The Great San Francisco Apartment Hunt

4 min read

I’m relocating from Los Angeles to San Francisco imminently. Bye, Los Angeles. It’s been…well, I’ll save the “sentiments” for another post.

This past weekend I flew up to the Bay to scout apartments, hoping to find a place before I officially move up. What a freaking mess it is up there! It’s not apartment hunting, it’s a cattle battle and the winner gets a drastically overpriced apartment fit for an oompa loompa and oompa loompa-sized furniture.

FInding an apartment in San Francisco is sometimes harder than finding a job! | Read more on The Girl Next Door is Black from "The Great San Francisco Apartment Hunt"

photo by idleformat on flickr.com

Here’s how it works:

  1. You check Craigslist maniacally – because Craigslist is really the only way to find a place – looking for a listing that fits your criteria: clean, pet-friendly, not in crackhead row, no gross carpet from the ’60s because you’re a hardwood floor snob and large enough for the harem of men you plan to acquire
  2. Many landlords and rental agents hold open houses. Silly me, I thought open houses were for HOUSES. As in, I’m ballin’ and I’m going to buy property in one of the most expensive-ass cities in the world. Nope. Open house is where you and 20 other desperate mofos pile into a clown-car apartment and compete to see who gets to stay for good
  3. If there isn’t an open house scheduled, you email the decider about your interest and hope for a response. When you don’t get a reply after 10 different emails, you begin to wonder if you’d have better success if you said your name is Sally instead of Keisha. Then you think to yourself, “Don’t go there. They are probably just REALLY busy.” Right, that’s it.
  4. Landlords in SF have it easy. A Craigslist listing might read: “This 400sq ft. studio is on the bottom level of a decaying building. The unit gets no light so if you have SAD this isn’t for you because you’ll be more sad. Hope you like insects. Roaches live here too. They have a basketball league. There’s a murder every other day in the neighborhood, but not directly in front of the building. This charming place is a steal at $3250 per month! Open house scheduled from 11 – 11:06am on Saturday morning SHARP. Bring your pay stubs from the past 10 years, a credit report from 10 different agencies, your dental records, 4x the monthly rent for a deposit and the name of your first-born child whom you haven’t given birth to yet. Oh and you’re desperate so bring your own damned rental application. We ain’t got time to be printing out sheets of paper.” You read it and think, “This is great! It doesn’t say anything about mice or rats. That’s my deal breaker!”
  5. If you apply (often along with an application fee of at least $25), you then wait on pins and needles with hope that you’ll get a callback. It’s worse than waiting for a guy you like to call you. Instead of: “Why hasn’t he callllllled meeee? I thought we had a connectiiiiooooon?” It’s “Why haven’t they called meeeee?! I thought we had a connectiiiioooonnn? I don’t want to live in crackhead roooooooow!”

The first apartment I visited was in the Marina, apparently otherwise known as the neighborhood where former frat boys and sorority girls go to live out their fratty / sorory post-collegiate life. Not my preference in neighbors as I can imagine it just means having to hear the 2012 version of the Dave Mathews Band, Gnarls Barkley or Gotye played on repeat until I want to kill every member of said band.

When I arrived at the building, no one else was there and I thought, “Yes! I am first. I will meet the landlord, charm the pants off him (and maybe add him to my harem if I like what I see) and I will get this bitch!” That is until an attractive young couple showed up. I resisted the urge to mean mug them. I’m generally a nice person, but when presented with a competition, my baser instincts kick in.

“Is this the open house?” the girl asked me. I’m thinking, “Bitch, do you really think I want to help you out?! This ain’t friendly neighbor time. I’m about to cut you for this place I haven’t even seen yet!”  Instead I said crisply, “Yes.”

Then another young woman and her mother showed up. Motherf… Finally, the landlord arrived, all smiles, because what does he have to worry about? He’s in the power position.

Inside, the apartment is small, but it receives lots of light. The hardwood floors are newer, and although the kitchen is practically on top of the living room, the countertops are granite and it’s in a clean, quiet neighborhood. I decided to apply.

I chatted with the landlord for a bit as he grilled me about my qualifications, “Where are you working? What do you do? Why are you moving from Los Angeles? Is your cat neutered?” During our conversation, another competitor showed up. This time a young woman with whimsy that I immediately found a turn off because I could tell she was there to kiss ass.

