Where to live? Leasing Agents? Real Estate Agents?

6 Replies | San Francisco, California

Hi All - I may soon be relocating from overseas to the San Francisco area.  I'm totally new to the area and looking for information.

  1. What areas to target for an initial search for residence (renting)?  I'll need to juggle my commute (office is located near Howard &  1st), housing expenses and living environment, including two kids in public elementary/middle schools.
  2. Do people typically use leasing agents in SF?  If so, any recommendations would be appreciated.
  3. In the next year or so, I'll probably look to purchase a residence.  Any recommendations for agents in this capacity are also very much appreciated.

Super excited to start something new, and thanks in advance!

@David Gotsill , welcome to city! I was just in Tokyo this past winter and can confidently say you might enjoy the break from the crowds and stimulations of Tokyo for SF. It's a sleepy and mellow city.

1. Seeing as you work in downtown, you'll find an easy and not too crowded commute if you live near a BART station. This will allow you to zip into downtown via the subway. I live next to Glen Park Bart station and can personally say it's a family friendly neighborhood. From there I can get to your office in 25 minutes door to door.  Other neighborhoods along the BART route to downtown would be Balboa Park or Mission. 

2. I've never used an agent but know that locking down a spot can be competitive here. To illustrate we got our spot by showing up to the open house with a completed tenant form and our check books. After seeing the flat, we chatted up the owners and wrote a check for first and last month rent and security deposit. That's the only way we were able to beat out other interested couples.

3. I've connected with @Houston Garcia and he seemed like a very friendly and honest agent. I also like his approach to finding off-market deals which will be a plus as you might not want to compete on the open market in SF for a house.

I hope this helps @David Gotsill. Feel free to message me with additional questions. I'm a former public school teacher so I can provide you with some insights into the system here as well. 

Originally posted by @Tommy Hoang :

@David Gotsill , welcome to city! I was just in Tokyo this past winter and can confidently say you might enjoy the break from the crowds and stimulations of Tokyo for SF. It's a sleepy and mellow city.

1. Seeing as you work in downtown, you'll find an easy and not too crowded commute if you live near a BART station. This will allow you to zip into downtown via the subway. I live next to Glen Park Bart station and can personally say it's a family friendly neighborhood. From there I can get to your office in 25 minutes door to door.  Other neighborhoods along the BART route to downtown would be Balboa Park or Mission. 

2. I've never used an agent but know that locking down a spot can be competitive here. To illustrate we got our spot by showing up to the open house with a completed tenant form and our check books. After seeing the flat, we chatted up the owners and wrote a check for first and last month rent and security deposit. That's the only way we were able to beat out other interested couples.

3. I've connected with @Houston Garcia and he seemed like a very friendly and honest agent. I also like his approach to finding off-market deals which will be a plus as you might not want to compete on the open market in SF for a house.

I hope this helps @David Gotsill. Feel free to message me with additional questions. I'm a former public school teacher so I can provide you with some insights into the system here as well. 

Hi David - welcome to SF soon! I'm sure you'll find it just as intriguing (but slightly less fast-paced) than Tokyo!

I'd have to agree with Tommy; Glen Park is a very family-friendly area that has a BART station that will get you to Montgomery or Embarcadero Stations in 12-15 minutes max. If you're inclined to live in the Mission, I'd stay away from the South Van Ness corridor (it's quite a busy thoroughfare, and a bit seedier/less family-friendly), and aim more towards the Valencia & Noe Valley side of the Mission. Of course, there's also options in SoMa (Howard & 1st), but those would be high-rises instead of SFH and small multi-units with charm. There's so many nuances between the neighborhoods here.

I'm happy to discuss assist you in any capacity possible (free of charge of course), before/during/after  your arrival. Feel free to reach out via PM if you have any questions about SF!

You may want to consider living out in the Richmond (the neighborhood, not the city in the East Bay).  We live on the eastern edge of it in Lone Mountain/Laurel Heights so getting downtown is pretty easy via the 38 bus.  West of us (i.e. the Richmond District) is a pretty family friendly area.  

As mentioned above, the Glen Park area is great too.  The park itself is pretty great to take your kids to have them burn off some energy, if you're fortunate enough to be walking distance from it.

SF is a small/quiet town for the most part.  We came from Chicago and SF is not a big city like Chicago is - for better or worse.  

Great suggestions above, I would also throw in the Sunset district since I prefer taking the light rail MUNI instead of MUNI bus, and I can easily switch to BART if I have to. I grew up in the outer Richmond district, and the 38R/38 buses take about 35-45min to get to downtown, depending on your commute hours.

If you don't mind commuting further, you can consider also rentals in Daly City, San Bruno, and further down in the peninsula. More space, more parking, and less inner-city traffic to deal with.

@Tommy Hoang , @Houston Garcia thanks so much for the great overview.  I can't wait to head over there and check out some neighborhoods.  @Brandon H. & @Charmian Wong - I'll definitely look at the Richmond and Sunset districts as well.

This may be a naive question, but will safety levels vary greatly between these neighborhoods?  Does it vary greatly between streets within the neighborhoods?

I won't make it to SF in time for the fall school year, and will end up having to enroll my kids mid-term.  I understand that the elementary schools are on a lottery system.  Does this mean that there's a good chance my daughters won't go to the nearest school?  Generally choosing an area by school would be one of our top priorities.  I had my eye on Clarendon elementary, but if living nearby doesn't guarantee enrollment... Tommy - I'll reach out to you separately with some school questions, thanks so much for the offer.

@David Gotsill , great question about safety levels between neighborhoods. SF is overall a very safe city IMO. All of the neighborhoods (and their streets) listed above will feel very comfortable. There's only a few seedy parts of town (the Tenderloin neighborhood and parts of SOMA neighborhood) but even then the characters there are pretty harmless during the day from my experience. I worked in SOMA and hoop in the Tenderloin.

You did your research on the SF school system! Yes the lottery system unfortunately means some students commute farther out to another school even though they may live across the street from one -it's weird I know but was intended to create more diverse schools. During morning commute hours, you'll see plenty of kids take the bus/trains to school in various parts of the city. Clarendon elementary is harder to get into than Harvard is the running joke. There's a whole prioritization criteria for getting accepted that we can discuss whenever you have questions.