. This vast difference extends to the rental market as well, where a 1-bedroom apartment in the city of Pittsburgh averages $1,200 per month, a fraction of what one would pay for a similar space in San Francisco, where rents can soar to around $3,000 per month. This dramatic contrast in real estate costs is a pivotal factor in the overall cost of living, making Pittsburgh an economically attractive alternative for those seeking relief from California’s exorbitant housing market.

3.   Tax Structure in Pennsylvania

California is known for its high taxes, particularly regarding income tax, where rates can soar as high as 13.3% for the highest earners. In contrast, Pennsylvania offers a more moderate state income tax rate of 3.07%, which remains consistent regardless of income level. This lower rate can be a significant draw for those moving from California.

However, it’s crucial to note that Pennsylvania’s property taxes can be higher than California’s, which can come as a surprise. Also, Pennsylvania has both state and local real estate transfer taxes. These transfer taxes usually amount to about 1% for the buyer and 1% for the seller. However, they can be as high as 2.5% for each side for properties within the Pittsburgh city limits.

4.   Cultural Scene in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh’s cultural scene is vibrant and diverse. From the Andy Warhol Museum to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, there’s something for every taste. The city’s culinary scene is also thriving, with a mix of traditional eateries and innovative restaurants.

5.   Sports Culture in Pittsburgh

Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh have a profoundly ingrained sports culture, with passionate followings for professional teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers (NFL) and Pittsburgh Penguins (NHL). This passion flows down to amateur and children’s sports as well. The intensity of local sports fandoms can be a delightful surprise for newcomers.

6.   Historical Depth of Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is a critical location in American history, with cities like Philadelphia playing pivotal roles in the nation’s founding. The state has many historical sites, monuments, and museums that reflect its rich heritage. This situation contrasts with California’s relatively younger cities and the modern, tech-oriented culture of places like Silicon Valley.

7.   Architectural Differences

California’s architecture is often modern, with Spanish and Mediterranean influences, especially in its residential buildings. In Pennsylvania, you’ll find a broader range of architectural styles, including colonial, Victorian, and early American, reflecting its more extended history and varied cultural influences.

8.   Quirky Laws and Regulations in Pittsburgh

Every state has its quirks, and Pennsylvania is no exception. The state controls alcohol sales, and you’ll often need to visit separate stores for wine/spirits and beer. These regulations can be unexpected for those used to California’s more liberal liquor laws.

Preparing for the Move From CA to PA

Moving across the country is no small feat. It requires careful planning and consideration. Here are some steps to help you prepare:

1.   Research and Planning

Start by researching the best neighborhoods in Pittsburgh and the suburbs to find the area that best suits your lifestyle and budget. Consider factors like proximity to work, schools, and amenities. Plan your moving budget, accounting for moving company expenses, travel costs, and any immediate purchases you’ll need to make upon arrival.

2.   Downsizing and Packing

California and Pittsburgh have different lifestyles and climates, so take this opportunity to downsize. Sell or donate items that will be optional in your new home. When packing, label your boxes clearly and keep an inventory to make unpacking easier.

3.   Hiring Movers

Choose a reputable moving company experienced in long-distance moves. Get quotes from multiple companies and check reviews to ensure reliability. Ensure they’re licensed and insured to protect your belongings during transit.

4.   The Journey to Pittsburgh

The journey from California to Pittsburgh can be an adventure in itself. You can opt for a road trip, taking in the diverse landscapes of the United States, or fly if time is of the essence.

Road Trip

A cross-country road trip can take around 40 hours, so plan for stops along the way. This option allows you to bring more belongings and enjoy the scenery. Ensure your vehicle is serviced and prepared for the long journey.

Flying to Pittsburgh

Flying is the quickest option, with direct flights from major California cities to the Pittsburgh International Airport. However, you’ll need to ship your belongings separately and be more selective about what you bring.

5.   Finding a Home in Pittsburgh

If you have yet to secure a home before moving, consider contacting a local Realtor with a deep understanding of the Pittsburgh market. A good realtor will listen to your needs, preferences, and budget to help you find the perfect home. They can also provide insights into local trends, school districts, and community amenities.

According to the local Pittsburgh real estate experts at Tarasa Hurley Realty, given Pittsburgh’s climate, pay extra attention to aspects like heating systems, insulation, and weatherproofing—factors that might not have been a priority in California. A local expert will help guide you through essential aspects to consider when making an offer. For example, sewer camera tests are crucial in older neighborhoods.

Your realtor will also help you make a competitive offer. The Pittsburgh market can be less frenetic than California’s, but it’s still important to act decisively.

6.   Establishing Necessities

Set up utilities, internet, and other services for your new home. Update your address, transfer your driver’s license, and register your vehicle in Pennsylvania.

These steps are more complex than it seems. Upon moving to Pennsylvania, you have a 60-day window to obtain a PA driver’s license, which is relatively straightforward. However, you only have 20 days to register your vehicle, and a PA driver’s license is a prerequisite for vehicle registration. A catch-22 arises as you must also have received a utility bill to apply for your license, making it challenging to comply with the law entirely. After receiving a utility bill, you should visit PennDOT to get your license. Afterward, initiate the title transfer process at a local AAA.


Moving from California to Pittsburgh is a significant change, but it can be a rewarding experience. Pittsburgh offers a unique blend of cultural richness, technological innovation, and a more affordable cost of living. By preparing adequately and embracing the new opportunities, you can make a smooth transition and start an exciting new chapter in the Steel City. Welcome to Pittsburgh!