Renting in San Francisco - Young and Broke edition.
June 6, 2016 10:44 PM   Subscribe

Private room in shared house/apt in San Francisco. Near Potrero Hill/SoMA. ~$800. I'm in my early twenties. Is this possible? Help. Hope.

I'm moving to San Francisco to attend grad school at CCA (SF campus), which is essentially at the border of South of Market and Potrero Hill. I won't have a car, and I anticipate many long days and long nights, so I'd really, really like to live within bike commuting distance (20-ish minutes?) of the school: SoMA, South Beach, Mission Bay, Potrero Hill, Mission, Dogpatch, Bernal Heights, Noe Valley, Lower Haight, Lower Nob Hill, etc. My budget is around $800. I'm in my early twenties, which seems to rule me out from a few of the listings I've seen. I don't mind a (very) small space, and so far I've been looking for a private room within a shared house/apartment.

I've been scouring CraigsList (both sublets/temporary and rooms/shared), but I have seen few legitimate listings that meet my criteria, and gotten even fewer responses back. I've secured a temporary place from the 9th till the end of the month - but what should I do once I get there, if I'm not getting any hits on CL? Are there actually "For Rent" signs for single rooms in shared houses? I've seen this previous thread and am prepared to get there as soon as possible, packet of materials in hand, ready to sign and deposit.

Can you tell me where else I should look? Or what I should do once I arrive in the city in person? Or if what I'm looking for is not possible, what my next best alternative is?
posted by wym to Home & Garden (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You should be in various housing groups on Facebook in addition to craigslist -- Bay Area Conscious Community Housing is one, Affordable Housing For Ok People: Bay Area is another. There are others if you're queer and/or trans (feel free to PM me if that's the case!).

Still, you're going to have some trouble finding a private room at that price point in this neighborhoods. I'd also look into further out neighborhoods (sunset, richmond, excelsior, are a few friends where friends have had success lately) in San Francisco and/or the east bay, though that price point won't be super easy in easily BART-able spots of Berkeley/Oakland either. Be as personable as possible over email and at in person interviews -- with this much competition the few cheap rooms that pop up are very competitive and folks can be picky. Good luck!
posted by kylej at 11:27 PM on June 6, 2016

You're going to have to get lucky to find something in your price range, but you know that already from looking at Craigslist.

If you're flexible, you could look at cobbling together a series of sublets and housesitting gigs. I saw a 1 month room sublet posted to NextDoor for $950, which is better than most of $1400-1800 rooms I've seen posted lately.

Alternatively, take a look farther south in Bayshore, Portola, Excelsior, etc. It might not be that much longer on a bike than closer as-a-crow-flies neighborhoods - take a look at a topographical map of SF and you'll see that it's a pretty flat ride compared to going over Potero Hill or up Nob Hill.

The KT Muni line runs close to CCA, you could try looking at options along that route. BART-able options won't do you much good because the campus is about a mile from the closest BART station.

Good luck in your search!
posted by asphericalcow at 11:37 PM on June 6, 2016

There are AC transit lines that run all night. (I think one is the 800?) You could try to find a room along one of those lines if you have to expand your search into the East Bay.
posted by salvia at 11:37 PM on June 6, 2016

CCA has listings for their students
And start contacting property management firms in the area.
posted by calgirl at 11:49 PM on June 6, 2016

This is going to be a very tall order, for contrast I paid $1800 two years ago for a private room in the Mission in a two bedroom apartment, and that was considered very cheap! Given what I have heard, prices are even higher now. Startups located in SOMA are driving up rent prices ridiculously in all the surrounding neighborhoods, unless someone is already in a rent controlled apartment, and even then people are getting evicted via loopholes. I would consider sharing a room with someone else, or really branching out either further west in SF, south on the penninsula, or the East Bay. Your school is fairly close to BART so you might look at places further out, near a BART stop, though those places will be in high demand too. You might find a needle in a haystack if someone needs a roommate and happens to have rent control, but you will be competing against a lot of people in the same situation, and need to make yourself as attractive as possible as a roommate. Do you know anyone who lives in San Francisco who could ask around/post on social media on your behalf? Does your school offer any help with securing a place to live, as many new students will have this problem? Maybe even a listserv for student postings where you might be able to pick up a place from someone who is graduating? Good luck!
posted by amileighs at 11:57 PM on June 6, 2016

calgirl, can you tell me more about contacting property management firms? Are there specific terms I can use to search for when looking for a single private room within a larger place?
posted by wym at 11:58 PM on June 6, 2016

