San Francisco rent is so expensive a law firm bought a $3 million plane to fly its people in from Texas instead of having them live there
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- San Francisco's median rent price is $4,450, nearly three times the median rent in Houston, Texas.
- Instead of hiring expensive local talent in the Bay Area, one Houston-based law firm flies its lawyers in on a private jet once a month to meet with clients.
- The firm uses the jet - which costs $2,500 an hour to operate - as a tool for recruiting top talent.
Rent and home prices in the Bay Area are so high, one Houston-based law firm found an alternative to hiring expensive local talent: Buy a private jet.
Even though the jet cost $3 million to buy, reports Houston Chronicle reporter L.M. Sixel, it's cheaper than hiring local lawyers, and even less expensive than relocating the Texas lawyers with business in Silicon Valley to the area full-time.
"The young people that we want to hire out there have high expectations that are hard to meet," Bruce Patterson, a partner at the firm, told The New York Times. "Rent is so high they can't even afford a car."
According to Zillow, the median rent price in San Francisco is $4,450 right now, while the median home price is just under $1.2 million. Rent in San Jose, a popular suburb for Silicon Valley workers, while lower, is still more than double the median rent in Houston.
Each flight costs about $1,900 per passenger - adding up to $2,500 an hour in operating costs - but since the lawyers are working in-flight, the three-to-four hour ride is billable. Plus, private flights protect any confidential work and save the firm's lawyers about 36 collective hours they would spend arriving early, waiting in security, and checking bags on a commercial flight.
Plus, the firm says it's "still able to offer companies and investors lower costs because most of the patent work is done in Houston, where commercial real estate is 43% cheaper, salaries 52% lower, and competition for technical talent far less fierce," according to Sixel, who took a ride on the jet while reporting the story last summer.
"We fly it full," said Todd Patterson, managing partner at the firm. "It's not a luxury item."
It is used, however, as "a selling point to recruit young lawyers" who want to work with top tech companies but can't afford Silicon Valley's cost of living, reports Sixel. The firm's frequent visits to California have also brought in new clients including Intuit, Western Digital, and Cavendish Kinetics.
Perhaps some companies looking for talent in Los Angeles, Silicon Valley's neighbor to the south, could benefit from this strategy.
According to a report published earlier this year from the University of Southern California and the Los Angeles Business Council, exorbitant housing costs in Los Angeles are inhibiting employers from attracting "high-performers," or top talent, to their companies.
Nearly 60% of the employers say Los Angeles' high cost of living impacts employee retention, with 75% naming housing costs as a specific concern, according to the survey results. Further, 10 employers (71%) view high housing costs as "a barrier" to hiring new mid- and upper-level employees.
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