Moving to California from NYC: How... to do that.
February 10, 2014 1:35 PM   Subscribe

So I've just gotten a job in San Francisco and my GF and I will therefore be leaving New York and moving. I've never lived more than 125 miles from NYC before, so I need help with understanding the logistics here.

1. I assume that my best bet for finding an apartment is to do airbnb over there while looking for apartments. Yes/no? Looking at apartments before flying out is not an option.

2. I've thrown out, given away and sold the vast majority of my belongings, including all of the furniture. I am living out of a suitcase in a sublet until the actual move, but my most valuable possessions are in storage right now, specifically books, my computer and some clothes that my girlfriend will need for work out there. How do I get these things to my new apartment once I have one? Just... fedex all my shit? The computer is a desktop and therefore a tricky proposition. What do I do about that?

3. Without asking too much in one question, if there are logistical issues with moving to SF from NYC that I haven't thought of, please let me know. thanks, all.
posted by shmegegge to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (22 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Will your new employer provide relocation expenses?

With respect to question #1:

Will your new employer finance an apartment-hunting trip out there knowing that you will be accepting the job? If it's a large enough company, they may have another company contact you to arrange that.

(In one case where I relocated for a new job, the company flew me out, told me I had the job instantly at the end of the interview, and then changed my return flight and gave me a hotel for an extra day while I looked at a crapton of apartments that day. It was madness, particularly since I didn't know the area -- luckily I had a friend who lived there to give me some tips.)

With respect to question #2:

Hire a moving company like Allied or United, or if your budget's not that high, PODS or even U-Haul. Hopefully moving expenses will be provided by your new employer. If not, you'll be able to deduct them off of your income taxes. "FedEx all my shit" seems like a needlessly expensive proposition.

With respect to question #3:

The only gotcha I can really think of is if you have a car. Be sure and research CA DMV policies extensively before moving. I moved from NY to MA in 2000 after graduating college and having lived in NY my entire life up to that point. I was surprised by something called "excise tax" that no one told me about until I got a bill for it in the mail -- apparently many states charge property taxes on cars.
posted by tckma at 1:46 PM on February 10, 2014


I moved from NYC to LA and I would suggest you put some really serious thought into how valuable those books are. Depending on how many there are and if they're physically valuable books (first editions, out-of-print, etc.) hanging onto them may or may not be more of a burden than they're worth. Shipping a big box of easily-replaceable books is expensive (by courier) and/or potentially fraught with your books getting fucked up (by the USPS.)

If you plan to come back to NYC on a semi-regular basis and you have people willing to hold onto books for you -- "hey can you hold these few books on your shelf for me" is a lot less of an imposition than "hey can I leave a bunch of pairs of pants here?" -- you can slowly get them over there a few books at a time. Just make sure you know what is where.
posted by griphus at 1:47 PM on February 10, 2014

I moved from Tennessee to the SF Bay Area in 1995. We rented a Ryder, so didn't have the shipping issue.

For housing, I talked to my hiring manager and said "can you recommend a local realtor" and signed a 6 month lease on an apartment sight unseen. Gave us the time to land and look around, was fine. Generic apartment in a local condo development (this was the Point Richmond area).

What tckma said about checking on car registration prices. We ended up paying a bunch in first-time California registration fees to register our cars.
posted by straw at 1:53 PM on February 10, 2014

Can you just fly out with the desktop in a carry-on suitcase? Is there a reason your girlfriend's clothes can't come in a suitcase? (I can pack a whole five-drawer dresser full of clothes into a large suitcase, no problem. Obviously you have to pay to check it, but $50 is not bad in the grand scheme of things.)

It's hard to give a recommendation on the books without knowing how many of them there are and how valuable they are and what their current storage situation is. But I like griphus's idea.
posted by mskyle at 1:54 PM on February 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Books are cheap to ship; I shipped quite a few from DC to San Francisco when I moved here....and many of those boxes are still sitting in the attic. So, yeah, you can ship them Media Mail and it's not that costly, but do consider how many you actually need/want/aren't replaceable.

I did a combination of UPS, USPS, and a storage/moving company to ship things, though I was having them shipped to where I'd be living. But it's not unheard of for there to be storage/moving companies that will ship to [yournewcity] storage facility.

For finding a place in SF itself, it's all about craigslist here; we don't really have brokers. The market is very tight, so be prepared with glowing references and such.
posted by rtha at 1:56 PM on February 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

For the desktop, you could specify that it's fragile electronics and FedEx or UPS could ship the whole thing for you without too much issue. Just be sure to cover the case and monitor in bubble wrap, rather than rely strictly on packing peanuts.
posted by Smart Dalek at 2:16 PM on February 10, 2014

Oh yes, remember to forward your mail East, if you haven't already; the local office or your carrier should have a card to fill out.
posted by Smart Dalek at 2:20 PM on February 10, 2014

You can ship the books Media Rate with the postal service, if you MUST keep them. I recommend getting as many of them digitally as possible, another option is that SF has an amazing Library, so you could always request whatever you think you might want to re-read on inter-library loan.

