The jam-packed, 15 minute open houses. The offers to pay a full year of rent up front, in cash. The stacks of applications handed to landlords from prospective renters, basically begging “Pick me! Pick me!”
Where does it all stop?
For one couple newly relocated to San Francisco and looking for housing for three months now, the answer to that question is still unclear.
Joann Wardrip and her husband moved to the city from England, looking forward to experiencing all of the social and cultural highlights San Francisco has to offer. Danny Wardrip works for Google, so they are part of the “tech crunch” that has fueled San Francisco’s absurdly tight rental market.
Without corporate relocation aid, they started looking for an apartment in the city while staying temporarily with friends in Novato. A constant check of the latest rental listings online, incessant emailing of potential landlords, and fruitless trips to open houses that were so teeming with people that they resembled anthills quickly became Joann’s routine.
She works part-time as a public relations professional, but not even stints living in Washington D.C. and New York City prepared her for the chaos of renting in San Francisco.
“I’ve never filled out so many rental applications. It’s absolutely exhausting,” she said. The Wardrips aren’t looking for anything complicated – a one bedroom home, with a dishwasher and laundry facilities on site, and a usable kitchen, are on the “must” list. That’s all. They’d like to be in the Mission District or Noe Valley neighborhoods.
For now, they’ve settled for a month to month rental that meets only a few of their requirements, namely that it is in the right area. It has no dishwasher, and there is no laundry on the property. The building is older, with thin walls and windows, and therefore noisy, and the rent is high. Until they can find something else, it’s a best bet.
Joann is continuing to scour online rental listings, push through the crowd at open houses and even considering a service that will charge a $1000 finder’s fee if it results in the Wardrips signing a lease. At this point, for the right place, it sounds like a bargain.
But there is a little glimmer of good news at the end of this struggle, and it’s that there seem to be a few more listings available for one bedrooms than there were a month ago, and prices are stabilizing a bit. An apartment under $1900? A scam. But rents that were previously landing between $2500 and $3500 for a one bedroom now seem to be edging down a bit, to between $2200 and $3200.
“Our sense is that it is better, for weeks and weeks there would be one or two viable options to look at in the neighborhoods we are looking at. Now there are more like three to seven,” Joann said. Not much of an improvement, surely. But it’s a positive sign for desperate apartment seekers that things may be looking up.