Tips for Apartment Hunting in San Francisco

Updated on July 2, 2019
View from an apartment building rooftop in North Beach.
View from an apartment building rooftop in North Beach. | Source

Apartment searching in San Francisco can be a daunting task. As is the case with Manhattan, the demand of apartment hunters far exceeds the supply of available apartments. This produces a set of unfortunate hurdles: rent is pricey, space is limited, and you have to act quickly. I've had the pleasure of moving 3 times in this wonderful city: my first move from L.A.; my second move, prompted by a price hike in a non rent-controlled building; and my third move, a result of a fire breaking out in apartment number two. In each case, I grew wiser when it came to searching for and selecting an apartment, and in each case, things got a lot easier. I hope that the following advice will help those transitioning to a San Francisco apartment. Because, well, it's truly a great city to live in once you find a place that meets your needs!

Where to Look

  1. Craigslist may seem like an obvious choice, but many people don't realize that it's the best apartment hunting resource for San Francisco residents. This is because of the Open House Blitz. What is the Open House Blitz, you ask? It took me a while to wrap my head around it, but in a nutshell: many of the most-desired units will be shown only once during a preset open house period. Time and place are posted, but typically no contact info is provided. Depending on the season, in addition to other factors that might make a certain place particularly attractive, 10-15 people could show up expressing interest in the unit. At that point, it's all out warfare. Showing up early and prepared is key to gaining ground in these situations. That being said, landlords and property management companies are pretty good about keeping their [SF] Craigslist ads up-to-date, so you don't want to miss out by not checking!
  2. People you know living in the city are also some of your best resources when apartment hunting. Ask around for what's available! Maybe one of your friends' roommates is moving out soon. It's possible he/she knows of a vacancy down the street. Having an "in" can only help in these situations.
  3. Check other sites such as, (for pet friendly apartments), or Though, typically these sites rent from properties owned by large management companies, which may or may not be preferable. I found these sites less suitable for my needs because I wanted a more personal landlord-tenant relationship (monopolistic property management companies are the bane of my existence).
  4. Advertise yourself! Particularly if you're looking to shack up with some roommates. Post ads on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace letting other people know what you're looking for. It's best to cover your bases!

Rank Your Priorities

Everybody has different ideas in mind when considering their dream (or yearly) apartment. In San Francisco, narrowing down and ranking your list of priorities will certainly help the apartment search. Here's a list of considerations:

1. Price: San Francisco is a pricey city to live in, and rent is largely be driven by location. If you're worried about paying too much for rent, consider looking for an apartment in one of the less expensive (albeit less "popular") neighborhoods: some parts of the Mission, the Tenderloin, Western Addition, Nob Hill, and Bayview-Hunters Point will have affordable units, even for studios and one-bedrooms. Got a car? Be prepared to pay an extra $100-$250 a month to park it.

2. Location: For a city as small as San Francisco, it would be a disservice to call it homogenous. With so many neat and distinct neighborhoods and communities, anyone can fine a "home" here. Location is about both aesthetics and convenience. Proximity to grocery stores, parks, BART, fitness centers, friends, banks, and work is super important, but so might be a picturesque view or having clean facilities nearby.

Whether or not you have a car is relevant. Personally, I would advise against it if you have a choice in the matter. Though, even those who do have a car will find themselves walking quite a bit. Particularly for those who don't, walking and public transportation will be part of the daily routine. Luckily, has an algorithm that determines how walkable (how easy it is to run daily errands sans car) a given address is. It is based on a score of 1-100, and can easily and intuitively help you narrow down your apartment searching to a neighborhood that suites all of your needs.

Using WalkScore is easy! Just type in an address on the homepage

Voila! Looks like HubPages' HQ is very walkable!

3. Flying solo or with roommates? If you're like me and prefer to have your own place, be prepared to pay a little more. Unfortunately, studios and one-bedrooms are commonly $1000/month and up. However, living in a larger house or apartment may reduce the cost of rent substantially! Choosing to live alone also reduces the number of options available, and requires a bit more aggression during the apartment hunting process.

What's most important to you when searching for a new apartment?

