Author Topic: Renting in San Francisco... Barely know where to start!  (Read 5486 times)

WorkingOnStubble

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Renting in San Francisco... Barely know where to start!
« on: August 19, 2014, 05:32:27 AM »
Hey all!

I'll soon be moving to San Francisco, working with a tech company as all people there do. My company have arranged the first month for us of accommodation, so I'm covered until the start of October, then I need to find somewhere to live for myself. I'll be working on 2nd Street, San Francisco, and the place I'll stay the first month is really well placed, so I'll have say a 10-15 minute walk to work, that's it.

The problem with the current place is that I'm basically staying in a dorm room with about 8 other people. Not optimal for me, I put a big value on my privacy, so would much rather move in October to a place where I have my own room. Of course I won't be living alone, I'm mustachian enough for that ;).

I'm sure it's so that with my work located where it is, the further I go from work, the lower the rents will be. But I don't know how San Francisco deals with that trade-off. Is it worth paying the extra for the shorter commutes, or is it better to have a longer commute for those rents?

Once I've figured that quesiton out, where do I go about finding places to live? So far Craigslist was my only thought, but I'm sure there are better ways.

At the moment I'm open to many different options, so I'm happy for any information people can give me :).

Thanks guys!

SF Semi-Mustache

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Re: Renting in San Francisco... Barely know where to start!
« Reply #1 on: August 19, 2014, 05:48:43 AM »
Funny.  I actually work on 2nd Street as well.

Craigslist generally is the way to go in SF.  I've found that sending a longer, descriptive email, crafted to show that you're a legit and responsible person (rather than a two-line response to a housing email) is the way to make yourself stand out from the heated competition for rooms in SF. 

I've not wanted to live in SOMA because it's overpriced and kind of soulless.  You can look for rooms in rent-controlled apartments in other neighborhoods.  These will the be inexplicably low-priced rooms on Craigslist. There will be a lot of competition for these rooms, but they're a huge savings over renting a market-rate place and trying to find other roommates.  If you can go in with a checkbook, willing to sign on the spot and write a check for first month/last month/deposit that helps your chances.  Also bring copies of your credit report (assuming it's strong). 

If you have to look for market-rate options, Oakland is a quick commute via ferry or BART to SOMA.  In SF, check out the following less-horrifically-expensive neighborhoods:

- Tenderloin.  It's sketchy, but it's close-in and there's a lot going on.  No car necessary here.
- Bayview.  Less sketchy than rumored, I think this might be the new Mission someday.  A fast, flat (!) bike ride to SOMA.
- West Portal.  An easy MUNI ride to downtown, but people don't think about that because it's across Twin Peaks.
- Outer Sunset.  A bit of a haul to downtown, but I love the fog and the smell of the salt water ocean air.  Learn to surf! 

WorkingOnStubble

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Re: Renting in San Francisco... Barely know where to start!
« Reply #2 on: August 19, 2014, 05:59:28 AM »
Cheers man :)

All sounds good, and I tend to be pretty reasonable at contacting people and making a good impression (With experience couchsurfing and whatnot :P). Perhaps the only problem with this is that I'm moving from the UK (Just realised I forgot to mention that in my first message), so I have no credit rating in the US just yet.

From looking on Craigslist, I may have to wait until half way through September before trying to find a place, as that seems about the length of time people are advertising for, does that sound right?

Goldielocks

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Re: Renting in San Francisco... Barely know where to start!
« Reply #3 on: August 19, 2014, 08:14:54 AM »
Try to find someone at work to rent you a room, ?  Carpool is a possibility.

No credit will be hard in SFO for first 6 months, as credit report is one of the only ways landlords have to legally deny Tennant's.  You need to show 3x salary vs rent, and credit history.  Maybe shared rooms have less credit requirements.

