Monday, July 25, 2016

How To Land An Apartment In San Francisco

Hey, back now! And can we just discuss what happened on Tuesday? 
WE SIGNED THE LEASE ON AN APARTMENT.
Praise the Lawd.
I feel like perhaps I was remiss in continually complaining about the apartment hunt without actually explaining WHY it was so debilitating. I mean, "you were looking for an apartment - big whoop?" I didn't get it either until I moved here even after hearing people in NYC and SF complain about what it all meant. So here's why apartment hunting in a big city is a struggle:

1) It's a City of Renters
Not many people in their 20s and 30s who live in the city actually own a home (from my unscientific data of friends, coworkers, etc.). People rent. Of course there's some who do actually own but primarily, lotsa people are renting. But to live here, you have to have a good, steady job to even afford the housing costs. So you have all of these career-accomplished folks ALSO looking for apartments and you don't get much of that number reduced from people buying homes. For goodness sake, everyone here is potentially up against tech gazillionaires. The competition is super fierce and your contenders generally are just as desirable potential tenants as the next person. And everyone wants the good places.

2) Cash Offers
Because people who are renting here generally have a great job to boot, you can quickly be ousted by a candidate who comes in with a boatload of cash to secure their application. We looked at a couple viable places at like 8 PM on a weeknight only to be told the place was gone by 7:30 AM the next morning by someone who paid 50% of year upfront. Didn't even have a chance to apply.

3) Group Showings
Prior to moving here, I had never been to an apartment open house like what is the norm here. In all my years living in downtown Portland, I got every apartment by making an appointment with the manager and showing-up for my private viewing. When I first started apartment hunting in NorCal and was accosted with all the "open house this Tuesday!" verbiage- I had to ask myself: Aren't open houses for people buying? Well, no. Here in SF, about 75% of the listings we visited were done so in an open house format. That means that we'd arrive, sardine into these units with 15 other people and if you like what you saw - you'd have to literally slam your paperwork down to the leasing agent that moment. Barely even time to discuss amongst each other! It's stressful.
4) Speaking of Leasing Agents...
You don't generally ever work with the direct owner of a building. Frequently, you will meet a leasing agent who works for the landlord and their job is to bring in many different offers. That equals more competition and more stress. And if you want to hire an apartment hunter yourself, their fee is generally one month rent on the place you land at. Which, for a one-bedroom in the city, is going to hover around $3K-$4.2K.

5) The City loves Fido but the Landlords beg to differ
Last summer when the decision to move here became final, I couldn't research enough about dog-friendly activities that Chandler and I could now partake in. The city legitimately has more dogs than children (for real, click here) and with the ample parks by the bay and the endless urban trails, is noted for being one of the most dog-friendly places for Fido to call home. But what is less known, is that while that all is true, actually getting Fido a home can be a daunting task. With the demand for housing in SF being so high, it is really a landlord's market. And as a result of that freedom, many cut out the liability of having animals in their units (don't even get me started on the logical assumption of what that means for the number of pets relinquished to a shelter as a result...). So be sure to click that 'dogs allowed' button on Craigslist while you apartment hunt. And try not to be completely overwhelmed of how many of your search results diminish. They are out there. They just take a lot of effort to find. Doesn't mean that I didn't have to put a lot of quarters in the swear jar as I watched the list reduce once I clicked that button.

6) Your Wallet is about to take a Beating
Finally, and most importantly, the cost. SF has the most expensive housing in the country. I touched on that here and how people make it work. However, because of this - the rents are obviously insanely high within city limits. There is no way of getting around that fact. So your search will include viewing a ton of places that are priced incredibly high but are legitimately awful. We went to look at this one-bedroom in a great location listed at $3,950/month. It was a complete and utter sh*thole. But it's a landlord's market and they can actually charge that for a cruddy unit. Sifting through all of these will waste a lot of time. And when you do find a place you love, it'll likely still be a big pill to swallow to move in with rent and move- in costs (deposits are generally 1.5x the amount of rent - so about $7K-$9K for a one-bedroom. Gulp.).
So with all that in mind, it is with sheer joy and extreme excitement that I say that we found a place we love in a great neighborhood and we are moving in in a few weeks. Yes! It took about two months of insane searching to land "the one" but we did it. 


My tips for those about to embark on this debilitating quest are as follows:

1) Be annoyingly relentless 
Email leasing agents over and over if you want to view their listing or take next steps. Stand out. If you are applying to the owner directly, showing your real interest will bode well for you.

2) Create a dog resume with a picture
Did your eyes roll? Me too when I first heard that. But they're a thing and they help. We listed Chandler's training, a bit about his disposition and references with prior landlords to prove he is not a barker and is properly socialized.

