When to look for housing in SF
June 11, 2015 1:49 AM   Subscribe

Please tell me the latest possible date I should fly into San Francisco to look for housing, with a work start date of August 10th. More specifics within.

I'm looking to live with two friends, both of whom will already be in the city in late July. I'd love to fly in as late as I possibly can, but I worry I'll need to be physically present to sign the lease. In your experience, is that the case? Finally, are there any advantages to looking for a lease with a September start date and all of us just living in temporary housing until then?
posted by estlin to Grab Bag (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't know if you've paid attention to the rental market in San Francisco lately, but the rental market is insane.

Applications for desireable/good location apartments open and close on the same showing day, usually within a few hours, because there's already a huge line out the door of people flowing out the door with their first month's rent, security deposit, application fee, photo id, clean credit report, all prepared and of all signees already there.

If you trust your friends to look for an apartment, there's potentially a situation where you could sign remotely, and thus having you fly in late - but this depends on the landlord, and don't be surprised if a landlord prefers to rent to a group they can meet entirely person. They should start looking immediately for an apartment and also have all of your information (copy of photo id, application filled out and ready to go, credit report, deposit) all ready to go the second they walk in and say yes this is the apartment we'd like.

If any of you have less than perfect credit or potentially weird renter characteristics, plan for additional search time.

There's no real advantage or disadvantage to a particular start date for a lease agreement, but note that in most situations you're likely looking for an apartment with a rental start date of the next month. Make sure you have adequate temporary housing to prepare for any extended search times.
posted by Karaage at 4:43 AM on June 11, 2015 [5 favorites]

Also a lot of apartments are for either immediate or within 1-2 week move-ins. The biggest thing that surprised me about the SF rental market (both apartments and shares) was how last-minute it all seemed to be happening, which also means that with most leases starting on the 1st of the month, the majority weren't listed until the 15th or later.
posted by polexa at 5:52 AM on June 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

Might be worth differentiating that the market for apartments that are eligible for rent control (built before 1979) is insane. You may have better luck with newer buildings, especially market rate apartments in high rises built near the mid-market area in the past few years.
posted by Captain Chesapeake at 5:58 AM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

You may find my previous question interesting, along with this one.
posted by Aizkolari at 6:49 AM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

The biggest thing that surprised me about the SF rental market (both apartments and shares) was how last-minute it all seemed to be happening, which also means that with most leases starting on the 1st of the month, the majority weren't listed until the 15th or later.

My wife and I have just settled in the East Bay (from Long Beach), and yeah, this. There'd be a listing for an open house for a place in one of our preferred neighborhoods from, say, 2-4 on a Thursday afternoon, and the listing would be gone by Thursday night.

We tried to do the search long distance from the LBC, flying up weekends, but we were just too far away to catch the available listings in time. We changed our strategy and grabbed a two-month vacation rental in Napa (near my wife's new job), and from there we were close enough to act fast to hit open houses. We also put together the packet Karaage describes (money, credit report, standard app filled out, and a brief bio for each of us (and also one for our dog, who complicated our search somewhat)), to be ready to pounce, and to demonstrate good tenant behavior.

To find listings we trawled Craigslist and Walkscore, mostly. The place we're in now was repped by an agent (the landlord has never rented before), and the agent also offers concierge services to those looking. If we hadn't lucked into this place, we absolutely would have sought out a concierge.

Good luck.
posted by notyou at 7:47 AM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

I recently asked a similar question. We actually found a place this past weekend. Most of the apartments being rented out by smaller-time landlords were available immediately. The bigger corporate places had a mix of immediate availability and stuff that was available in almost exactly a month. If you're renting from a bigger/newer place, your friends can probably take care of the in person stuff, with you applying online. But if you're applying to an individual landlord, they may frown on you not being physically there, even if your friends have a copy of your info. They have enough applicants that they can afford to be very picky and demanding.

Oh and nthing the suggestion that you bring a completed application to any open house you go to. Expect to give it to the landlord right away and look at the apartment after.

Good luck!
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 8:26 AM on June 11, 2015

Start looking now to get a feel for it, but I think the real game starts at the beginning of the month prior to moving in.

I showed up to open houses wearing a suit, with packets of paperwork including a rssume, a business card, my job contract, and a copy of a my credit report.

That seemed to work.
posted by jander03 at 8:34 AM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

To add even more emphasis to the importance of being prepared with you and your friends' application and info:

Last spring, our good friend and his boyfriend started looking for a place they could move into together. We went along with them to a series of Sunday open houses. They were only looking casually at that point, but one of the apartments happened to be perfect. They had a quick chat, decided to go for it, and sat down in the apartment to start filling out paperwork. While they were doing that, another couple walked up to the agent, asked if the place had been rented to someone yet, and handed her a completed packet in an accordion folder. We stared in awe as she recited everything it contained, which included a picture of the two of them. We're assuming that package of documents clinched the apartment for the other couple--our friends never heard back.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 9:18 AM on June 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

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