I walked around and took note of signs outside of apartment buildings and cold called the property management office to ask about any rooms for rent.
You could also use Yelp perhaps.
i also stalked coffee shops, laundromats, college department bulletin boards, and any other grad student gathering place I could think of to look for "roommate wanted" signs or notices.
posted by calgirl at 12:54 AM on June 7, 2016

Craigslist miracles happen. I'm in one in the East Bay, and I pay $1200 a month for a room in a house with great people. However, they are called miracles for a reason. Be prepared to house sit or sublet until you find your magic spot. This can take up to a year. It's probably not going to happen in the city unless you are fate's spoiled darling. I'm sorry. The housing market sucks here.

Move here, network, and understand that *everything* here operates on nepotism.
posted by ananci at 1:15 AM on June 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've found Padmapper a great tool for looking for places--they have a filter for rooms in larger units. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like there's anything in SF at your price point--you'll have to find someone already in a rent controlled apartment.

N'thing to look farther out and to work with your school's housing office. I think the bulletin board stalking is a good idea--I'd go to SF State and CCSF student unions in addition to your own to see what's being posted there.
posted by smirkette at 5:51 AM on June 7, 2016

I don't think this has been posted yet but I think you can post an add on CL looking for a room. It is probably a long shot, but may be worth a try.
posted by CoffeeHikeNapWine at 8:22 AM on June 7, 2016

Since you're searching for a below market rate, you need to reach people who are seeking a tenant who will bring other benefits in exchange for a less than market rent. In SF, this typically means someone in a rent control situation who does not want to deal with the hassle of vetting an unknown roommate, and has put out the word through their social network that they are seeking roommate candidates. You will have the best chance of finding a below-market rate place by establishing your network in SF and then asking around.

Signed, Sadly Priced Out of San Francisco Now That I Left My Rent-Controlled Apartment
posted by samthemander at 8:37 AM on June 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

CCA looks like it's right down the street from CalTrain. Trains run most of the night. BART probably isn't as good a choice, considering where the school is physically located.

I see rooms in South San Francisco and San Bruno at least vaguely close to your price range.
posted by cnc at 9:46 AM on June 7, 2016

Are there specific terms I can use to search for when looking for a single private room within a larger place?

I'd keep trying on the rooms / shared on CL. Once you're here it'll be easier, because (back in my day) a lot came down to who showed up at the open house and clicked with the current tenants.
posted by salvia at 10:12 AM on June 7, 2016

I'm on my phone so can't check distance from your school to the KT muni line, but since someone mentioned it upthread, I'll put in a plug for Ingleside. Safe neighborhood, albeit a bit boring, and reasonably close to both the K muni metro and Balboa Park BART. Most people still haven't heard of it so prices may be more reasonable.
posted by serelliya at 10:26 AM on June 7, 2016

Here's one of the Facebook groups that people are talking about upthread:

Once you look at one group like that, Facebook auto-suggests a bunch more.
posted by asphericalcow at 11:14 AM on June 7, 2016

I see people posting in NextDoor a fair amount looking for these kind of deals, but $800 a month sounds cheap even for my neighborhood (outer Richmond). That said, I know a lot of people who bike from Outer Sunset / Richmond all the way downtown in roughly 30 minutes for work - Golden Gate Park, the Panhandle, and bike lanes beyond that make it a fairly reasonable endeavor. Good luck.
posted by allkindsoftime at 1:51 PM on June 7, 2016

I have lived in SF for the last 6 years and just moved to a new apartment.

I think this is going to be next to impossible. There are VERY few rooms for that price, and they always go to good friends of the current roommates (because they are leases that are at least 5 years old and rent controlled).

You should expect to spend at least $1200 for a room. You might be able to find one for $1000-1200 but it will be farther south and small.

You could also look in the Bayview or other neighborhoods farther away, if you feel comfortable with that. That will be cheaper.
posted by amaire at 2:25 PM on June 7, 2016

SoMA, South Beach, Mission Bay, Potrero Hill, Mission, Dogpatch, Bernal Heights, Noe Valley, Lower Haight, Lower Nob Hill, etc.

It's worth a shot on CL; you might get a lucky break with a master tenant who has rent control. But barring the last two (which I think are ~average) these neighborhoods are all actually on the more expensive/competitive side for SF these days.

