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Apartment-hunting in San Francisco

I have now been in San Francisco for almost a month. Finding an apartment was the first challenge, and here’s my list of conclusions and advice for future visitors.

I’m finally in the US! Almost a month ago, I landed in the US to begin my J1 Internship in San Francisco. Ever since, I don’t think I could keep myself a single day from exploring the beautiful streets of this city.

One of my first goals when I got here was to find an apartment as quick as possible. I was so set on this, that I started touring apartment complexes the very first day I landed here. Finding an apartment in San Francisco can be tricky, and there’s a series of considerations that have to be kept in mind, especially as someone coming from Spain. Here’s a few of the conclusions I extracted, in case they can be useful to anyone:

  • Unless you’re willing to pay great amounts of money, furnished apartments are not really a thing here. Unlike Spain, the offer of apartments that are rented with furniture is very small.

  • The prices are really high in this area. If you’re considering to do an internship or traineeship in San Francisco, make sure to either have a great deal of savings, or to negotiate a reasonable stipend with your host company. It is rare to find rooms for less than 1500 dollars, and studios for less than 3000.

  • Apartments go very fast. Due to the quick rotation in population this city has, apartments get leased very quickly. If you tour an apartment and you immediately know it’s the one, I’d highly recommend to formalize an application as soon as possible.

  • Besides finding a good apartment that suits your needs and preset conditions, you will sometimes find that getting approved for it is not trivial either. Many renters will want to run a background check on you, and some of them will rely on your credit score (which you most likely won’t have as a non-US citizen). Also, keep in mind that applying for an apartment comes with a fee (usually 50 dollars), which you won’t get back even if you get denied.

  • Last, while there are many beautiful areas in San Francisco, there are also some less nice-looking ones. For instance, areas like The Tenderloin is famous for the high concentration of homeless people that gather in the streets at all times of the day. Walking around in the neighborhood is very recommendable before signing a lease.

For me, touring 6 apartments was enough to find a place that met my needs and expectations (although I toured another 4 as backup, just in case I got denied). This is of course very time consuming, tiring and quite difficult to coordinate when you’re also attending a 40 hours-a-week internship. This is especially tricky because the offices are usually open only until 17:30. Luckily, they do open on Saturdays as well.

If you’re planning to come to San Francisco on a J1 visa, I hope these little pills of information can help you have a smoother experience when looking for a place to live. Now that we have housing covered, it’s time to explore this beautiful city in depth. Tag along if you want to know more in a month 🙂

Alexandru Boboc

Intern at Topology (Bespoke Inc.)San Francisco

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