As for the computer, can you save the files onto a cheap-o laptop? Unless you've got a Work Station, I can't think of one good reason to hang onto a desktop.

Now, where to find an apartment? It's as hard in SF as it is in NY. Start with Craigslist for a sublet, or AirBnB (although SF is cracking down on this, they want their hospitality taxes.)

Now, network like CRAZY to find a place. This article was pretty on-target about what the neighborhoods are like.

For Value-for-Money, I like the Richmond and Sunset. My sister had a cute 3 bedroom flat there. It's a more sedate neighborhood, but you can get to the financial district on the MUNI easy enough. It's colder and foggier in that part of the world, it's on the ocean side of the city.

There are a bazillion amazing places to rent in San Francisco, look at everything with an open mind.

Living in San Francisco is like nothing else. Enjoy your new home~!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:32 PM on February 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Be aware that if you're looking for an apartment in San Francisco, especially in popular neighborhoods, be prepared to pay Manhattan-like prices and go to many open houses with crowds of people. You're competing with people who will bid over the asking price for an apartment and pay six months in advance.

You don't really pay someone (a broker?) to find a place for you here like you do in NYC. Maybe you could find that service, but it's not common.

So yes, find something temporary while you look for a place, and don't expect to find an apartment quickly if you're looking in the City. If you're looking anywhere else in the Bay Area, you won't have nearly as many problems finding a place and it will be less expensive. You can look at Craigslist to see what's "available."

You need a car. Bay Area transit is not NYC transit. You can get by without a car in much of San Francisco and small parts of Oakland and Berkeley, but you're almost certainly going to need one anyway.
posted by cnc at 2:37 PM on February 10, 2014

What SmartDalek said about forwarding your mail -- you can even do that online without ever visiting the Post Office. But I wouldn't worry too much about that until you've actually found a place.
posted by tckma at 2:49 PM on February 10, 2014

Figure out how you're getting to work. If there is excess/easy free parking there (unlikely if in San Francisco), and you get an apt with parking, then driving to work might be an attractive option, but otherwise parking could add $30 per day to your bills, and you could have a lot of fun with that kind of money if it wasn't going towards parking.
(If you drive, get an apt with parking, else depending on where you are you could be adding 30 minutes or more to your home commute, as you search for parking further and further afield, then walk home.)

Walking/cycling is an option, but you'd want to be living within a few miles, which depending on where the workplace is, might require a large rent for a crappy apartment.

BART/public transport - cheap travel, but you'll want to find an apt near a transport corridor. (Though this can be fairly far afield - lots of options. If you're that far afield, you probably want a car too, for recreation and errands, not for commuting)
posted by anonymisc at 3:03 PM on February 10, 2014

The major question here is whether you are relocating for a job, and if it's the kind of job that will cover any of your moving expenses.

If so, I would hire movers to truck your stuff cross-country. And, yes AirBnB or maybe some kind of sublet until you find a permanent apartment. You could probably have the movers move you into a storage unit, or just don't schedule your stuff to arrive until you're certain you'll have a place to put it all.

If you're doing this all on the cheap, memail me -- I did this and have a ton of strategies. But they're sort of unconventional and seat-of-pants and complicated, and maybe not applicable to your situation.

Re the car question -- some friends of mine moved from NYC to SF and ended up buying a car. However, they were able to share a car between the two of them (a couple), and didn't put nearly the kinds of miles on it that someone outside a major walkable type city would. San Francisco is somewhat of a special case in that regard. But having access to the car made life a lot easier.

Ship your books media mail unless they will fit into the moving van. (Assuming there will be a moving van, I would probably limit yourself to only the books that will fit in the van. But it's actually quite cheap to ship books cross-country.)

My NYC friends who moved to SF found the housing market there very similar to NYC, in terms of prices and having to fight it out to get a place with long waiting lists and lots of applications turned in.
posted by Sara C. at 4:09 PM on February 10, 2014

You need a car. Bay Area transit is not NYC transit

I humbly disagree. You don't need a car. A car would be expensive and a nusance. Ask me about my many, many, many parking tickets.

If you live in the city and work in the city, if you're on a bus route, or muni route, you'll be fine.

