Big city moving on a budget

We moved 0.9 miles this weekend to save a few thousand dollars a year.

Renting in San Francisco is super expensive.  I believe it’s the most expensive city in the nation to rent at this point in time.  And on top of that, it’s hard to find a place to live, because there is almost zero vacancy.

You hear countless horror stories of people going to open houses with their credit checks and applications in hand, only to be turned away by a long line of eager tenants.

Not us.  For our second apartment, somehow Dave and I found the perfect spot and avoided the madness of open houses.

Starting in SoMa

When we first moved to San Francisco a year ago, we selected the only apartment that we looked at during our scouting weekend.  It was far more a month than we wanted to pay, but it had all the comforts we wanted and was in a fairly central neighborhood called SoMa (South of Market).  It served us well.  However, since it was a newer high-rise building not tied down to City-enforced rent control policies, our rent was raised substantially for the second year, and we needed to find something else.

Knowing we wanted to stay somewhat close to the Financial District (in order for Dave to have easy access to the Bay Bridge and for me to be able to walk to my gyms), we narrowed it down to a few neighborhoods and began a search.

Searching for an apartment

There are tons of apps and websites tailored to finding places to live in San Francisco.  I found that using the map view on Craigslist was the most robust listing, but the app Lovely ran a close second.  However, that’s not how I found our new place.  I put some clever search terms together in Google, combining apartment and a neighborhood name and found the building’s website.

Our building is in the Nob Hill neighborhood and is fully occupied.  And our apartment was not even listed as available.

We came to the building for an appointment to look at a unit that ended up getting leased before we arrived that day.  Feeling a little disappointed, we talked to the leasing manager about our needs and figured we’d end up on the open house circuit soon.  However, during that conversation, the building manager overheard and realized there was an absolutely perfect apartment coming available that was never listed.  It just so happened to be occupied by a member of the New Zealand America’s Cup racing team for the past few months and he would be vacating the unit at the end of the Cup, then it was ours.  We didn’t even get a chance to see it.  We had to decide immediately.  One hour later, we returned with a deposit.  And today, we’re in!

This all happened five weeks before the end of our last lease, which is the typical time-frame for searching for an apartment in the City.  Unless you plan to sign a lease with one of the newer high-rises in the SoMa neighborhood, you can’t look too early, because nothing is listed months out.  Most open houses for available units are held right before the unit becomes available, and turnaround time is quick.

We selected an apartment in an older building, which is not a high-rise, but still has the perks of building management and a few amenities.  Because the building was built in the 60s, it’s under rent control, and has been completely redone with renovated touches throughout.  And the neighborhood is hilly, quaint and very San Francisco.

Moving across the City

How do you move from one apartment to the other in San Francisco on a budget?

  • First of all, get rid things you don’t need.  Dave and I took a big load to Goodwill and kept the receipt to file with our taxes next year.  While I didn’t want to part with the plethora of plastic cups and koozies I had saved from events in Orlando, it had to be done.
  • Second of all, sell things you don’t need.  I sold books, DVDs and video games on  And I sold a nearly new dining set on Craigslist and a cute piece of decor.  That’s cash money that we can put toward new decor, and it’s less stuff we had to transport to our new residence.
  • Third, do the packing yourself using recycled goods.  We asked our previous apartment building to let us know when someone new was moving in, so that we could take their excess packing supplies and boxes.  We did this several times, and the maintenance people ended up just dropping off boxes to our unit without us asking.  We spent $15 on bubble wrap and tape, and the rest of the supplies we reused from other residents.  Yes, we’re totally green these days.
  • Fourth, get a referral for a mover from local friends.  Dave’s coworker had used some nontraditional movers before that she found through the U-Haul website Moving Help.  I gave the guy a call, and he promised to rent a U-Haul truck for us, show up with someone else and get the job done.  That he did.  In fact, he was far more professional and timely than the official moving companies we’ve used in the past.

No one likes to move, because it can be a huge pain and expense.  However, this move was pretty seamless and done on a shoe-string budget.  We’re all in our new apartment, everything is unpacked and we’ve even hung some pictures on the wall.

What’s the best part about our new apartment in Nob Hill?  If you open the windows, you can hear the ding of trolley bells from the street corner.  It’s a San Francisco treat!

Boxes started stacking up little by little the week before the move.
, , ,


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.