I moved to San Francisco right out of college and have lived there for 7 years. To me San Francisco is the perfect city, great weather (its always cardigan weather!), incredible food, interesting + artsy people, and the best shops I've ever been to. I love the Bay Area and plan on living there forever or at least until it falls into the ocean.
Here are my 5 Tips for Apartment Hunting in San Francisco and below you’ll find the story of how we got our apartment against the odds (there were 40 other applicants!)
1. Craigslist. There are two ways to find an apartment in San Francisco: Craigslist and Word of Mouth. Craigslist was invented here and is THE place to look. Everyone uses it for everything. What I like to do is figure out the neighborhoods I want to look in and then search in “Map” mode. Other Craiglist search tips:
-Pay attention to the listings that are vague or without photos. It is usually some nice old lady trying rent her awesome apartment on “that newfangled internet website.” Usually everyone ignores these listings so you have an even better chance. Our landlord didn’t even list the storage, backyard, parking or laundry! I had another friend who went to a listing that said “no parking” and when she asked about it, the landlord said “I guess we can make room for your car.” Sometimes the agency managed apartments are less flexible.
– Search for keywords like “view”, “sunroom”, “Mid Century Modern”, “Victorian” or “Dolores Park” without using the neighborhood search feature. You can find cool apartments that were mis-categorized and it helps you find cool houses in neighborhoods you would not have considered.
-If a listing has a phone number write it down. I had a friend who called a number two weeks after the listing was posted and they said “well that one is rented but I have one opening up next week.”
2. Word of Mouth. Everyone knows the best apartments are handed down from friend to friend as people leave the city. Ask everyone you know, post on Facebook, Twitter, etc. that you are looking. I’ve had great luck with this.
3. Keep in Mind Transportation – The big issue with living in San Francisco is the commute. I lived in the Haight when I first moved to San Francisco which only has bus service and my commute to the Ferry Building took an hour. Later I moved one neighborhood over to Duboce Triangle (near the Muni Metro trains) and my commute was cut down to 20 minutes door to door. Certain neighborhoods like the Marina are so great but the commute downtown can be tricky because of the bus systems. (Sometimes there are some nice express bus options but usually those are crowded.) Just realize some neighborhoods are much more ideal to live in than others for commute times. Same goes with bikes. Certain neighborhoods are better to live in if you plan on biking a lot (watch out for those San Francisco hills!)
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One of the things I love about living in San Francisco is that we live close to the most amazing italian deli. Lucca Ravioli opened in 1925 (almost 15 years after the big earthquake and fires) and it has stayed largely the same. The exterior and interior feels like you’ve stepped back in time. And everything is so charming but it feels authentic like they aren’t trying to be cute. They famously make fresh raviolis everyday and the packaging is still the same from back in the 50’s, it is beautiful. They have a deli with sandwiches but don’t have a sandwich menu. It’s only meat and cheese. They tie up your food with red and white bakers twine (they’ve been doing it way before it was cool.) And they always give kids a breadstick and a Lucca paper hat. It is near my kids school so I love stopping by to pick up fresh raviolis for dinner or we stop in and pick up some charcuterie and cheese for a little italian picnic at Dolores park. Do you have an authentic Italian deli where you live?
When visitors come to town one of my favorite places to take them is the Fortune Cookie Factory on Ross Alley. Did you know that Fortune Cookies were invented in San Francisco? It’s off the beaten path in a little Chinatown alleyway. It’s in a lot of guidebooks so there is usually a tourist or two there but for the most part it is pretty empty. It isn’t well marked and if you didn’t have the address you could easily walk right by. Inside is three or four Fortune Cookie machines. The machine smooshes the little flat cookies and then they are taken off while they are still hot and folded with the fortune inside. Once they cool they stay in their shape. It’s really cool to see. I like to bring my own fortunes and they make them there on the spot for just a few dollars. Even if you don’t plan ahead they usually have slips there so you can hand write your own on the spot. If you can’t make it to Chinatown this site lets you order some online (from another vendor.)
One of my favorite places in San Francisco is Miette. It is a ridiculously cute baked goods and candy store. (They have a few locations but my favorite is the Hayes Valley shop.) When people come to San Francisco its one of the first places I send people. I needed some photos last week and they kindly let us stop in and take some shots. If you get a chance to go some of my favorite things to try are: gourmet whoppers, vanilla macarons, homemade caramels, brown sugar licorice, and the chocolate covered gummy bears. They also have a cookbook and give classes sometimes too!
photos by Aubrey Trinnaman for Oh Happy Day
This post is sponsored by Public Bikes. I begged to work with them after I tried their awesome bikes.
I’ve wanted bikes since we first moved to San Francisco over 8 years ago. Our first apartment we lived right in front of a Metro stop and it was easy to get around town. We thought about getting bikes but we didn’t have a garage so it didn’t make sense. Then we moved on Nob Hill where we had a storage room but we lived at the top of San Francisco’s famous steep hills so bikes got nixed again. In Paris we used Velib, the public biking system almost every day. So when we moved back to San Francisco we specifically looked for apartments in flat areas so we could get bikes. We test drove bikes last week and placed an order for two bikes and kids seats. I am so excited to get them, I can’t wait to bike all over the city (the flat-ish areas at least) with the kids.
We chose Public Bikes because we wanted classic European style bikes that were good for getting around the city. (I approached them after I test drove and fell in love with their bikes at their new Valencia street shop around the corner from our new apartment.) They come in really clean modern colors and just put out a new line of spring colors. Have you ever tried a Public Bike? ps: Remember Rebecca and Derek’s Bike Wedding?