Great advice from another renter in SF Bay on finding a place below.
Moreover, Tim’s advice serves as great editorial copy on how vicious, ruthless, and utterly ridiculous the San Francisco Bay rental market is these days. But then again… isn’t everything within the sphere of influence of dot communism ridiculous? 🙂
From: “Tim Chang”
As you know by now, SF has gotta be one of the most vicious apartment-hunting grounds in the world… even worse than Tokyo, where I worked for 4 years before re-patriating to the US.
Apparently, statistics indicate that most folks either find a place to live within 2 weeks, or else take more than 6 months to locate the place of their dreams. My housing hunt was very short but highly intense, meaning that I fell into the former category – but more out of necessity rather than satisfaction with the results: my girlfriend is starting her MBA program on Aug. 13th, meaning we *had* to decide on a place ASAP!
We used a combination of websites, classifieds, and agents, and ended up finding our place through Rent Tech.
If your monthly rent budget falls under $2,500, I’d recommend going with a website or classified approach, as agents tend to charge hefty fees, and are more adept are digging up housing alternatives that lie squarely on the “posh” side.
www.renttech.com — you gotta pay a $90 member fee, but it’s refundable if you fail to find a suitable place in 3 months. These guys are basically *the* source of listings in the <$3,000 rental market; almost any other website you use (www.apartments.com, etc.) will pretty much just rehash Rent Tech listings and forward you to them. You might as well try them out - they're pretty helpful in setting up your renter resume and credit reports (and yes, you WILL need these if you want any hope of convincing a landlord to rent to you). www.craigslist.com has become the fave underground community list, but I found that places listed tended to be in the $3,000+ rental range, and were gone almost as soon as they were listed. Basically, think of the housing hunt like a real-time auction, where you have to spot the deal as soon as it emerges, and react to it *immediately*. Have all documentation prepared beforehand in a bulletproof package (high profile renter resume, flawless credit report, verification letters of employment, proof of big fat regular paycheck, etc.), and be prepared to rapidly bid up the rent if you find a hot little pad in, say, Noe Valley. And 2 things to ease the headaches ahead of time: 1) expand the scope of your range: I too began with the "wouldn't it be nice to live in Noe?" vision, and ended up at, "damn, even a cramped condo in Daly City is pretty much acceptable at this point!!!" Don't be afraid to consider less hip areas such as Sunset, Richmond, Diamond Hts, or Glen Park - you'll get many more options to choose from, often at lower price. 2) Raise the range of rent you're willing to pay. I began at looking for $1,200/month and ended up at <$2,500. Classic ratchet effect, you know the drill. It's like a dot-commie war out there when it comes to housing, my friend, so be prepared to be treated worse than the germs on the back of a bug squished inside the gum stuck to the bottom of your shoe. Nobody will call you back if you leave a message. Nobody will listen if you beg. And nobody cares how many zeros are attached to the figure of your yearly salary. Everybody is rich, everybody is desperate, and *everyone* wants to live in a hip area like Noe Valley or Cole Valley. Keep your eye open for new listings hourly, and keep an excel spreadsheet updated daily with a constant tally of your phone calls made and housing prospects. Bring a checkbook to each showing, and be prepared to sign within 15 minutes of viewing a place if it looks like it's going to be even remotely attractive to other incoming yuppies. Who knows, you may even be asked to perform in a "prospective renter talent show," as one landlord held in order to narrow the applicant pool (most applicants performed, even for the swimsuit contest part). Eventually you'll find something, though it might not be anything like what you initially hoped for. SF housing in general is shitty in quality, old, cracked, dysfunctional, cramped, suspect in functionality of utilities, and nearly completely lacking in parking spaces. Maybe part of my difficulties in searching arose from my insistence of dedicated parking spot w/ apartment - but if you live in a hot neighborhood, you'll find that the parking spot may be worth even more than the place itself, after spending nearly an hour each day circling around your own neighborhood just to find street parking... Results? I found an old 70's-ish condo in a building dead-smack on Mission Street, right between Bernal Hts (great "undiscovered" neighborhood, by the way, with easy access to 101 and 280!!!) and Noe. Huge space (1,000sq. ft.), clean, right down the street from 101 and 280, and even a dedicated parking space complete with remote control garage door opener. Pure stroke of luck and good timing, as the landlord is a private owner renting for the first time, and just happened to put his place on Rent Tech right as I was browsing. Living in the middle of a major city street ain't the most appealing prospect in the world, but I don't mind, being a fan of urban grit and city culture. After a while, you learn to realize that there are no good deals, and that there's a fundamental tradeoff for every listing you look at: size vs. rent; parking vs. state of renovation; view vs. neighborhood, etc. etc. Question everything, be suspicious of anything that looks too good to be true, and figure out what you're willing to trade off in return for hardwood flooring, parking ,etc. I hope this hasn't sounded too despairing or discouraging - I didn't mean it that way. I just wanted to pass on some painful lessons I learned to another about to embark on a challenging, but not impossible, search. Of course, if you're already money-bags, you can just skip all this hassle and grab nice fat pad in a deeeeluxe apartment in the sky, ala the Fillmore Center, Webster Towers, Yerba Buena, etc. You can find these kind of listings on www.springstreet.com. Good luck! t.