Just about a year ago, Robin and I finished our road trip across America and rolled up to the San Francisco Bay Area. We were very prepared for extremely high rent rates – after research before leaving the Midwest, I knew that San Francisco is currently more expensive than Manhatten. Ouch. But high rent was just one hurdle we had to leap when moving to the city. Here’s the 10 things to know before moving to San Francisco.
- Prepare to fight for an apartment. Reality check: there’s not enough living units in the city of San Francisco to fit all the people who want to move here. If you want to live in the city (or in the East or South Bay for the matter), be prepared to fight for a home. This means having an info packet all set before touring an apartment. Include credit reports, proof of income, addresses of the last 3 places you rented at, a generic application all filled out, and it doesn’t hurt to include a photo of yourself and a quick bio to help the renter remember who you are. For real! It isn’t uncommon for 100 people to be fighting for the same studio apartment, so you have to be pushy to get what you want. It took us about 2 months to get a lease and we hunted every weekend.
- Get a job BEFORE moving to the city: We both didn’t have jobs upon arrival, which is one reason why it took so long to settle in. While it’s totally possible to move here without a job, it’s really really hard to get approved on a lease without proof of employment. If you can get a job before moving here, do so.
- You’ll have to make sacrifices. My rent is about 70% of our household income. Seriously. And we live in a unit that’s on the cheaper side of the scale. Add on expensive the cost of food and transportation, we have to keep a budget in mind 24/7.We don’t order out, dine out or go shopping very much at the moment. It’s way easier if you have a fabulous tech job with a fabulous paycheck, but when you don’t, you have to make sacrifices to make it work.
- Save twice as much as you think you’ll need. In full disclosure, together we about just about 12K in savings before moving here. I thought that’d be enough to last for months – well into 2015! Wrong. With 1st and last month’s rent down, on top of deposits, half of that was sucked up alone by our landlord. And the rest quickly vanished (read above on high cost of living). Do yourself a favor and save more so you aren’t screwed later.
- You don’t need a car, but it helps. It’s very easy to get downtown quickly (West to East), but the transportation system to get North and South is lacking, so it takes a while to get to some parts of the city. I live in the Sunset District, so it takes forever to get to the Mission because there’s a huge hill in the way and no direct route. Thanks to Uber and Lyft, you really can get anywhere, but when you’re on a budget (note above), it helps when you have your own car so you aren’t racking up taxi bills. Plus, I love the freedom to explore outside of the city (like to Napa or Socal).
- The weather changes by neighborhood. Really, it does. The city is only 7×7 miles, but due to the hills which block the fog off some areas, the weather can be very different just a mile away. It makes dressing for a day out really hard (layers, people!) but it’s also great when you live in the foggy part of the city (like we do) and know that you can just go a few neighborhoods down to fine sun. Keep this in mind when hunting for an apartment.
- You’ll fall more in love with the city each day. It’s so beautiful here! Every house is Instagramable, I swear. I fall more and more in love with the city each day, which totally makes up for all the struggle it takes to live here.
- Stock up on flats and comfy shoes! I’m a big heels girl, but the hills here do NOT mix well with them. Plus, you’ll end up walking a lot each day and will not be able to justify heels when you’re shuffling down the hill to the coffee shop during lunch break.
- There’s an app for everything. Startup land means that there is an app or a service for anything you can think of. Transportation? Uber, Lyft or Chariot. Needs a massage? Soothe & Zeel will come to your house. Laundry? Rinse or Washio picks it up and does it for you. And don’t even get me started on food (Munchery, Sprig, DoorDash, Eat34, GrubHub, Thistle, SpoonRocket, Bento, just to name a few). If you weren’t hooked to your phone before, you will be now.
- You’ll never want to leave. I truly think San Francisco is one of the best cities in the world, and possible the best in the country. Despite all the challenges, you’ll never want to leave.
I feel like I could spend weeks writing this and really flushing it out with tips, but these 10 points are great starters on things to know before moving to San Francisco. I love this city and if you are thinking about moving here, know that you’ll love it to! And don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions!