Thursday, August 9, 2012

Apartment hunting in San Francisco!

This post would ideally have been written sometime in May 2012, but once you read through it, you will know why it's being written now in early August. "Too much happening" is the most valid reason I can think of. 

So anyway, for most of us living here in the United States, apartment hunting would not be much of an ordeal. It's really not that painstaking, this is the usual rut; you look around on craigslist or (or some such sites), zero down on what you like (and can afford), go to the leasing office, fill out a bunch of forms and voila! You're the newest resident there. 

When my husband and I were planning and coordinating our move from the South bay to San Francisco, there wasn't anyone happier than me. Our dream of living in one of the most beautiful cities in the country was finally coming true! What we were leaving behind was nothing much that would really be missed, so in spite of this being the 6th move in one year for me, I was overjoyed. Packing? No problem. We quickly got some boxes from U-Haul, put up most of our furniture on craigslist and we were almost set.

We started looking at the rent in the city and that's when we had most of our eyeball-popping and jaw-dropping moments. The lowest rent for a one bedroom was a little less than double of what we were currently paying. I will not lie, we definitely knew that we would have to be broadening our wallets a little more than what we were used to when it came to rent; we had mentally prepared ourselves for it. But we didn't know that this apartment hunting process was not like any other hunting we had done before, this was more like a job interview. Landlords asking a bunch of questions, scanning you from top to bottom to see whether you're a good fit for the place or not. Stressful! 

"Carry your checkbooks, offer of employment and pay-stubs".
"Seriously? I am not going for a job interview, it's apartment hunting!"
"Yeah I know, that's why I'm telling you to carry all that."
"Wow. Okay"
For a moment I had thought my friend was losing it. But we took her advice anyway, and the weekend we started apartment hunting, we had folders ready with all the aforementioned papers in place. 

SOMA, Mission, Downtown, Pacific Heights, Nob Hill, Marina, Castro, Hayes Valley.. we must have searched almost everywhere. We not only took appointments but also drove through these areas, in case we missed something that was not posted online. And that folder? I must tell you, we ran out of copies. I felt like an executive wherever I went, handing out important papers. If we were paying $$ at present, everything we saw was either $$$ or $$$$. I am not even going to talk about the $$$$$. If the price was right, the place was small and old (sometimes even bordering on crappy), if the place was great the prices were going through the roof. This was a long-term move, at least for a year, so we did not want to make the wrong choice. 

Some apartments had 'open houses', a term I thought I would come across only while house hunting. "Really?" I gave my husband a questioning look, and he shrugged "Let's see what it is." A weird gathering of strangers scanning the 600 sq ft. apartment is what it was. Each one eyeing the other, as to who is going to get the place. 

"So, do either of you smoke?"
"I don't but she may start soon!" my husband joked and we both laughed. 
"Seriously, do either of you smoke?" A landlord with clearly no sense of humor.
"Oh no we do not."
"Great, I shall consider your application and get in touch with you, thank you very much for stopping by."
After submitting a 5 page long application and all the details about our jobs and salaries to a stranger, our fate still lay undecided in his hands. Maybe smoking was the deal-breaker. What did his apartment have anyway? A tiny kitchen, a barely there-bathroom, and just enough room to turn around in the living room. Open the windows and you see a barren courtyard. That's if you're lucky and the windows are not shielded by the trees growing right outside. 

"We are never going to get what we want!" I wailed, sitting at a Starbucks and violently searching online for more apartments. I downed a chocolate chip cookie within a minute in my anxiety. "Call this place, there is a studio available." "Okay." I punched in the numbers on my cell phone and in the next minute we were on our way there. The leasing agent was a cocky thirty-something year old with his hair gelled back in a slick sort of way. "So, we do have this studio coming up, but we are renovating it so you will have to move out for a month or so in 6 months from now, after which you can move back in." The deal on this studio was so good, we were seriously considering it. "But after it's renovated, the rent goes up by $1,000." He said that so matter-of-fact-ly, I thought I had heard wrong. "I'm sorry, I didn't quite understand. We don't get the same rate that we pay for during the first 6 months? After all we are going to sign a one year lease." "But we are getting it renovated, so you will be getting upgraded appliances and those come at a price ma'am." I narrowed my eyes, wanting to punch him in the face. The douche bag. My husband very politely jumped in, "Thank you very much, we will get back to you." 

"Do you have any pets?"
"No, but would love to get one sometime in the future!"
"Ohh... hmm... okay, thanks for coming."
Clearly, not a pet lover.

"The view from here is fantastic! You must see it."
We walk in and all we can see from the window is the gym and people feverishly working out.
"Is there another window?" I ask, looking around curiously.
"No this one is it. It's great isn't it? You get to see all these lovely people! And also, there is an advantage. You can see whether the gym is full or not and plan your work-out schedule accordingly."

There is a variety of people you will come across while hunting for an apartment in San Francisco. Some who will go to great lengths trying to sell you the place, glorifying the tiniest most unimportant details, and those who will not give a damn. If you take the place, great; if not, someone else will. It was an interesting process for sure, taught us a lot of things, but I am glad it's over!

Ultimately, we got approved for all the 3 apartments which were on the top of our list, but narrowed down on the one that instantly stole our heart. You have to visit us to see what it's like :)


  1. Nicely written...and as your most recent visitor, I wanted to say that your apartment is fabulous!

  2. Really enjoyed reading this.
    You have a flair for writing!!!
    Keep it up...