I brought my transfax CDN credit report with me to show, and that worked too.

electriceagle

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Re: Renting in San Francisco... Barely know where to start!
« Reply #4 on: August 19, 2014, 09:39:02 AM »
Welcome to SF WorkingOnStubble,

If you don't already know anyone in the city, craigslist is the place to go. Since you're a programmer, you may want to get an RSS program that will troll the listings for you and let you know immediately when a listing that fits your parameters is available.

Many listings get a ton of responses. Being among the first raises the chances that yours will be read. It also helps to have a description that is short, detailed and informative (not "yo, i want a room" and not a 5 page essay). Its good to have all of your information in a "roommate resume" and to be ready to write a check on request.

A word about price: San Francisco has had rent control for over 30 years. This means that you will see rooms in old rent controlled apartments listed for $400-$500, even as much worse rooms are listed next door for $900. Unfortunately, those cheap rooms usually go to someone's girlfriend's cousin. If you stick around long enough, you'll meet people and your rent will go down, but for now you'll probably have to pay full rate.

You can get to 2nd street from BART (fast), Caltrain (really fast) or Muni (slow). Prices have already been run up along the BART line and the Caltrain line. You can probably find something in southeast near the underutilized Bayshore station for cheap, though. Or you can find something in anywhere Bayview and bike downtown in 15-20 minutes.

The Tenderloin used to be cheap but sketchy. Now its trendy and sketchy.

Experience: Former SF managing tenant, now SF landlord
« Last Edit: February 29, 2016, 06:22:43 AM by electriceagle »

dragoncar

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Re: Renting in San Francisco... Barely know where to start!
« Reply #5 on: August 19, 2014, 10:57:52 AM »
If you don't HAVE to be in SF, I'd look in the east bay near an AC Transit Transbay line.  They'll drop you off close to work and don't have that many local stops (it's semi express).  Monthly pass is like $170.  Rent is lower in the east bay.  I particularly like Alameda along the O or OX lines.

Because of your work location, you have to realize that the commute from many cheaper parts of SF will be equal to your commute from cheaper (but IMO nicer) areas of the East Bay.  Definitely play with Google transit directions from various parts of the bay area.

SF Semi-Mustache

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Re: Renting in San Francisco... Barely know where to start!
« Reply #6 on: August 19, 2014, 12:04:44 PM »
Cheers man :)

All sounds good, and I tend to be pretty reasonable at contacting people and making a good impression (With experience couchsurfing and whatnot :P). Perhaps the only problem with this is that I'm moving from the UK (Just realised I forgot to mention that in my first message), so I have no credit rating in the US just yet.

From looking on Craigslist, I may have to wait until half way through September before trying to find a place, as that seems about the length of time people are advertising for, does that sound right?

Were you going to try to look for housing remotely?  That seems like a hard thing to do.  Perhaps AirBNB it/sublet for a month and try to find a place from there?

mustachianism_is_aredpill

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Re: Renting in San Francisco... Barely know where to start!
« Reply #7 on: August 19, 2014, 12:12:59 PM »
I also work on 2nd street, so welcome welcome!

I take Caltrain from South Bay, and if you don't have your heart set on a "city" life, you could check out places like Burlingame, Hillsdale, Belmont and San Mateo. Further down the line, Mountain View and Palo Alto are pretty nice too. The commute can be a bitch sometimes, but I compensate by working/reading/sleeping on the train and bring my bike to save time walking. If your company is OK with occasional work from home (like twice a month even), it can work out very well.

Check out Hotpads or Padmapper. If they are still up (I think Craigslist had filed a cease-and-desist), they do a very nice job of mapping rents.

WorkingOnStubble

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Re: Renting in San Francisco... Barely know where to start!
« Reply #8 on: August 22, 2014, 12:59:44 PM »
Thanks again for all the responses guys, sorry it's taken me a few days to get back to you!

@goldielocks: Definitely will chat to people at work, but for now I'm not there, and will have to just see once I arrive.

