I've been in San Francisco for about 4 months now. While living here can be pretty spectacular, moving here isn't. Most people who agree with that statement would also agree with my thoughts on why it's so difficult: competition. In a casual setting, competition can be fun and a chance to learn and grow as a person, but finding affordable housing in SF is far from casual—it's a second job.
When my girlfriend and I moved to San Francisco back in July, I was fortunate enough to already have a sublease thanks to a /r/SFBayHousing post. But a couple months in, fortune soon turned to hardship as we learned that our master tenant put in his 30-days notice and in turn, so did my girlfriend and I. It seemed fine; I thought it'd be easy to find a decent, safe place for Lexy and I.
Nope. Lots of stress and panic slowly creeped into my day-to-day as we kept responding to countless Craigslist posts with zero replies. So we consulted our local friends and the internet to find out why we weren't getting replies. Lots of help that'll get us a "yes," right? Nope. More stress tacked on as each reply confirmed how unsuccessful we had been. "No couples. Sorry." At one point, moving back to Florida was a serious option.
We're still in San Francisco, so we managed to luck out on a happy ending to this story. But no one should go through that much hardship as we did, so I thought I'd share what I learned for you SF prospects. Keep in mind, the following isn't going to guarantee you a spot, but it will give you a chance.
- Craigslist is your friend. Before, my college-old self would've thought that apartment hunting on Craigslist was seedy (it still is). However, Craigslist is the medium-of-choice for San Francisco landlords and tenants ready to leave. While there's still a ton of scams and heavenly deals in hellish locations (I'm looking at you Tenderloin), there's a ton more places up for grabs. One of the most useful tools I've luckily used was Padmapper, a tool.
- Have a resume. I wasn't joking about apartment hunting being a second job here. Having a renter's resume with basic information, a brief autobiography, and landlord references is necessary to getting the place you want. Brownie points for including your credit score and income.
- Open yourself up. Strangers don't survive the house hunt, friends do. Your potential landlord and roommate(s) want to know the person who's going to be occupying that vacant space up-for-grabs. When you're sending an email reply to a Craigslist post, include links to all the social media you're on, from Facebook to LinkedIn and Twitter to Instagram. And if there's a phone number, reach out to them and call saying you're interested.
For those who really want to know why SF househunting is a nightmare, there's a ton of articles on the housing crisis. This one is my favorite.