And kiss ass she did: “Oh, hello Jonathan. I’m Kelly. We spoke on the phone. I love this, ohmigod. I’m going to apply. I have a dog. Do you want to meet him? He’s outside. He’s so cute. You’ll love him! He does tricks!” Girl, stop. I see right through you and your dog is not that cute. Not cuter than my cat! I turned in my application and left.

I’d seen one place and was already exhausted and feeling dejected by the process. But, I’d made a goal to see at least six apartments that weekend and had at least four other open houses to attend. Well, that plan didn’t work out so well.

My POS phone died. Without Google Maps, I didn’t know where the hell I was going. So, I had to make a trip to my hotel to charge it meaning I had to miss an open house. But, it’s okay; I’m pretty sure it was smack in the middle of Homicideville. The price was way too good and the listing used “charming” to describe the unit one too many times. I told myself to buck up. People do find homes here and there’s no reason I shouldn’t be one of them. I later drowned my worries in a few pints.

That weekend I saw apartments in the Marina, The Mission and Noe Valley
and I applied for all three. I didn’t even bother to step inside one in the Civic Center, the street just looked like one of death’s hangouts.

The last one in The Mission was perfect, but the agent said the owner would prefer no pets. I told him, “Ah yes, but my cats are really sweet and very well-trained.” He looked skeptical. I blame irresponsible pet owners for the bad reputation cats and dogs get. Some of us do have well-behaved animals that don’t rip places to shreds.

I don’t have high hopes for that one, as beautiful as it was.

Finding an apartment in San Francisco is almost as difficult as finding a job! | Read more on The Girl Next Door is Black from "The Great San Francisco Apartment Hunt"

Look how cute we are! We make great tenants!

It’s Monday and I haven’t heard a peep from the owners of the apartments I liked. I even pestered followed up with one via email to see if he’d made a decision yet. No reply. I have a lot of packing to do and I hope I don’t have to fly up again this weekend to apartment hunt.

I don’t want to live in the East Bay. I am moving to San Francisco to have a short commute and experience the joys of walking instead of watching my ass spread as I spend hours driving in my car – among other reasons for the move. I definitely do not want to live in the South Bay. I’ve been there, done that and hated it. If I don’t find something before d-day, the kitties and I will either be on the street, secretly living under my desk at the new job or living in $4000/month temporary housing. Joy! Say a little prayer for me.

Update: Read The Great San Francisco Apartment Hunt Continued

10 Comments
  • eabichu
    October 13, 2012

    oh haha just wrote an article about house hunting in SF! it really is a thing that no one can fully understand before moving there

    • thegirlnextdoorisblack
      October 14, 2012

      Oh, haha, if it’s anything like apartment hunting I can only imagine how crazy it is. I’ll check out the post. 🙂

  • Heidi
    October 9, 2012

    Not sure if it helps or is possible, but I always offer an additional pet deposit for my cats. They like having more money down and it shows that you’re confident your cats won’t mess up the place. London landlords hate pets but this has gotten me far everytime. Most of the times I don’t even have to put the extra deposit in, it just tells them I’m confident that my pets are as responsible as I say they are.

    • thegirlnextdoorisblack
      October 9, 2012

      Thankfully, there are a lot of places that accept pets. I think it’s more pet-friendly in SF than L.A. I’ve already seen so many dogs!

  • The Wanderlust Gene
    October 1, 2012

    Good luck! From what I’ve seen of it at a distance, renting seems to be the same cat fight everywhere in the world these days … Now, about you and your kitties, under the desk won’t do! 🙂

  • bluepearlgirl's world
    October 1, 2012

    Girl. You are made for this town with a snarky attitude like that! I really hope you find an appt.! It is a NIGHTMARE here for rentals! You may want to think (just think) about looking for a room in the city (share an apt.) From the 14 times in the last 18 years of moving within SF, I have found that you usually get more bang for the buck renting from a house that has others. You also meet cool and interesting people living with new roommates (and they can help you get your bearings until you know this town inside and out). It is usually month to month so, you could wait out this overpriced, over sought market until you get closer to what you should get (in tokyo!?) for your money. Good luck! You will unfortunately need it!

  • bluepearlgirl's world
    October 1, 2012

    Reblogged this on bluepearlgirl's world and commented:
    This is really funny and so true. I think this young lady will do quite well in SF! She already has the quick wit needed to survive this town!

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