SF on college student-ish money
April 6, 2009 3:10 PM   Subscribe

Where to live if I move to San Francisco?

I know theres a few threads on this already, but knowing nothing about SF, I thought I'd ask for more help :)

There is the suggestion of a possibility that my work will move me to SF, near 80 and 280. Downtown area, I suppose? If they do want me there, I have no idea where to live. Under $700 a month is my price range, most likely for a single bedroom or efficency.. I do have a car, but it's old and might not last much longer.

Bonus question! since I basically own very little, and am not attatched to what furniture I do have, would it be terribly insane to just sell it all and move to SF with what luggage I can fit on a plane? I can fit my table/bed/couch/the books into a single small uhaul, but I dunno if its worth it. What about hiring movers, is that an option?

posted by Jacen to Grab Bag (19 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Don't live downtown, move to The Avenues and you'll get a much nicer deal.
posted by Kirklander at 3:15 PM on April 6, 2009

"Under $700 a month is my price range"

*sharp intake of breath* Ooooo, sorry to say but finding a single or studio in that range ANYWHERE in the city is very difficult. In that area, which I believe is Mission Bay, it would be nearly impossible. You could maybe find a room with roommates for around that if you work craigslist mercilessly. But just as a reference: an ex of mine lives right in that area, lives in a four-bed-2-bath place with total strangers, and pays $1,000 a month.

Really, for cheaper living, I would consider living somewhere outside of the city and commuting in. If your work is located in that area, it would be very easy to take CalTrain from anywhere on the penninsula. You could also BART in from the East Bay.

But keep in mind that everywhere in the bay is pretty pricey, on average :/
posted by CTORourke at 3:20 PM on April 6, 2009

Yeah, at seven hundred clams you're really better off looking at the East Bay, preferably something near the BART.
posted by the dief at 3:25 PM on April 6, 2009

San Francisco is a great town to start fresh in since it has many great cheap thrift stores, and the craigslist "free" section is full of many things nicer than what I have at home right now. The money spent moving it is likely going to buy you nicer stuff when you get to town.

Where will you be working? If it's downtown, dump the car, get a MUNI bus FASTPASS and sign up for zipcar (car sharing).

If you want to be in the thick of things move downtown. If you are more laid back move to the avenues (or equiv). SF has lots of places you can crash for a couple months before you sign a long term lease. Check out places like hotwire or priceline for deals on week long hotel rooms, or some of the smaller hotels like the "Tropicana" in the mission, cheap nice places that don't require a long term lease.

$700 is not likely to get you much on your own in San Francisco (though it's possible)

Welcome to town!
posted by bottlebrushtree at 3:28 PM on April 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sorry to chime in, but I have good, renter savvy friends paying $800 for a studio in crack central (The tenderloin).

On the other hand, I live out in Oakland and pay significantly less for a huge place with no crackheads. It only takes me 20 minute to get to downtown SF.

But if you're deadset on it, just make sure you pay attention to public transportation. Your car is going to be more of an expense than an asset in SF proper.
posted by OrangeDrink at 3:32 PM on April 6, 2009

Bonus Answer!

Everything is more expensive in the bay area. From Top Ramen to dressers. You'd probably spend more on new/used furniture than moving itself. Even from Ikea. But this isn't really an answer we can give you, it's going to be up to you and your lifestyle.
posted by OrangeDrink at 3:47 PM on April 6, 2009

Confirming this $700 isn't going to go far on rent. Even a lot of roommate situations will be as much if not a lot more (I occasionally saw room share offerings for more than $2000! To *share* a house!). I just moved to a studio in western addition. It's $1200. Granted it's a bigger than normal studio with massively good light / windows, but it's still a studio. The cheapest I saw while looking were horrid looking places in the tenderloin for $800+. I saw some pretty awful places (incredibly tiny or dank, dark caves) for $1100+ in better neighborhoods.

As others have said, you'd probably be better looking in East Bay if your price is pretty firm .. or maybe parts of the Peninsula (though it can be just as expensive down there as in the city itself ...)
posted by R343L at 3:48 PM on April 6, 2009

I made a post in the blue about this site, and feel like I mention it in every "Where in SF should I live?" question in the green, but SFRentStats pulls listings from Criagslist, organizes them by neighborhood, and tells you how much the rent in that neighborhood has changed over X amount of time. Studios in the city will run more than $700/mo unless you want to live in a particularly bleh part of the Tenderloin (and you don't), or way, way out in the Avenues (i.e., the Outer Sunset, which is out by the beach. It is absolutely not without its charms, but it is, in this small city, Far Away). And, actually, skimming the studio listings for the Outer Sunset, they all seem to run around $1300 at least, and there aren't many of them.