Are you wedded to bike commuting or would you be ok with a train/bus commute or some combination of the two? The Portola, south of Bernal, is (I think still?) less expensive than any of these and is just a 30 minute bus ride away. Bayview/Hunter's Point may be even cheaper and are on some relevant transit, but are also historically marginalized areas, with more crime and fewer amenities as a result (though I also hear they're starting to gentrify now that the pollution has been cleaned up somewhat).

Anywhere around the Balboa Park BART, including Ingleside, parts of the Outer Mission/Excelsior, and the bits of Daly City right on the border of Ingleside might also work. Those are also areas where there's a high density of CCSF and SFSU students. You can take BART from Balboa Park to 16th and Mission and then get on either the 55 or the 22 down 16th St., also ~30 minutes.

If you do this you may want to spring for the monthly BART+Muni-in-the-city pass at $83/mo since there are no free transfers between BART and Muni. Keep in mind that Daly City BART is sadly just outside of the range of the monthly pass, though. Another option is bike plus BART, especially since there are now no restrictions on when you can bring one on the train. It's a better option than bike plus Muni (you can't bring bikes on the light rail at all, and there are bike racks on Muni buses but you have to worry about theft).

I make more or less this commute from the Sunset, FWIW, but it's around 45 minutes door to door by bike and ~65 by Muni, so probably longer than you're interested in. If you love biking it's not a bad option, though: it's mostly downhill from the Sunset so the only real chore is getting back, and even that's more annoying than awful. Most of the way also has good bike lanes; it only really gets hairy between Market and SOMA, and if you're willing to sacrifice a few minutes for a more pleasant ride, you can cross Market around the Mission instead. Probably the cheapest rooms out here are going to be in the Outer Sunset/Richmond, or down by SF State/Park Merced, which is around 15-20 minutes from Balboa Park BART by bike if you want to do the bike+BART route.

Good luck. It's a tough price point; a lot of people are sharing bedrooms in the city for not much less (especially in the SOMA area where people are now staying in euphemistically-titled "hackerspaces" that are basically long-term-stay hostels). You may want to seriously consider Oakland and points East. I'd check there before looking along the Caltrain: Caltrain runs way less frequently than BART -- only hourly at some times/days -- and I wouldn't want to be stuck in South San Francisco or San Bruno without a car since they are both quite suburban.
posted by en forme de poire at 7:36 PM on June 7, 2016

There's a (tight) 3 bedroom in my section of Bernal Heights that should be on the market shortly (current residents are moving back to the UK tomorrow, so it might be listed in a few days). It's the top floor of a 3 floor building. Second floor is rented by three student-age women. Ground floor is garage. If you can find people to rent it together that might get you close to your budget goal. I think the current rent is $3200. If you take the smallest room (which is very small), maybe you could pay less than 1/3? I'd be happy to send you more info when I know about it.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 12:12 PM on June 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I lot of really helpful answers! The earlier ones really hammered home how difficult it was going to be to find a place that fit all my requirements, and the later ones gave me good insight into specific neighborhoods/routes. I've expanded my search and gotten better results.

Right now, I'm seeing a fairly consistent flow of rooms around the $800-$900 mark for some of the neighborhoods that are further away - mainly from Sunset. I'm in talks with a place in Inner Sunset by the N line that's going for $880, and I'm seeing a place in Portola on Saturday that's going for ($600 ?!). At this rate, I feel comfortable that I'll eventually finding somewhere to live within a reasonable distance for a reasonable-ish rate, even if these two specific prospects don't pan out. (My temp stay place, though, that's a whole 'nother story. ):

Anyway, the search continues. Thanks a bunch, y'all.
posted by wym at 9:33 PM on June 9, 2016

As a current Portola resident, I think it's a good option. We've been here over 5 years (as, homeowners) and it's a perfectly livable, albeit somewhat boring, place to live. It's safe and quiet, mostly, and feels like one of the last "affordable" neighborhoods. I'm noticing more and more people who look like Mission or Bernal hopefuls who got pushed out by the prices. I'm closer to the Mission St side of the neighborhood and it's walkable to Glen Park BART and all the Muni on Mission Street. Not a lot of great restaurants but there are a couple of stand-bys. The NextDoor group often posts rooms for rent that might fit your needs.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 10:42 PM on June 12, 2016

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