Tips for a First-time Renter in San Francisco

One of the most competitive places in America to look for an apartment, San Francisco presents renters with some unique challenges. If you want a true shot at getting a place you’ll like, these tips for a first-time renter in San Francisco will help you get started on something of an even footing.

The first thing to bear in mind is San Francisco is very expensive. If you’re pulling in huge bucks, you’ll find a pretty cool place in a great location. If you’re pulling in middle-level bucks, you’ll do well to find someone in a similar situation with whom you can share a place as roommates. If you’re really lucky, you’ll find a roommate who already lives in one of San Francisco’s rent-controlled apartments.

The City has a wide variety of neighborhoods, each with its own character, so it helps to have a good idea of what’s important to you in terms of amenities to have close at hand. With that said, what you love and what you can afford are likely to be two very different things. Prepare yourself psychologically to live in a smaller place than you might have expected. Think of it as a three-side matrix of cost, setting and quality. Generally speaking, you’ll get two of the three, but not all three. If the cost is low and quality is high, you’ll find yourself in a less than ideal location. If location is prime and quality is high, cost will be too.

By and large, the summer months are the busiest time of the year for people seeking apartments. If you have a choice, conduct your search during the rainy winter months when activity slows a bit and competition drops off—somewhat.

Most people tend to favor Craigslist when searching for an apartment and with good reason, the company started in San Francisco. However, an often-overlooked source of San Francisco rentals is property management companies like Onerent. They have all of their client’s listings in one place. This can save you lots of time and running around. They can also help you with the application process.

When you go see a place, keep in mind, you’re likely to be one of many people the landlord will meet. (Yes, it really is that competitive.) Further, if you’re going to an open house, you’re probably already too late. In such a cutthroat environment, the one who shows up first, with all of the right qualifications, usually gets the place.

This is why you want to get out ahead of the crowd. Establish RSS feeds with all relevant apartment-listing platforms to make sure you’re notified of new vacancies as soon as they’re listed. When you find something appealing, call to set up an appointment to see it right away; making sure everything about you says, “I’m responsible and ready to go,” when you show up.

In other words, treat the situation just as you would a job interview. Dress professionally, always be courteous and bring your pre-assembled renter’s resume containing all the information a landlord is likely to need to consider you for the place. Make sure it includes a recent pay statement, a completed application, a full credit/background report, a copy of your ID, and the financial instrument you will use to pay your deposit. Depending on your landlord, they may also state in the lease that you must get renters insurance. If a renter’s insurance policy isn’t stated as a requirement in the lease, it’s your call whether you get it or not (pro-tip: you still should).

It helps to also understand the advertising shorthand so you don’t waste time looking at apartments that won’t work. For example, “cozy” is a euphemism for tiny. Over time, you’ll learn to read between the lines, Perhaps the most important among these tips for a first-time renter in San Francisco is to avoid being discouraged. If you’re proactive, patient and persistent, you will find something that works.


Categories: Real Estate

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April 13, 2017 Tips for a First-time Renter in San Francisco