If you want to live in the city and do so economically, live with housemates.

Nthing live in the city or the East Bay (near BART) and get rid of your car.
posted by rtha at 4:04 PM on April 6, 2009 [4 favorites]

"Under $700 a month is my price range, most likely for a single bedroom"

Uh, yeah. No. I think you're in need of a reality check here, because your $700 is pretty much worthless in the housing market in the Bay Area.

You might maybe get a room in a shared place for $700, but not a 1BR or 0BR place of your own. You could probably get a cardboard box from behind Safeway for $700.

I was paying $700 for a 1BR twelve years ago and I was getting the Deal of the Century back then; unless you have a time machine you're probably not going to do the same.

" would it be terribly insane to just sell it all and move to SF with what luggage I can fit on a plane?"

This is absolutely positively the smartest thing you can do. Don't waste time, money, and effort on moving your junk with you. Especially since if you really do plan on living in the City and not out in the suburbs somewhere, with your budget you are going to be living in a small closet. Don't bring a bunch of crap and then wind up having to pay money to store it when it won't fit.
posted by majick at 4:12 PM on April 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

"near 80 and 280" is more or less where the following neighborhoods intersect: The Mission, South of Market, Potrero Hill, and Mission Bay.

If you want to live close to where you are working ("near 80 and 280"), you should look in these neighborhoods.

Living in the East Bay might be feasible for you, but figure in at least $6 a day for round trip train fare - that's $120 a month (20 workdays) you could contribute to rent if you decided to walk to work instead.

And yes, with a budget of $700 you are really looking at roommate situations.
posted by gyusan at 4:15 PM on April 6, 2009

On the bright side, the market's definitely a lot weaker than it was a year ago, and the posted rents are probably more negotiable.
posted by alexei at 4:43 PM on April 6, 2009

If your work is moving you to SF (from Texas, your profile says) you should DEFINITELY try to get some sort of cost of living salary adjustment. You didn't say what kind of work it is, but I'd hope that any half-way decent employer would realize that SF is way way way more expensive.

Think of it this way, would you stay with your employer now if they announced a 40% pay cut next week?

As everyone above has already answered, $700 is not going to get you very far. $700 wouldn't get you that far in Philadelphia, maybe you could swing a 1-bedroom in West Philly / University City, and Philly's about 30-35% cheaper than SF.
posted by polexa at 4:47 PM on April 6, 2009

I just looked at a tiny, windowless studio with a not-level floor and a "loft" that was about a foot from the ceiling in the Tenderloin and it was $1050. I live in Oakland and I pay more than $700 for a studio near BART.

I had a friend once splitting a place in the city for $650 with 5 people (two of the bedrooms were big enough for a twin bed and that was pretty much it). She considered herself extremely lucky.
posted by bradbane at 5:30 PM on April 6, 2009

The rents in S.F. really have to be seen to be believed, especially coming from somewhere like Texas. It's a weird place, it has the potent concoction of being :

geographically boxed in by the ocean on 3 sides (very few new homes constructed)
Small (~750,000 residents)
Affluent (above average median incomes)
Rent control that encourages renters to sit

These push demand for unoccupied units up to pretty ludicrous levels.

Realistically to live on your own in a studio/1BR will probably cost at a minimum 1200/month. With roommates you can probably find something around 800/month in one of the less-popular areas. (with commeasurately less utility expenditure also)

The best thing about SF is you can absolutely get away without a car which saves quite a bit of money. If you do own a car I would strongly suggest not bringing it to SF. If you cannot get a parking space with your apartment you can look forward to paying ~350 a year for parking, or have fun circling for street parking for 1 hour everytime you give up a spot.