@electriceagle: Will definitely have a look into writing a list trawler, thanks for the idea ;). Is it expected then that upon seeing a room and place that seems reasonable, I should immediately say "Yep, I wanna live here. Here's some money"? That is, there's not a "Well, I'm seeing another place later, this does seem nice but we'll see"? Never done any renting before, so maybe this is the way everywhere! Thanks for the Bayview tips, I'll definitely keep a look out.

@dragoncar: Perhaps my opinion will change a bit once I've lived there for the first month, but at the moment I would like to be in San Francisco. If I decide against this, I'll definitely revisit your advice though, thank you :)

@SFdude: Don't worry, I leave on the 28th August, I have a place until 1st October, so I'm just looking ahead to figure out my plans.

@mustachianism_is_aredpill: Lots of 2nd street-ers! I may come to find that 2nd street is a massive hub of everything everywhere, so many will, but until then, I'll pretend it's coincidence ;). What you say is what I've come to realise about lots of the advice I've been given, and why I seem to be dismissing a lot of it.

I think a part of this is that I do want a city life, I've just turned 21, moving from the UK to the US, finished university, and about to start my first job and my 'adult life', and a lot of that to me sounds like city life is my preferred idea. I think that's made me disregard lots of living far out advice, which is annoying and I'm sorry to anyone I have done that to, it wasn't until now that I realised I was doing it :).

Thanks everyone for all the advice, I'll keep up my search for some ideas, and hopefully by the time October 1st comes around, I'll be able to let you all know it's turned out brilliantly :D

Eric

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Re: Renting in San Francisco... Barely know where to start!
« Reply #9 on: August 22, 2014, 02:33:42 PM »
@electriceagle: Will definitely have a look into writing a list trawler, thanks for the idea ;). Is it expected then that upon seeing a room and place that seems reasonable, I should immediately say "Yep, I wanna live here. Here's some money"? That is, there's not a "Well, I'm seeing another place later, this does seem nice but we'll see"? Never done any renting before, so maybe this is the way everywhere! Thanks for the Bayview tips, I'll definitely keep a look out.

It's a very competitive rental market at the moment, with a very low vacancy rate, so if you find something you like you should do your best to hand over your money as fast as possible.  An hour later it could quite possibly be gone.  This is my impression from looking for a new place about a year ago in the South Bay, and I'm under the impression that it's even more competitive in the city itself.

RyanAtTanagra

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Re: Renting in San Francisco... Barely know where to start!
« Reply #10 on: August 22, 2014, 05:27:32 PM »
Wanted to reiterate you need to have money ready to go when finding a place, but even more important is a flexible schedule.  A lot of places will do an apartment showing for one hour, usually on a weekday during or right after business hours, and that's your only chance.  You'll be one of 50 people looking at the place, grabbing an application, and trying to chat up the landlord to make an impression.  If you're going to try to get a new place with people from work, try to pick the coworkers you think make the most money.  As bad as that sounds it is a question an applications and I think a big factor.

Understood on wanting to experience city life, that's why we're here right now too.  It's very temporary, due to cost and crampyness, but wanted to do it while we could.  If that's your priority it does rule out a lot of locations, even neighborhoods within SF.  An alternative is Oakland, which still has a decent night life if you're in the right areas, and rents are a little more affordable, though they are going up daily as people are trying to escape SF rent prices.  It's also a quick subway ride to near your work and you can take a bike on it.  I do the opposite daily, take Bart across to near Oakland w/ my bicycle.

As far as specific neighborhoods, my favorite right now is lower haight and would look there first if I were moving within the city.  Kind of dirty but not sketchy, not annoyingly trendy like a lot of neighborhoods are getting, lots of bars and food and some fairly quiet streets that would be nice to live on.

You're right that the closer you are to work the more expensive it's going to be, so it'll be a trade-off.  Spend that first week or two driving or biking around the city as much as possible.  It's only 7x7 miles so it's reasonable to get a feel for the different areas fairly quick (although I do occasionally still find hidden gems).

Welcome to SF :-)

sobezen

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Re: Renting in San Francisco... Barely know where to start!
« Reply #11 on: August 22, 2014, 06:04:29 PM »
Welcome to SF and congratulations!

