Moving cross-country and clueless about housing.
March 26, 2013 4:13 PM   Subscribe

In May I will be moving to the Bay Area for work. Where should I live? How should I look for a place?

Some details:
  • I am set to start work in May.
  • I will not have a car, at least at first.
  • My employer is a short walk away from the Palo Alto Caltrain station.
  • I will not have an opportunity to fly to California to scout out living quarters, but my employer offers some resources as part of a relocation assistance program.
I've always lived with roommates, but a studio (or something) to myself would be preferred. I would strongly prefer to live within biking distance of work, but I realize that Palo Alto very likely doesn't have a lot of available housing, and pretty much all of it is extortionately priced. Then again, I will be paid an entry-level Silicon Valley salary, which is far more than I've ever made (but still, relatively low for the area).

Where and how should I look for housing?

It would be a pretty neat coincidence if you (or a friend) live in the area and are looking for housemates. I bite gently!
posted by Nomyte to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Craigslist is really where it's at out here.

Does your employer have some sort of (online) bulletin board for employees where info like this might be available?
posted by rtha at 5:07 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

And I forgot: there are sites that scrape Craigslist listings and map them, so you can look at things that way, but I'm not familiar with who does that best these days. Someone who is will likely be along shortly.
posted by rtha at 5:08 PM on March 26, 2013

Consider subletting a room for a month. Craigslist has a decent map view now but is also useful.
posted by rq at 5:39 PM on March 26, 2013

When my husband and I moved two states away we looked for apartment complexes and management companies. We then did research online using Apartment Ratings. (For us anything better than a 50% is generally good as most people only write reviews when they have a problem. Other times some "problems" are really no big deal.) You can also look up what is close by with Walk Score since you want to walk/bike/bus.

For us we were able to have my aunt check out the place and put the deposit down so we moved in the day we got here. You may want to look into long-stay hotels so you have a place to stay and cook if you can't get into a place right away or want to check out a few places - especially if you want to see if you click with roommates.

You probably also want to narrow down to the best places, especially if they have application fees. Definitely call and see what they have available, since they may have more apartments or openings in the future that aren't listed online. You can also ask them what their application fee is, how to sign your lease, or send them paperwork. With my apartment we could mail, email, or fax our application paperwork.

Craigslist can be good, but can also have scammers. Again try to see if the place listed on Craigslist has their own website and apartment scores.

Good luck!
posted by Crystalinne at 5:40 PM on March 26, 2013

There are lots of month-to-month and room-for-rent deals on Craigslist where you can live while settling in and looking for your ideal apartment. One weird thing I noticed when I recently moved to the Bay Area, a lot of the room ads on Craigslist had rules like no/light cooking, no overnight guests, generally don't make it known that you live here. Also, the spam/scam ads usually had super low and specific (not round number) prices and all their text was in a picture. By the way, you can bring your bike on Caltrain.
posted by domnit at 6:55 PM on March 26, 2013

Well, I tried.
posted by Nomyte at 8:03 AM on March 27, 2013

You tried what?
posted by rtha at 9:22 AM on March 27, 2013

I'm making other inquiries, obviously, but I was sort of hoping that Meta would be some sort of turn-key solution.
posted by Nomyte at 3:21 PM on March 27, 2013

Well, that's not really what it's for, though, you know? If you wanted know about the neighborhood around Z Street and X Ave, someone could probably tell you that, or if [blah] is noisy because it's close to student housing, or if it would be better to get a place near Foo and take the bus to work, or near Bar and take the train and walk, people can do that. It's true that someone could still drop you a memail saying they're subletting their place in Palo Alto and would you be interested, but that's not a thing you can count on (or really even exclusively ask for) on the green.
posted by rtha at 3:38 PM on March 27, 2013

Oh, I don't know, here's a similarly unspecific question about a cross-country move in exactly the opposite direction, and it got plenty of useful feedback.
posted by Nomyte at 3:44 PM on March 27, 2013

Actually, that's quite a specific question, and includes more information than yours does: upper limit for rent, neighborhoods the OP is looking at, needs and desires wrt to closeness of shopping/coffee/etc. Palo Alto's not LA-huge, but it is sprawly. Perhaps if you can be more specific (e.g., office is near [intersection]; walking distance to [things] is important; can't stand to be near [other things]), people might have more specific advice. It's harder to answer some of the questions here where the OP is all "I'm going to [place] tomorrow! What cool things should I do?" than it is to answer "I'm going to [place], and would like recs for quiet bars with free wifi near [intersection], can anyone help?"

I wish I could offer you more specific advice - I work down here on the Peninsula, but I go into PA proper maybe four times a year, so...I'm useless in that respect. Other people might not be.
posted by rtha at 3:56 PM on March 27, 2013

Given how small PA is compared to Baltimore, I think that this is one of those things where setting too many criteria just leads to zero results. (Possibly relevant: the commenters in the Baltimore question basically named every white middle-class neighborhood in Baltimore.)

I did say that my office is right next to the PA Caltrain station, which is on Alma and University.

I also did state that something within biking distance is preferred. Unlike Baltimore, Palo Alto doesn't have neighborhoods, because it's a fraction of that size. I suppose I could also have suggested nearer parts of Menlo Park, but that's also covered by "biking distance of Caltrain stop."

Nearness to basic amenities is implied by the fact that I will not have a car. I suppose someone could have posted that there was more rental housing that was a better value for the money near some other Caltrain stop.

A price guideline is implied by my entry-level tech salary. It suggests that I'm not looking for a luxury condo, but do want something a little better than being someone's basement sub-sub-leaser.

Post mortem, I think this was just a case where there wasn't a critical mass of informed Mefites present at the right moment.
posted by Nomyte at 4:22 PM on March 27, 2013

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