The San Francisco Rental Insider: Finding an Apartment Sight Unseen


Photo by James Gold


If you’re one of the lucky renters, you’ll find an apartment in San Francisco with no problem at all. That’s what happened to James Gold, who moved to the city just last month from Boston, MA. Read about his apartment hunting experience in the city by the bay in our interview below:


Renter Profile: James Gold
Current Neighborhood:  Alamo Square
Top 3 apartment qualities: Location, Laundry, having a kitchen table. I hate when people eat on the couch.
Tools used to find an apartment: Craigslist, Word of mouth.


HotPads: So was San Francisco always in the plans? How did you end up in the city?
James: I just graduated college in February. After that I moved back in with my parents in the Boston area. I was originally set on moving to New York City after graduation, but I found an internship through a friend that was in San Francisco, and decided to move out here.


How did you kick off your housing search?
Once I decided I was going to take the job, I started scouring Craigslist. One of my good friends was moving to San Francisco the same week I was, so we decided we were going to look together. That ended up being too difficult to coordinate – Craigslist is insane, I didn’t know my budget, and nothing was showing up. Being in Boston made looking for an apartment tough.


How did you find your current place?
I’m subletting right now from a family friend in a 2-bedroom house. My cousin heard I was moving and got me in touch with a friend who was moving. That was less than a week after I decided to move out there. She’s tentatively back at the end of this summer – I’m not looking forward to looking for housing again. So far I love the location, and I don’t pay too much in rent, which is pretty awesome in this city.


What was the biggest challenge apartment hunting in SF?
Being across the country made apartment hunting really difficult. I didn’t know anything about the neighborhoods I wanted to be in, and I’ve never been to the city. Narrowing down where I wanted to live in the Craigslist search bar was tough. A close friend of mine is from San Francisco so I asked him for advice, other than that I read up online.


What were your must-haves when looking for a new place to live?
Location was top priority, once I figured what neighborhoods were good. After that, it was in-unit laundry. There are arguments out there about whether a dishwasher or laundry is more important, I’d definitely say laundry!


Did you see the apartment before subletting? What did you look for before signing the lease?
I didn’t see the house before moving out here since I was in Boston. My cousin had been there before and told me the place was nice and the roommates are awesome. I talked to everyone and it seemed like a good situation.


What’s your best advice for other renters looking for a place to live in San Francisco?
Definitely play up your network in San Francisco. If you know anyone at all, it’s so much easier to get a place through references and people who know someone who’s subletting or moving.


Favorite thing so far about living in your neighborhood:
The proximity to everything. There are great markets really close by and bars on Divisidero one block away. I go running on the Panhandle a couple times a week. There are parks, restaurants, and it’s close to where I work.