I was born in SF and live in SF, rented in Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, Mountain View, Milpitas, Palo Alto and San Jose.  So, I think I am a pretty good judge of the commuting pros and cons of living in SF, especially if you work in SF.  IMO it is in your best interest if you want to maximize your time in SF by living in SF instead of commuting along the Peninsula but that is still an option.  Note you will be at the mercy of BART (they are prone to mechanical and strikes) and CalTrains (mercy of mechanical, accidents and jumpers).  I use to take CalTrain from SF to SJ it was not fun, four hours roundtrip.

My recommendation:
Rent in the Inner Richmond or Outer Richmond districts.  Both are straight shots using only one bus ride during rush hour you can take the Express lines noted by AX or BX which run on California Street (1 line), Geary Blvd (38) and Balboa (31) etc) by MUNI.  You can make it to downtown 2nd Street under 20 minutes (I've made it in less than 13 minutes) or over 45 minutes, it all depends on how far out you are located and what time you begin your commute.  That said, IMO your best bet is looking in the larger SF districts due to sheer numbers and opportunity.

I would look for rentals based on biking as the main commuting mode simply because SF has a lot of potholes and huge hills.  But if you are brave sure look for neighborhoods you are willing to bike to and from.

Rent control won't impact you unless you are older, disabled and/or if you have lived in the same address for 10 years or more.  Currently none of those affect you so it is really moot. 

So the main questions as I see it are:
1) What is your budget?  How much flexibility do you really have? 
2) How far are you willing to commute?  Don't forget wait and travel times too. 
3) Is public transit the only option? Do you have a car? Or do you prefer to not drive or carpool?
4) What type of conveniences/community and neighborhood do you really want?  What are must haves vs nice to have?

How do you find listings?  As other have commented Craigslist if you best bet.  But do not discount your local employer community. Research and ask around asap!  Also, if you can explore SF and the different areas that we've mentioned to save you time and energy.  Also, SF has many boutique  real estate offices that manage rentals, so, search and contact them and do not be discouraged!  You will need to be flexible if your rental budget is lower, but rest assured you can find a place in SF.  For example, my coworker pays $3400/mo renting a one bedroom new skyscraper in SOMA half block from LinkedIn.  Whereas another friend only pass $600 in the Richmond district near Japantown.  All depends on your needs and budget IMO.

Lastly, I am active in the real estate community and I have 12+ years of experience of property management in SF and buying homes.  So I hope this information helps.  Good luck!


« Last Edit: August 22, 2014, 06:12:52 PM by sobezen »

hexdexorex

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Re: Renting in San Francisco... Barely know where to start!
« Reply #12 on: August 23, 2014, 09:52:10 AM »
Most of my friends that live here (including me live right outside the city). Bart + Oakland is the way to go if you want a relatively affordable option. Lake Merritt area is def recommended especially if you in the 20-40 age range...tons of young people.
« Last Edit: August 23, 2014, 10:26:44 AM by hexdexorex »

RyanAtTanagra

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Re: Renting in San Francisco... Barely know where to start!
« Reply #13 on: August 23, 2014, 11:26:49 AM »
Note you will be at the mercy of BART (they are prone to mechanical and strikes) and CalTrains (mercy of mechanical, accidents and jumpers).  I use to take CalTrain from SF to SJ it was not fun, four hours roundtrip.

I'm always surprised at how much natives look down on bay area transit.  I got that in San Jose too.  As someone from a town with pretty much nothing, the transit options around the bay area are AWESOME.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with commuting by bart or caltrain (don't do both, transfers take forever).  I did caltrain for a year and a half and have now been doing bart for a year and a half and had one delay in that time, 20 minutes on bart for 'suspicious activity in tunnel'.  Not saying it doesn't happen but it's not an issue imo.

My recommendation:
Rent in the Inner Richmond or Outer Richmond districts.

