Moving to San Francisco in June, how soon should we look for an apartment?
March 14, 2011 4:15 PM   Subscribe

Moving to San Francisco for work in June, when should we look for an apartment? We can fly down for a weekend in April or May, or we can look once we get there and stay at a hotel/hostel in the meantime. What's going to be the best way to find a good place? We want to live in the city.
posted by chriswarren to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think SF is any different then anywhere else. You can pretty much get an apartment at any time.

If you have the choice of living in the city for a bit (maybe a sublet?) before signing a lease, I'd probably go that route. SF is a city of neighborhoods, each of which offer different things for different people. Getting an opportunity to explore for a while before having to choose would likely be your best plan.
posted by bitdamaged at 4:30 PM on March 14, 2011

Craigslist is your best bet. Research, research, research before you get there. Figure out the neighborhoods you're interested in by reading descriptions of them and talking to people you know in the area. It will be tiring but you'll have a good idea what you want and what you can reasonably get for your price range when you get there.

My girlfriend and I found our apartment in one weekend -- it was a marathon weekend where we saw 30 places, but it was still only one weekend.
posted by kdar at 4:33 PM on March 14, 2011

Craigslist google mashup just in case you didn't know about it.
posted by notned at 4:34 PM on March 14, 2011

Response by poster: I've been using PadMapper to find places, which also gets listings from Craigslist and a few other sources. I definitely want to see them before we sign on to anything, though.

A sublet may be a good way to go, if we can find something. The other thing we need to consider is where we'll keep the few things we're moving in the interim.
posted by chriswarren at 4:37 PM on March 14, 2011

Best answer: Typically the lead-time for a lease in San Francisco are very short. Sometimes there's only a week or two from the time where you sign a lease until when your occupancy begins. you can sometimes negotiate to put off the occupancy for a few weeks but usually they want you in there as soon as possible. I know in a lot of other cities they sign leases with longer lead times where you're not expected to move in for a month or more but that is not typical here.

I'd come out in May and expect to do a good long weekend of hunting. If you came in April, it would be to do re-con only as I don't think you'd find a place in April that would be willing to wait until June to have you start the lease. Unless you don't mind paying for time you're not actually living in the place.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 4:38 PM on March 14, 2011

N'thing short lead times. You pretty much have to take it the same month you look unless it's a sublet deal, and I've generally found more places towards the end of the month ready to show than at the beginning, but YMMV. And yes, Craigslist. For the love of the FSM, stay away from CitiApartments. Not only are their units grossly overpriced, but they're crappy landlords (I have many friends who have tangled with them).

It also depends on how tight your budget is. Obv. the more money you have, the easier it will be to find a place. Finding a place that isn't a dump without roommates for under $1100-1200/mo can be a little tricky if you're picky about the neighborhood. My first SF apartment (which I was pretty picky about) took me a few months to find at my low, low price point, but my second apartment I found in less than a week. It's kind of a crap shoot, sadly. You'll probably have a better chance at getting something on the cheaper side in June when some of the college students have gone away.

Good luck & welcome to The City! SF is awesome.
posted by smirkette at 5:12 PM on March 14, 2011

Everyone I know here has told me lead times are short. I was looking for a place for August 1, 2010; I flew out the second weekend in July to find a place ahead of time. As it turned out, between when I booked the ticket and that second weekend of July, a friend of mine turned out to have a room available and I just took it. I'm guessing that won't happen to you, though.

It was kind of unnerving, because I'd been living in student-heavy neighborhoods of Philadelphia, which have ridiculously long lead times.

Also, there are plenty of metafilter questions on "where should I live in SF", which you should read.
posted by madcaptenor at 5:25 PM on March 14, 2011

I wanted to mention the short lead times, but it seems it has been thoroughly covered. Just to emphasize: I signed the lease for my current apartment two days before I had to be out of the place I was at. Fun? Not really--it is definitely nerve wracking moving around in this city.

If you make any sort of Grown-up Money and are comfortable paying pro-rated rent on an apartment you aren't going to move in to for a week or two you shouldn't have too much trouble finding a spot at the drop of a hat--just be prepared to camp out on Craigslist for hours at a time, emailing everyone whose listing strikes your fancy. A lot of the more professional agencies will be first-come first-serve amongst all eligible prospective tenants. I missed out on many cool places because I was the second person to check it out, not the first.

Also, I'm not sure how subletting works in other cities, but in my experience here a person subletting is expected to have either their stuff gone or significantly minimized when they leave. If you end up subletting before you find your own place you ought to have room for all of your stuff...
posted by hototogisu at 6:06 PM on March 14, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the input all! I think we'll probably go a week or two before June for a weekend to see what we can find.
posted by chriswarren at 5:44 AM on March 15, 2011

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