Renters must set standards and stick to them when searching for housing

Sara Donchey
Illustration by Sara Donchey

Housing in San Francisco can be a nightmare, but that doesn’t seem to stop many apartment seekers from rushing into less-than-ideal situations. From tyrannical landlords to sociopathic roommates, everyone has a tale. In a city as small and densely populated as ours, there is a real pressure created to jump into the first available opening.

This is a damaging attitude that has no place in the decision-making process surrounding something as important as housing.

Of course, approaching any living situation in San Francisco is going to be challenging, so you’ve got to come prepared not to be a victim. By just being your own advocate you can avoid getting wrapped up in your own housing horror story.

For new renters who are just beginning to take hold of the responsibility of living independently, there is no reason anyone should unknowingly end up in a bad situation. By using some basic common sense, as well as the numerous resources available to San Francisco renters, it is easy to set yourself up for a rewarding living situation.

It can be tempting to rush into things. Apartments go fast in this city, and the ones that are open attract crowds of qualified applicants. That said, it is important to ask yourself what is worth compromising on or sacrificing when changing your housing situation. This is especially true when approaching the nearly inevitable situation of living with roommates. Moving in with people who have different interests or beliefs is one thing; but if you’re a vegan who knowingly moves into a household full of butchers, you only have yourself to blame.

Make a list of specific questions to ask of your potential roommates. Rank them in order of what is most to least important for you. For example, if you can’t stand cigarette smoke, one of the first questions you should ask should pertain to your roommate’s smoking habits. If you don’t like pets but don’t mind if your household includes one, that question should be lower on the list. Being specific is imperative.

Even if you aren’t moving in with other people, you have to treat moving like starting a relationship. It is a relationship with your landlord, a relationship with the physical space you’ll be occupying and a relationship with your happiness as long as you’re there.

Here are 5 questions you should ask yourself when embarking on that new relationship:

1. What kind of household do I want to live in? Do I want a quiet haven or a social hotspot?

2. How am I going to communicate with people like my roommate(s) and landlord?

3. How long do I see myself living here?

4. How much do I value traits like cleanliness and organization?

5. What kind of relationship do I want with my roommates? Is it important that you be close friends with these people, or are you just sharing a space with them?

When you answer these questions, take them seriously. They will have a real impact on your happiness.

In the end, it is not only beneficial for you to take control of your housing situation, but it is your responsibility. Yes, it might mean that the search for housing takes longer and is more difficult. It’s worth it.