‘I was shocked by what I used to put up with.’ Why this CEO left San Francisco after 15 years for Bentonville, Arkansas, where the median home costs just about $400K

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Bentonville, Arkansas

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The number of people leaving the Bay Area jumped 21% from March 2020 and September 2021, according to a report from University of California researchers. We talk to one. (Thinking of ditching your pricey city too? Check out the lowest mortgage rates you can get now here,

Life as a CEO in San Francisco became increasingly stressful for Phil Libin, founder of the app mmhmm and former CEO and executive chairman of software company Evernote. After 15 years of city living, Libin decided it was time to wait out COVID-19 somewhere peaceful. So he packed his bags, told all of his employees they could work virtually forever and headed east to Bentonville, Arkansas — a place he’d passed through once or twice before, that’s known for its artsy vibe, beautiful outdoors and as the headquarters of Walmart.

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“I thought I’d go somewhere for a few months, so I got an Airbnb and then decided to stay,” says Libin, who hasn’t looked back on leaving the tech capital. The thing he misses the least? Traffic. “In San Francisco, I was Ubering everywhere. I looked back at my calendar and realized I was spending almost three hours every day in a car, going to the office or from meeting to meeting,” says Libin. Now, he works from home, or a few local places within walking distance. “My life here feels much more integrated. Things are much cheaper and money goes much further,” says Libin.

He has a point: According to Realtor.com, the median sales price of a home is just over $400,000, compared to $1.5 million in San Francisco. And overall San Francisco is 147% more expensive than Bentonville, according to Sperling’s Best Places, with home prices being the biggest factor in that.

Phil Libin

While in San Francisco, Libin thought he had a high standard of living – “I was the CEO and I had a pretty good quality of life because I spent a lot of money,” he says – but he says his standard of living in Bentonville is actually much higher. “I have a higher quality of life and 100% of the people that work with me could afford to live the way I am,” says Libin. (Libin lets all of the mmhmm employees live wherever they want, and he says that about half of them who were in the Bay Area ended up moving.) “They can afford to eat at the same restaurants and be members of the same clubs, ” says Libin.

Now, instead of living in an overpriced condominium, Libin has bought land and is planning to build a house. “I was in SF a few weeks ago for the first time in a year and I was shocked by what I used to put up with. I had forgotten about sitting in traffic. I would sit in the car for 90 minutes all the time and I thought it was okay. I never want to ask someone to do that,” says Libin.

Of course, the restaurants and culture of San Francisco are hard to beat, but it’s easy enough to travel from Bentonville, Libin says. “There are direct flights … It’s actually easier to fly domestically from here than SF because the airport is smaller and there’s no traffic. If I have to fly internationally to Asia or Europe, it adds a hop, but it’s worth it,” says Libin.

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Credit: www.marketwatch.com /

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