Apartment hunting in the SF-Bay Area
August 6, 2006 8:58 AM   Subscribe

Why is craigslist failing me in my apartment search (ideal: looking in mountain view, 2BR, under $1400)? And where can I find such a place? also interested in Portero Hill in SF...

note: i'm posting this for my poor stranded sister

A question for locals (and ex-locals) in SF Bay: why are there so few places on craigslist for reasonably priced 2BR apartments (i mean under 1400) - at least, very few right now. i want to know if there are other rental sites that are better for this area. any other tips for looking? i'm in the area already, looking at places for sept 1 or later, and need to live within biking distance of caltrain. i prefer downtown mountain view, but could do san antonio and other stops, palo alto (i know, more expensive), or menlo park. not willing to do sunnyvale or anywhere south of MV, so don't tell me it's cheaper there :)

Also why there are so few places for the neighborhoods in SF where i want to live - ONLY within walking distance of the caltrain stops there. i can only find expensive lofts on craigslist. looking in: SOMA, portero hill... any other tips?
is this a bad time of the market, or is there another resource where it's better to look (classified paper ads, some better website, your mother-in-law, etc).
posted by zonem to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You want to live in the only area of the south bay worth living at, or in the only parts of the city immediately accessible to public transportation? And you want to find it via the most popular public method of locating it? And then you want to do it for fairly unreasonably cheap? During the height of moving season, with all the students (basically the target market for what you want) coming back?

Anything "downtown Mountain View" i.e. within a few blocks of Castro and 2BR will probably be $2k+ or a dump. Sorry Sunnyvale is not good enough for you, but that's what your price range will get you easily.
posted by kcm at 9:02 AM on August 6, 2006

$1400 is a bit low for what you're looking for.
posted by k8t at 9:10 AM on August 6, 2006

The mega-complex "luxury" - W/D, newer appliances, etc. - units near Castro are somewhat close to $2k, actually. Between Stanford and Google and it being the worst time to look for housing, you have your work cut out for you.
posted by kcm at 9:16 AM on August 6, 2006

(near $2k for a 1BR, that is)
posted by kcm at 9:16 AM on August 6, 2006

...looking at places for sept 1 or later, and need to live within biking distance of caltrain...

..so few places for the neighborhoods in SF where i want to live - ONLY within walking distance of the caltrain stops there..

Which is it, biking or walking? Biking opens up a few more neighborhoods in san francisco. Although I agree with kcm - something is going to have to give or you will have to try and work the network to get lucky. If I were looking for a decent 2BR in san francisco right now, I wouldnt expect to pay less than $2K. The going prices for studios is about $1k.

Again, you may get lucky but, yes, there is a lot working against you.
posted by vacapinta at 9:29 AM on August 6, 2006

craigslist isn't failing you. Your pocketbook is. Apartments near Caltrain (or other public transit) go for a premium. The "I don't have a car" crowd slurps them up sight unseen.

We live in Mountain View right now. There really aren't many apartments *in* downtown Mountain View. The one complex that I'm thinking of rents a ONE bedroom for $1500+.

On preview, what the others have said. Rents are going up. Santa Clara County has averaged rent increases over 9%. We rent a 1br place about a mile from Castro St and it's $990 - but we're moving, and the rent on this 1br is going up to $1100. It has no AC and is unbearably hot most of the time. 2BR places in this complex are right around $1400, but they haven't had an open 2BR in a year and the waiting list is loooong.

Basic answer to the question - it's expensive to rent down here, and getting more so. Places near public transit go for a premium here too. If you're not willing to consider other areas or adjust your budget/standards a bit, you're going to have a difficult time finding a place.

Is this place too far? It's biking distance to Caltrain and is only a few blocks from downtown Mountain View. And the ad has been there for a few days.
posted by drstein at 9:29 AM on August 6, 2006

$1400 doesn't seem totally out of bounds for a potrero hill 2br. I moved away a year ago, and I was paying 1500 for a nice 2br right at 18th and pennsylvania. Maybe now is a bad time of year, or maybe rents have gone up since I left, but I think you should be able to find something at that price.
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 10:13 AM on August 6, 2006

I'll try some real advice in place of my well-intentioned snark:

Find a place that's tolerable but that you may have to compromise on, as long as it's month-to-month or goes to m-t-m after a short 3-6 month lease. That will give you time to get into the network and search at a more leisurely pace for something more suitable.. a lot of times, the best places either transfer from friend to friend as one person moves out.

Basically, most "deals" will move quickly in social circles rather than needing to be pimped on CL or similar. Month to month leases are not terribly uncommon here, so take advantage.
posted by kcm at 10:15 AM on August 6, 2006

There's studios in my complex available now for $800, I think, and it's a 25-minute walk to the Mountain View CalTrain station. My landlord (like many, I imagine) is too 'old-school' to use (or maybe even, be aware of) CraigsList -- instead, he puts classified ads in the Mercury News, and puts a out a "For Rent" sign.
posted by Rash at 11:17 AM on August 6, 2006

When I was looking at apartments in Potrero Hill in June, it seemed like one bedrooms were going for $1400-1600. I've also heard that rental prices have been going up as the sales market stagnates.
posted by pombe at 11:19 AM on August 6, 2006

"25-minute walk to the Mountain View CalTrain station"

That's another thing to consider - what do you consider to be "walking distance?" The complex I'm in is about a 20 minute walk to the Mountain View Caltrain station. I think it's an easy walk. The g/f & I take nice walks down to Castro St quite often.

So, what you might want to do is this.
* Get a paper map of the area (I haven't seen an online way to do this yet)
* Put the point of the compass on the Caltrain station and then draw a circle. The radius will be the maximum distance that you're willing to walk.
* Hit up every apartment complex in the area and see if something fits in your price range.

We're giving you advice & snark based on our own personal experiences. What might not work for you is just fine for the rest of us. The unknown variable in many AskMe questions is - YOU! :-D
posted by drstein at 12:04 PM on August 6, 2006

You might try oodle, as it incorporates not only craigslist, but pretty much all the local classifieds as well. I can't attest to it's completeness in San Fran, but in Chicago it's great.

posted by allthewhile at 6:26 PM on August 6, 2006

There are occasionally 2 bedrooms in the $1800 range in Potrero Hill, but $1400 is highly unlikely, as everyone has suggested.
posted by judith at 10:55 PM on August 6, 2006

For the Potrero, your sister might have some luck looking around the neighborhood for "For Rent" signs. A lot of good rentals in SF never get advertised beyond a sign in a window.
posted by wryly at 12:33 AM on August 7, 2006

You might have better luck compiling a list of apartments... from a free apartment/real estate magazine

But in my experience, you won't be finding any bargains there -- those magazines only feature new-ish developments, where you'll be paying the high end of any given location's rent spread. Those places will also insist on the longer leases.
posted by Rash at 9:24 AM on August 7, 2006

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