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They took a class on how to leave the Bay Area. Here’s where they went

Three movers are packing/unpacking items in a room with framed photos on the wall.
CG Moving Company workers wrap and pack items in an apartment unit on Monday, April 20, 2020. | Source: Aric Crabb/The Mercury News/Getty Images

A class that teaches adults how to move away from the Bay Area has helped almost 50 people relocate to other parts of the state and elsewhere in the U.S. over the last four years, its teacher says. 

The class, taught over Zoom by Bay Area real estate agent Punam Navalgund, provides financial, legal and homebuying guidance and is popular with adults at retirement age or those with young children. 

Taught through the Campbell Union High School District's adult education program, the class also helps people connect with trusted lawyers, real estate agents, accountants and even counselors in their chosen destination.

U.S. Census data released Thursday shows that in the Bay Area, just Solano and San Francisco counties experienced population growth from July 2022 to July 2023, with all other regional counties shrinking. Every Bay Area county still has a lower population than it did in July 2020.

But where are folks who took Navalgund’s class going? She provided the following list of destinations:

  • Fresno
  • Temecula
  • Dallas
  • Georgetown, Texas
  • Orlando, Florida
  • Boise, Idaho 
  • Surprise, Arizona 
  • Prescott, Arizona 
  • Henderson, Nevada
  • Reno, Nevada 
  • Shelton, Washington 

“I'm a problem-solver. I hear what struggles people are having and try to figure out a solution,” said Navalgund, who works for Intero Real Estate Services. “Many homesellers really feel stuck in their homes.”

Class enrollment has dipped from an early 2023 attendance peak, partly due to her taking some time away from work, and not a dip in demand, she said.

One person who took the class, Ukrainian-born engineer Ilana Shternshain, moved with her husband from their San Jose home to Henderson, Nevada, a suburb of Las Vegas.

A smiling woman wearing glasses and business casual clothing listens to several people facing toward her
Punam Navalgund, a Realtor with Intero Real Estate Services, has taught a class on exit strategies for leaving the San Francisco Bay Area since March 2020. | Source: Courtesy Punam Navalgund

After a 10-year stint living in the Bay Area, she took the class in 2021 before buying a new home in January 2022 and moving into it in June that year.

She told The Standard she would recommend it for high-tech employees who “don’t want to work all their life.” It offered her lessons in “nailing down where you would want to move to, what kinds of ideas to entertain in your head, what’s important to you, what kind of lifestyle you want to manage or have when you move there.”

In her new home, she was able to quit her full-time job, focus on her newly created investment business and even join a Ukrainian-language choir. She was also able to help her daughter move to an apartment nearby.

“The only downside is the distance from our friends,” she said. “That’s something that anybody can anticipate if they make a move.”

A hand holds an invitation to a neighborhood goodbye party.
A flier invites people to a neighborhood goodbye party for a family that attended real estate agent Punam Navalgund's class on exit strategies for leaving the Bay Area. The family moved from San Jose to Clovis, in Fresno County. | Source: Courtesy Punam Navalgund

Another class attendee and ex-San Jose resident, Christine Howes, said she took the class in 2021 after her sister-in-law spotted it and asked her if she would take it with her.

Howes, who works as a pediatric nurse, says she and her husband both grew up in the Bay Area. But the couple grew tired of their busy lifestyles, commutes and living expenses and realized their son’s high school graduation presented an opportunity.

“I had already done like a ton of research over the years, working up toward this,” Howes said, praising Navalgund’s class. “Even then, she brought new information that I wasn't aware of. I found it very helpful and so did my sister-in-law.”

Howes said her family’s next step came naturally. “It’s never easy selling your home and buying a home, and she just made it a more pleasurable experience,” she said.

A smiling worker in a food truck showers children with stray shaved ice on a warm summer day
A shaved-ice dessert truck delights children on a San Jose street in June 2022 at a neighborhood goodbye party for a family moving out of the San Francisco Bay Area. | Source: Courtesy Punam Navalgund

After weighing moves to Boise, Idaho, or Spokane, Washington, Howes moved to Fresno County’s Clovis in 2022.

“It’s very much a small town feel, but it has a lot of the bigger town amenities,” she said. “It's more of a laid-back lifestyle. We have views of the Sierras all around us during the winter, and it’s gorgeous. Summers are hot and miserable, but that's what air-conditioning and the pool are for, so we’re happy.”

The next class is scheduled for 4 p.m. April 2, and you can sign up here.