See results

Some Final Tips

  • Show up early for appointments and open houses. Remember, it's a hostile world out there and some open houses last only 15 minutes.
  • Be prepared for open houses. Having the necessary documents on you could make or break your chances for securing the apartment you want. You should have with you: a checkbook (and money in your bank account to put down a deposit), a recent copy of your credit report, a recent pay stub/proof of income, and a picture ID.
  • Take pictures of the places you visit so you can evaluate and compare after you leave.
  • Don't get discouraged by rejection! Keep looking, and surely you will find a home that will make you happy.


Submit a Comment
  • Marina Lazarevic profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from San Francisco, CA

    Thanks everyone! I'm hoping that there will be a resource that can complement Craigslist in SF. Great apartments disappear much too quickly. But I suppose it's just the nature of the city being small and so densely populated.

  • tirelesstraveler profile image

    Judy Specht 

    7 years ago from California

    Great, informative article. It has been awhile since I have hunted for a rental, but I know lots of people who are looking. Will pass the info along.

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    This is very informative about finding an apartment. Websites like are also great at giving tips like this, and are truly helpful when hunting for an apartment. Thanks for the info.

  • extended-stay profile image


    8 years ago from Norfolk, Virginia

    Vary informative and this is just helpful for someone like me who is looking for apartments. Not in San Francisco but still, I can bear in mind these things.

  • Marina Lazarevic profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from San Francisco, CA

    Wesman Todd Shaw: I couldn't agree more that SF is an exciting, gorgeous, and delicious city. And you're right that (for a city that spans only 7 sq. miles) it is incredibly diverse. I don't think the claim that "it's too expensive" is necessarily true, either. There are a ton of affordable apartments throughout San Francisco if you're not too picky about the neighborhood.

  • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

    Wesman Todd Shaw 

    8 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

    I've been to that fine city that you all live and work in....and I just LOVE the place.

    If I could live anywhere - I'd live in San Francisco! I loved the food, the place is BEAUTIFUL, and there's a whole different world within the's called "Chinatown."

    Heck, there's folks that basically look like my own cousins walking around San Fran, and God and the people they are with only knows what language it is that they're speaking!

    Far and away the most beautiful place I've ever been....and I think that were I to brush up on "picking" more and play this keyboard here less - then I could Busk it on up in my free time, and have some fun.

    Oh well, probably not going to happen any time soon..but I can keep on dreaming. In any case - I certainly hope to get to visit again ....that chowder in a bowl of bread down by the wharf...just add some red sauce, and it's heaven!!!!!!!!!!

  • Marina Lazarevic profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from San Francisco, CA

    Thanks, all! Yes, it's funny I've had to move 3 times in the last year and a half, but my current apartment/studio is my absolute favorite so I can't complain.

    And yes, Walk Score has generally helped me navigate around the city, but it's super useful for people trying to pick a neighborhood to live in.

  • Robin profile image

    Robin Edmondson 

    8 years ago from San Francisco

    These are amazing tips, Marina. We rented a house in San Francisco a few years ago and I remember being very overwhelmed having not rented for a long time. Your tips will really help those renting in the City, especially those coming from other areas that aren't as competitive. I agree with Simone, Walk Score is a really cool feature and I'd never heard of it!

  • livelonger profile image

    Jason Menayan 

    8 years ago from San Francisco

    Incredibly useful information - how many renting fiascoes would I have avoided had I been able to read this 15 years ago?! Your tips on beating out "the competition" when you're after a particularly competitive spot are definitely valuable. I'm sure you had to learn all of this the hard way, but it's great that now you can share your hard-earned wisdom with lots of people.

  • Simone Smith profile image

    Simone Haruko Smith 

    8 years ago from San Francisco

    This is so awesome! I'm not currently hunting for apartments, but the next time I do, I'll be coming straight back to this Hub, since you've outlined a bunch of approaches and resources I had never even heard of!

    I am particularly interested in Walk Score- how cool is that? I think I'll be using it for more than just apartment hunting... since I don't have a car, I can use it to determine whether a far-away place is worth the day trip or too much of a hassle to visit!


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)