I'd disagree w/ this.  People who have been in SF for a while seem to migrate out that way for cost, space and quiet, which I understand, but as a young person wanting to experience the city, Richmond and Sunset are the last areas I'd recommend.  I feel like I'm in suburbia whenever I'm out there.  I'm sure there are exceptions and nooks, but it's just not the same.

blackomen

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Re: Renting in San Francisco... Barely know where to start!
« Reply #14 on: August 24, 2014, 01:47:32 PM »
Chinese newspapers..  lots of listings for rooms for rent in the Sunset district for $600-1000/mo.  If you can't read them, then learn some basic Chinese or get a friend who can read it..  worth it than paying extra each month for rent.

sobezen

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Re: Renting in San Francisco... Barely know where to start!
« Reply #15 on: September 12, 2014, 01:45:53 PM »
Note you will be at the mercy of BART (they are prone to mechanical and strikes) and CalTrains (mercy of mechanical, accidents and jumpers).  I use to take CalTrain from SF to SJ it was not fun, four hours roundtrip.

I'm always surprised at how much natives look down on bay area transit.  I got that in San Jose too.  As someone from a town with pretty much nothing, the transit options around the bay area are AWESOME.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with commuting by bart or caltrain (don't do both, transfers take forever).  I did caltrain for a year and a half and have now been doing bart for a year and a half and had one delay in that time, 20 minutes on bart for 'suspicious activity in tunnel'.  Not saying it doesn't happen but it's not an issue imo.

My recommendation:
Rent in the Inner Richmond or Outer Richmond districts.

I'd disagree w/ this.  People who have been in SF for a while seem to migrate out that way for cost, space and quiet, which I understand, but as a young person wanting to experience the city, Richmond and Sunset are the last areas I'd recommend.  I feel like I'm in suburbia whenever I'm out there.  I'm sure there are exceptions and nooks, but it's just not the same.

Thanks for replying.  The thing with BART is as someone who was born and still works in the SF bay area I can assure you all of the public transit systems have shortcomings.  The thing is you need to objective when analyzing which ones are more reliable and less prone to strikes.  BART has a bad history of employee strikes which was ridiculous.  That is the main reason why I do not feel BART is dependable and ultimately that is what commuters need, transit reliability isn't it?

As for not caring for the Richmond District that is fine.  The hustle and bustle of SOMA, Marina, Mission are great.  But over time, people often find they want more balance, peace, conveniences and access to resources other than restaurants and night scenes. 

@ WorkingOnStubble:  Let us know where you end up and how much you end up spending. 
« Last Edit: September 12, 2014, 01:47:49 PM by sobezen »

RyanAtTanagra

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Re: Renting in San Francisco... Barely know where to start!
« Reply #16 on: September 12, 2014, 02:35:54 PM »
Thanks for replying.  The thing with BART is as someone who was born and still works in the SF bay area I can assure you all of the public transit systems have shortcomings.  The thing is you need to objective when analyzing which ones are more reliable and less prone to strikes.  BART has a bad history of employee strikes which was ridiculous.  That is the main reason why I do not feel BART is dependable and ultimately that is what commuters need, transit reliability isn't it?

The BART strikes, forgot about that, good point.  That was a pain for A LOT of people.  SFMTA tried to offer alternatives with extra buses, but I definitely took my motorcycle or carpooled in during those.  If you go to work via BART, have a backup plan, but I wouldn't avoid having bart be my planned commute.  Just having a coworker you know that lives near you works.  I had 2 people ride their bikes to my place and store them inside, then another coworker picked us all up since I live on his commute route.  People are pretty understanding when BART is down for whatever reason.

As for not caring for the Richmond District that is fine.  The hustle and bustle of SOMA, Marina, Mission are great.  But over time, people often find they want more balance, peace, conveniences and access to resources other than restaurants and night scenes.

Agreed, I think OP is going to be the former than the latter for AT LEAST 3 months :-)  It took us about a year, now we're ready to move further out to get more space and quiet for cheaper.