3) Create a packet of information to give to a landlord if you want a place 
LinkedIn page, Credit Report, Financials, Pay Stub, etc. Have it all ready to go.

4) View Craigslist multiple times a day - over and over and over again. And over again after that. Set alerts. 
Google got in the habit of just suggesting "sfbay.craigslist.org" basically when I typed "s" into the bar. My internet home away from home for the last two months. Also - know what type of places are rent-controlled (information here) so you can view - and hopefully lease - one of those. If you're in a new building (like we are now), you are subjected to steep rent increases every single year.
5) Be ready to pounce.
If you see a unit that checks out for what you need - do not WAIT to apply. When we finally found the place we now got, we had about 20 minutes before their office closed to get them cash to begin our application processing. We did not want to miss out on being the first applicant vetted the next morning so we uber'ed all over the city from bank to their office to ensure they had that cash in hand just as their offices closed.

6) Use Better References
Don't use your friends, your sister, a childhood friend's mom. Use ones that hold more weight such as your current boss.

7) Don't get down! 
Easier said than done and I had some defeated moments after a few places we liked fell through. But, honestly, I think we landed at the place we're supposed to be at so I wonder if there was a reason for that. There's always more out there and new options will reveal themselves every day. Give yourself ample time for the hunt and you should be okay.
^Our soon-to-be neighborhood, the Marina

Needless to say - we are beyond stoked to have that all behind us now and to have found a place that will suit us for a good chunk of time (it's an older place too with a bay window! Just what I had hoped for + rent control. Hamada, hamada.). Good luck to anyone who has stumbled on this post while enduring the same housing journey. I'm with you in mental solidarity!

Now let the packing begin!
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10 comments:

SMD @ lifeaccordingtosteph said...

Finding a place to live is so stressful even WITHOUT all of these hoops. I'm so glad you found a place!

Kudos for your dog resume! At the shore, we accept pets. Obviously totally different as we only do weekly vacation rentals, but it was one of the things we hated when we were trying to find a vacation spot - there were hardly any that allowed us to bring our dogs. It makes me sad that people give up their pets to find housing.

Pat Hatt said...

That is one thing I'd like to smack people on. "Oh, have to give up our pets because we are moving to a non pet friendly place" when really they are just lazy sobs and won't do any digging to find another spot.

Wow, that much for a sh** hole? I thought my $1000 a month for a sh** hole was bad.

Your new spot sure looks great indeed.

Emily @ Beauty Blether said...

So happy you found a place because this sounds so exhausting and stressful!! And omg...I started to sweat a little when you started talking about the costs lol! xx

Ashley @ The Wandering Weekenders said...

Oh my goodness! That sounds like such an incredibly stressful thing to have to go through! You're looking for your next place to live, and it's being taken right out from underneath you is so scary! I'm so glad that y'all found a place, and I can't wait to see what it looks like!

Nadine Lynn said...

Your soon to be neighborhood looks really nice!!! I can't even imagine a rental environment like that! I lived in Atlanta for 13 years and worked in property management for six of them and it is just as much a renters market as it is a landlord market. I feel like it is on even playing fields and I cant fathom group showings and cash offers?! I am glad you guys finally found something that made you happy! I am sure it was exhausting!

Andrea Nine said...

Whew, now you can breathe and celebrate!!! The Marina!! LOVE it, has a nice sound to it for a neighborhood and I hope you will both be so happy there!!! Cheers!!

Amanda @ A.Co est. 1984 said...

oH. EM. GeE!!

So interesting to hear the costs and all this craziness that ensues for apartment renting in SF! WOW. I can't wait to see your new place though--YAY!!!! SO EXCITING!! Congrats and what an exciting move coming up!

julie @ jewelswandering.com said...

Fck yeah!! So happy you got a place you love!! I know what that rat race is all about... It's seriously stressful! I remember my first flat in London, the estate agent took us to a place that was just being redone and my flatmate and I had to envision what the place would look like - it was just a shell. We took it because we weren't going to get anything else with all those damn group viewing open house malarky. Argh!!

Can't wait to see pics of the new place!! YAY!!

MilitaryPugWife said...

I'm so happy for you! Your soon to be home looks so so lovely. I know your stoked. Can I come stay with you because the Stanley Kubrick exhibition is at the Jewish museum in SF and I need to see that. Lol! Just kidding! Or am I...
Again so so happy for you!! Xxoo

Kristen @ See You In A Porridge said...

OMG WHAT HOW DID I MISS THIS CONGRATS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!