How to Find Housing in San Francisco

February 23, 2017

Written bySpencer Brown

How to Find Housing in San Francisco

Finding housing in SF isn’t always easy. Here’s what we’ve learned – we hope it will help you!

Some Options


I found my first apartment on Craigslist last year. It seems to take a lot of work to be successful here. I spent many hours going through listings, adding options to a spreadsheet, and calling and emailing people. Though it can be time-intensive, I think Craigslist has a lot of great options. I’d recommend setting up a saved search on Craigslist that emails you all new listings that match your query (which might include “furnished”, for example).


  • If you’re willing to live with random people, Craigslist can be a great way to find more affordable options.
  • I highly recommend utilizing Mixmax when reaching out to people :D. Use a Mixmax template alongside the email outline Craigslist generates (+ personalization) and drop people into a Mixmax sequence so that you don’t have to worry about writing any follow-up emails.
  • Many places will require a 12 month lease. I’ve been able to talk people down from this in some cases, but it might not be worth your time to reach out to those folks if you need something for less than 12 months (I stopped).


Airbnb is awesomely convenient, but you’ll pay a premium since many options are sublets or hacker houses listed to bring a profit to the Airbnb host. Sometimes there are reasonable deals, though, so it’s worth checking out. Airbnb has the added advantage that listings don’t require a 12 month lease, which is perfect for interns who are here for 3 – 4 months. If you have a good host you might even be able to arrange housing privately the next time you’re here to avoid the Airbnb transaction fee.

For short-term, keep in mind that a single booking by someone else within your search period will render that listing unavailable, so consider breaking up your search month-by-month if you’re willing to make a move during your stay in SF.

Hacker Houses/Co-ops/Communal Houses

These will likely be your cheapest options. They’ll carry the benefit of instantly putting you in a group of people to hang out with, but will come with tradeoffs like shared rooms, less space, and perhaps lower cleanliness. I live in a communal house currently, but they’re certainly not for everyone.

Some options:

Facebook Groups

I’ve heard of people finding great deals in these. Check out the “Sale Posts” tab for an easier-to-understand view of options.

Some options:

Aggregate Websites (eg. RadPad)

In my experience these websites are not super helpful. I’ve found that the listings are often stale/outdated and inconsistent (only some have phone numbers, email addresses, etc.). These websites will have lots of the same listings as Craigslist. Checking out right now, though, it looks a lot better than when I last saw it, so it might be worth a shot.

Getting Help

Ask your new team to help out! A lot of people announce housing openings on Facebook, and your future coworkers will likely have seen some of these announcements recently. You can even go one step further and draft a sample Facebook post your teammates to share in their networks. We found housing for one of our interns this way (thanks, Olof!).


I’d recommend choosing a place that will have easy access to Mixmax and all of the stellar nearby restaurants and coffee shops like Blue Bottle, Small, and Mexico au Parc! You can use Google Maps to check out the available public transportation options. Across the office, we use a combination of walking, cycling, BART, MUNI, Lyft/Uber (especially on rainy days), and Chariot (which covers areas not covered by MUNI).

Check out this page for one perspective on SF neighborhoods.

Other Notes

  • Landlords/subletters will typically only want to sign on people who will start living in their places soon afterward, so I wouldn’t recommend spending time looking for a place until close to when you’ll want to start (<= 1 month out) unless you’ll be booking on Airbnb. Keep in mind that your search will be time-consuming.
  • Watch out for scams (especially on Craigslist)! Housing scams are prolific. Make sure you get real, solid evidence that the person you’re talking with actually owns the place you’re looking at.
  • FaceTime tours are a great substitute for in-person walkthroughs. They’re also a great way to ensure that the place you’re looking at isn’t a scam.

Interested in moving to SF and working at a company that’s changing how people all over town do business? Drop us a line.

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