Another option would be Daly City. Or really far south, out by SFSU, accessible by the N Judah Muni. Again, cold and foggy, but an okay neighborhood. and decent for temporary digs until the place of your dreams is available.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:41 PM on February 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I lived in San Francisco for nine years without a car, in a bunch of different neighborhoods, so it's totally doable. Especially with the car sharing opportunities that I didn't have back in my day. (Shakes cane at kids on lawn.)

The key, however, is being very clear about where your job is located and optimizing your apartment search for accessibility to your job. And limiting yourself to San Francisco proper will needlessly close out some good options. (Example: I moved from Cole Valley to Berkeley, and my commute got a lot shorter and much more reliable.)
posted by ambrosia at 5:19 PM on February 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

(whoops, to clarify: I was working in the Financial district at the time.) Way better to come in from the East Bay than the outlying neighborhoods of SF (and I don't really consider Cole Valley to be that much outlying, it's just not close to the Financial district.)
posted by ambrosia at 5:42 PM on February 10, 2014

I pulled together a bunch of resources that I found around the green and posted them here. You may find some other useful goodies in that thread as well.
posted by milqman at 6:33 PM on February 10, 2014

You can live and work in SF without a car. You will pay more for rent and other basics of living, but you won't have to pay to park or insure or fill up a car (and the various car-share places are pretty well-distributed throughout the city).

If you want to spend less on housing, you can move down the peninsula or across the Bay, where housing is cheaper but your commute is probably going to be more expensive (possibly but not necessarily longer: it takes me less time to get to downtown SF from my Oakland neighborhood than it does some people who live in the Sunset, because I can take the Transbay express bus). If you live in the East Bay or the peninsula, unless you're on a BART line, you might want a car for errands and so forth, because those areas are rather less densely developed than SF. That said, I know people who live in the East Bay and mostly get around by bike, so it can be done.

As others have said, public transit in the Bay Area isn't like NYC. It's more restricted in geographic distribution, more inconvenient, and doesn't run all night.

On the other hand, if you move to SF from NYC, you won't need a snow shovel anymore. And what you'll give up in classic NY-style pizza, you make up for in California cuisine...
posted by suelac at 9:34 PM on February 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

In the city of SF, any multi-unit building built before 1979 is subject to rent control. What rent control means here is that once you take a place (at current market rate) your landlord can only raise the rent 1-3% per year, which means that it's much more cost effective in the long run to live in an older building. For those without rent control in newer buildings rent can be raised at any time with 60 days notice, and in the past several years rents have been skyrocketing. Here is a good guide to the prices in different neighborhoods and the rate of increase.
posted by cali at 10:05 PM on February 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hi, I have done similarly far moves multiple times, including recently.

Take apart your desktop and wrap each component in antistatic bubblewrap and then re-build in California. I just did this. I bought a new power supply and case here because those weren't worth shipping. I'll let you know how it goes when I re-build tomorrow, but I imagine it's going to be completely fine.

I also once shipped my desktop whole and had UPS package it so it was insured. It mostly worked, but the CPU heatsink got loose and I didn't notice right away so I do wonder if it damaged it somehow. I was having weird issues with my wireless internet, but LAN ran fine. I considered cashing in on my insurance claim and got to the final stage, but I couldn't identify anything specifically wrong with my computer that I was sure got messed up and thought maybe it was in my head. Maybe if you ship the PC whole and in tact, stuff it with a lot of antistatic bubble wrap so the components inside don't bounce around.

Clothes I would bring on the plane. You may have to pay extra for baggage, but it will be instant and shipping is not totally cheap anyway. I also consider clothes to be irreplaceable because I've spent years finding and picking clothes I like, so I liked the idea of having them with me. You can use those space-saver bags you suction with a vaccum and fit a lot of clothes into your luggage. I brought my entire wardrobe, plus some electronics and appliances. I paid $300 in baggage fees, but I didn't spread the weight out evenly and half of that cost I could've avoided had I planned more carefully.

I think you could just stay in a hotel while you apartment hunt. But you'll want to logistically think about getting around to be efficient in your apartment hunt, and also in buying shit you'll need for the apartment. So I imagine you're going to want a car. Even if you decide you don't need a car to live in San Francisco, there's a good chance you will want one during the apartment hunt and/or moving into a new apartment.
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:38 AM on February 11, 2014

you'll give up in classic NY-style pizza

This was true in decades past, but now, there's Escape From New York.
posted by Rash at 10:10 AM on February 11, 2014

Eh, Escape from New York has some decent pizza but it's not a real New York slice. For that you want Arinell.
posted by cali at 8:08 PM on February 11, 2014

Other than the computer and any other electronics, which you are not supposed to ship on Amtrak, I highly recommend Amtrak shipping. Cheap cheap cheap. You'll have to get to Oakland, I think, to pick it up, though.
posted by freezer cake at 11:40 AM on February 12, 2014

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