Let’s face it, apartment hunting is one of those somewhat unpleasant things that perpetual renters have to do every once in a while, kind of like going to the dentist or spending the weekend with your parents (love you mom!). There’s the paperwork, the phone calls, open houses… If you’re shopping in San Francisco you’re probably putting more hours into your search than the realtors that are trying to sell the place to you! Admittedly it’s not all bad, the prospect of moving into a new place can be quite exciting. A new neighborhood means new restaurants and shops nearby, especially in SF, and your apartment is never as clean as when you first move in. Nevertheless, apartment shopping in SF right now is brutal!
The problem is there are way more people looking for apartments in SF than there are apartments, or bed rooms, or closets even. I have no idea how long this has persisted, as far as I know this may or may not, just be how it goes. Nevertheless, it’s not unusual to show up to an open house and find 30 other people there, luggage in tow, ready to stab anyone who gets in between them and their precious 1 bedroom with walk-in closet and brightly lit kitchen area. Like I said, brutal, it’s less apartment shopping and more like tenant shopping. The property owners get more applications than they need to fill the apartment so they’re at the advantage of picking and choosing the lucky winner of an exorbitant rent payment, 300 square feet and a parking space that only exists every other Tuesday at 1:00pm.
So maybe you’ve decided you’re ready to suck it up and damn it… you’re going to live in San Francisco. Well, I hear you, obviously that’s what I’ve done so I understand all the reasoning behind it. If that’s the case I have a few tips that just might make your search a bit less painful, provided you avoid getting stabbed by fellow applicants:
Tip #1: Credit Report With Credit Score. This is the best move I made. Get yourself over to annualcreditreport.com and get your free credit report. Then pay the extra $8 or so to get your FICA score. Why? For starters every place you visit will ask for it. It will save you money because you don’t have to pay a fee for each place to run your credit. This also means your credit doesn’t get dinged 50 times after you’ve submitted applications all over the city. Finally, it makes the process smoother for the property owner and anything you can do to make things easier for them is a gold star in your favor.
Tip #2: Be There First. With all the competition you’ve gotta set yourself apart from the masses and also beat them to the punch. One really good way to do this, and also say “Hi, I’m genuinely interested and responsible” is to show up first. At open houses get there early so you can be at the front of the line (cuz you know there’s a line). Also, check CraigsList multiple times a day. Posts are added throughout the day and if something’s more than 24 hours old, the masses are all over it by then.
Tip #3: Your Rental Resume. I already mentioned the credit report but there’s a few other things you should bring with you. The items that should make up your rental resume are as follows:
- Credit Report with Score (already mentioned this one)
- Pre-Filled San Francisco Rental Application
- Copy of Last Paystub
- Copy of Drivers License
I’ve found that the SF Rental Application suffices for nearly everybody, even those companies that have their own application form. Having all of this on hand will make the application process smooth, and saves you and the property owner lots of time (especially you!). I printed out copies of each of these along with a coversheet that included my contact information and put it all in individual plastic folders. Now when I want to apply I just give them one of the folders with everything they need. I’m overly process oriented at times and I haven’t seen anyone else do this but it definitely shows you’ve got your shit together and has saved me enough time to write a blog post about it.
Tip #4: Dress It Up. When you go to an open house or a walk through dress it up a bit. You don’t want to look like you’re already homeless (even if you are), that only raises the question in their mind as to why you’re homeless. Maybe cuz this guy doesn’t pay his rent? Instead your clothes should say “Hi, I’m super responsible and always pay bills on time. I just came from a really responsible meeting where I was doing extremely responsible things. You know, like paying bills and getting paid lots of money.” Yeah, dress like that.
Tip #5: Follow Up. You don’t want to get lost in the shuffle. After the meeting follow up with an email or phone call and just ask if there’s anything else you can provide and make sure they know who you are. If it was an open house, tie it back to the meeting and refer to something recognizable. Part of this process is likability, you’re not very likable if they don’t know who you are.
Good luck with your search. If you’ll join me in following these few simple tips, together we can end homelessness. Probably not for the guy talking to the bushes and camping in Golden Gate Park but at least for ourselves.