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San Francisco sunrise | © Matt Biddulph / Flickr
San Francisco sunrise | © Matt Biddulph / Flickr
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The Ultimate Renter’s Guide to San Francisco

Picture of Deanna Morgado
Updated: 11 September 2017
Renting in San Francisco can be a tough nut to crack, seeing that it’s the most expensive place to live in the country currently. But don’t let that deter you. Living in San Francisco has its magic. From the city’s world-class restaurants and its breathtaking views to its unforgettable culture, it’s no wonder renting in San Francisco sounds appealing. Before you begin home hunting, take a peek at our renter’s guide to find out more about renting in the City by the Bay.

Know what kind of price tag to expect

Don’t lose your marbles and get ready to sell your soul when looking at rent prices in San Francisco. Prepare yourself first. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment runs about $3,370 a month. However, renting in San Francisco may actually appear to be a better idea than buying a place. As of last year, Zillow put the median home sale price in San Francisco at $1,174,250, and home values have only gone up since. However, the city does, indeed, have a lot to offer new renters.

Neighborhoods

SoMa

SoMa is arguably the most popular neighborhood for renters in San Francisco. This district is crawling with start-ups, trendy bars and nightlife, and luxury condos. Relative to the city itself, SoMa is quite large and spread out, making the area diverse. From work-hungry techies and museums to the impressive graffiti and murals breathing life into the alleys, SoMa has something for everyone.

SoMa buildings, San Francisco
SoMa buildings, San Francisco | © Chris Clogg/Flickr

Tenderloin

The Tenderloin has the reputation of being one of the grittier districts and not for the faint of heart. But contrary to what many people believe, this neighborhood thrives with culture. Local businesses, mom-and-pop shops, and cost-friendly San Francisco experiences await those in the Tenderloin. And when compared to the rest of San Francisco, the Tenderloin actually has a lower rent average.

Tenderloin, San Francisco
Tenderloin, San Francisco | © Alan L/Flickr

Pacific Heights

A slight escape from the hustle and bustle of city life, Pacific Heights offers views of San Francisco that make every last penny of rent worth it. The area has long been known for its wealth and grandeur. Most properties here consist of beautiful mansions, historic architecture, and a residential elegance. Expensive? Yes. But with the large mansions and homes all throughout Pacific Heights, filling each and every room with one or two roommates makes renting here not so hard on your bank account (and worth the beauty).

Victorian Mansions of Alamo Square Neighborhood, San Francisco, California
Victorian Mansions of Alamo Square Neighborhood, San Francisco, California | © Ken Lund/Flickr

Mission

The Mission is perfect for those who thrive in the nightlife and artsy culture. Bars, clubs, upscale restaurants, and countless street food vendors are among the things that await those renting in the Mission. Young professionals mostly make up the residents here; they seem to be drawn to the intoxicating art and music scene. The Mission is perfect for many property tastes, with both luxury apartment buildings and older three- and four-bedroom houses available for rent.

San Francisco, Mission
San Francisco, Mission | © Kārlis Dambrāns/Flickr

Western Addition

Another winner of lower rent prices goes to the Western Addition. This neighborhood is incredibly diverse, attracting both families and young professionals. Elegant Victorian-era apartments add to the beauty of this northern micro-hood of San Francisco. The area is also rich with music history, and the architecturally famous Painted Ladies, as well as the San Francisco skyline, are practically your backyard.

The Painted Ladies
The Painted Ladies | © eric molina/Flickr

Final renter tips

Timing is everything. Hunting for a place in the fall or the winter has actually proved to be a better idea if you don’t want to pay as much for rent. Rental rates tend to be higher during the warmer half of the year.

Instead of waiting for the apartment to be in the listings, contact property owners directly. You may better your chances of finding out about an apartment before everyone else does.

Apartment hunting in San Francisco can be as tedious and discouraging as job hunting. Countless of people are searching the same finite number of open properties. Prepare to explain why you’d be a great tenant. Get creative, and put together a packet with things such as your official job title and your credit score.

Roommate, roommates, roommates. Adding on people to rent with you can save a lot of money, depending on the neighborhood. The more, the merrier, so long as your landlord allows.

Try to look at rent-controlled spaces. Because of San Francisco’s high rent prices, most places have rent control; this means that there’s a limit to how much rental rates can increase each year. It’ll save you the worry of your landlord unexpectedly upping your rent to a price that you can no longer afford.

Last but never least, be sure that your apartment is inspected, safe, and up to code. Make sure you have a good landlord you can trust, and check that the fire alarms are all in working shape. Read up on your renter’s rights and be sure they are met.

Get ready to live in one of the best cities in the world. Renting in San Francisco can seem like an uphill battle, but with these tips, you are sure to be renting your dream space and calling yourself a San Franciscan in no time.