When Max and I considered relocating from Boston to San Francisco, we had no idea how quickly we would move. After Max landed his dream job, we flew out to tour a handful of apartments found on Zillow and Craigslist. We fell in love with the first place we saw, applied, and were accepted, contingent on passing a phone screening with the neighbors. When I look back, it is easy to see that the things we thought were insignificant, weren’t. A few oversights turned out to be dealbreakers and we ended our lease six months later. The signs were there all along, had we just known what to look for.
the Shoddy paint job
Start with the paint job. Sure, the color can be a dealbreaker to some, but don’t just review the hue. Inspect the paint itself; if it’s peeling or applied sloppily, ask the landlord if it will be fixed prior to your move-in. If the answer is no, this could reflect how little they care about maintaining the unit. When future problems arise, these are the landlords that become difficult to track down or are unwilling to assist.
the rush-hour commute
Consider the length of the commute. Here in San Francisco, many are offered “convenient” work shuttles to Silicon Valley. While it may be tempting to accept a lengthy commute and spend 1/3 of the work day in transit, it can get old. As Max found out, even those who do not get carsick might, in fact, get bus sick.
Be realistic about how much you’re willing and able to spend on rent. It is a grass is always greener scenario: if you could afford just a bit more, the apartment would be world’s better. Just don’t look. Set your budget, and keep to it. Look only at apartments under your pre-determined, logical price point. I am SO guilty of thinking of ways to stretch the budget aka finding a full-time job, cutting down on shopping, subsisting off the bare minimal… But it often isn’t sustainable. Do as I say, not as I do!
the noise POLLUTION
Schedule a tour at rush hour when the outside noise is likely the highest. Check to make sure there aren’t fans or music playing in the background, masking other ambient sounds. Coming from Boston, I was surprised how infrequently drivers on the west coast use their car horns. However, our San Francisco apartment was smack dab in an intersection. What’s worse, it was a GPS signal dead zone. Every Uber in the city would sit in the intersection trying to recalculate their route. Suddenly, every timid San Franciscan became a Bostonian, horns blaring.
Without going into too much detail, I highly recommend meeting your potential neighbors prior to signing that lease. Ask for their contact information or better yet, knock on their door. Neighbors are often unapologetically candid. If they are quick to bash the previous tenants or worse, the landlord, consider it a red flag. You might be the most cordial of renters, but volatile relationships that precede you are hard, if not impossible, to mend. We were aware of a tumultuous relationship between our neighbors and our landlord before we moved in. We took a gamble since we had fallen in love with the space, but looking back, I would not make that mistake again.