Neighborhoods to look at:
Sunset: Further away (on the west side of the city, near the Pacific). You can get downtown by taking the Muni trains without too much hassle. You can get bigger/nicer places out here for cheaper, but it's quieter/less interesting. Probably could get away with 800 for a share.
Mission: the corridor west of the 280. Very convenient to get downtown on BART. A lot of good food/bars/entertainment here. Places are probably 800-900 with roommates and smaller than what you would get for the same in the Sunset, but closer to City Stuff.
posted by spatula at 5:35 PM on April 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Bonus question first: Yes, sell it all. Between craigslist, freecycle, Urban Resources, and yard sales, you'll be able to put together a college-student level of furnishings much cheaper than it'll cost you to move your things here. But, your $700 will not get you a 1br or studio in San Francisco proper.

Your work is possibly going to move you to one of the most expensive cities in the US, and they do not intend to give you a cost-of-living adjustment to your salary?

Contrary to what a poster said above, prices are not going down in SF. See this relatively recent article, that points to data showing that San Francisco rents are climbing (not as much as they did in 2007/08, but climbing still).

Because of the way our rent control works, prices don't really go down here with the economy.... in the long run, it's often better for a landlord to leave a place vacant and wait for the economy to recover, than it is to rent to you at a discount and run the risk that you're still living there 12 years later, paying recession-era rents.
posted by toxic at 6:29 PM on April 6, 2009

Just chiming in on the SF rental market. I am living in the Inner Sunset (technically out in the Avenues, but just barely) and I pay 875 for my studio. I've been here for 5 years, and the rent only started going up (from 850) last year. My place is a ludicrously good deal. They're just renting out the 1BR behind me right now, and with a small parking space, the place is going for 1400. In the half hour window where they showed the place on Saturday, 2 dozen people showed up, easily.

If you really can only pay 700, you can't live in the city. Look to the east bay, hopefully near BART. Also, if you're at all inclined to ride a motorcycle, I know many many folks who commute from the east bay into the city on a bike.

Oh, and kind of tangential, but many (most) areas of San Francisco have absolutely terrible street parking. Too many cars, not enough parking places. Driving in SF really really sucks.
posted by mollymayhem at 8:17 PM on April 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yeah, you may want to have a a conversation with whoever is relocating you. Show them the part in the article linked above where it says "The city is definitely healthy compared with elsewhere; in fact it ranks No. 1 in the nation in M&M's National Apartment Index, an analysis of 43 metro markets. M&M predicts that 'effective' rents ... will rise 3.3 percent to $1,897 a month by year's end. It forecasts asking rents of $2,002 a month, up 3.5 percent." Take a look at all the previous threads about relocating to the Bay Area (keeping in mind that everything about the godawful rents is still true) and think about whether you REALLY MUST live IN San Francisco. Only a certain kind of person does; other people (like me) are happier elsewhere.
posted by wintersweet at 10:16 PM on April 6, 2009

Everything is more expensive in the bay area.

Except fresh produce, especially if you hit the farmer markets (not necessarily The Farmer's Market at Ferry Terminal).

If you don't want to hit the east bay, $700 could get you into a roommate situation in the Outer Sunset - the N-Judah (or a bike and strong legs) will get you downtown.
posted by mikepop at 5:49 AM on April 7, 2009

Former SF renter here:

- Everyone is absolutely right about $700 getting you goose egg. I was paying $650 for a one-bedroom...in 1996, and it was in poor repair and the landlord was both senile and psychotic. That same apartment is probably going for $1000 now. In SF proper, you will pay in the four figures for anything habitable.

- The East Bay is a better bet. Try the Temescal (aka "Lower Rockridge") section of Oakland, bounded approximately by 51st Street, 40th Street, Telegraph and Broadway. When I lived there, I could walk to two BART stations, several bus lines, my cats' vet, shopping, restaurants, bookstores, you name it. And I was paying $750 for a TWO bedroom.

- If you live in SF or the more urban parts of the East Bay (like Oakland) you will not need a car. I didn't need a car until I moved to deep suburbia.

- Craigslist is your friend, you can find everything from apartment listing to secondhand goods on it. Also, Freecycle.

- Take advantage of the bounty of great, fresh produce and dairy products grown and produced here. There are loads of farmer's markets, there's the Planet Organics delivery service, there's Trader Joe's (and I don't know how I ever lived without TJ's). The Bay Area makes up for its expensive housing in the abundance of decent secondhand goods and is THE best place for foodies to live (fresh produce, artisan cheeses, great restaurants).
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 4:12 PM on April 7, 2009

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