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Revisiting Abby's Series on How to Score an Apartment in San Francisco

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As any current apartment-seeking SFian knows, it's more difficult than ever to score a lease in the city right now. With that in mind, we thought it best to revisit Curbed SF contributor Abby Pontzer's series, titled Abby's Seeking Shelter. Back in December of 2011 we tapped Abby to pen a series about her journey to find an apartment in San Francisco. Abby's one of our rental experts around these parts, so each piece was packed full of useful information that will get you way ahead of the game (or at least prepared) when it comes to scoring an apartment. After the jump we'll summarize each piece, but we highly recommend you click through to read her full posts if you're currently seeking out an apartment.

Abby's first post talks about how dire the current rental market is, citing stories about how vacancies are at their lowest rates, and that landlords are taking thousands of dollars in application fees at each showing. Step one on scoring an apartment in San Francisco is to break down what your dealbreakers are and what price range you can manage. Then Abby had to decide what she and her boyfriend (who she was on the apartment hunt with) cared most about in an apartment. They made a list of everything they could ever ask for, and then prioritized the top 3-4 things.

Her second post dives into organizing your rental search and how to avoid information overload. One that was indispensable was her rental spreadsheet of all the apartments she scheduled to visit. It had a grid across the top with the addresses and her deal breakers and nice to haves along the side. It kept her honest about what her must-haves were before she even considered visiting an open house. There's also a good chunk about finding an apartment without the help of Craigslist (hint: it involves letting everyone in your network know you're on the hunt for shelter). Abby also goes over all the cool tools out there if you're not finding it easy to search for an apartment on Craigslist.

Next up is an entire post on actually applying to apartments. Abby's rental packet included a cover letter, a standard rental application, a pet resume, income verification, and credit reports and scores.

[Yes, there really were this many people waiting outside an apartment that was about to have an open house]

Abby's fourth post was about open houses. If you're going to visit an open house on the weekend, chances are it's going to be packed, especially if it's one of those terrible ones that's only open for 15 minutes. Her advice? Get there early. Her list of Do's include introducing yourself to whoever is showing the apartment; bring a measuring tape if you're worried about a particular piece of furniture not fitting; check your list (the spreadsheet); and check to make sure you actually want the apartment before applying. "It's easy to get caught up at an open house because everyone else is applying and think that you need to as well." Save your application fee and treat yourself to lunch instead. Her list of Dont's include bad-mouthing the apartment to other applicants in an attempt to sway them from applying and monopolizing the landlord's time.

Abby's last post on how to score an apartment is about negotiation. While times are tough out there for a rental seeker, there's still room for negotiation once the landlord has expressed interest in renting to you. Frankly, it's hard to negotiate the price of the rental right now. Apartments are in too high of a demand and it's best to just settle for what the listed price per month is. When things calm down a bit (hopefully soon!) negotiating the price might be something to consider. Other things you can negotiate: your move-in date, especially if you want to avoid the dreaded double rate scenario. If the listing says no pets, you can attempt to woo the landlord with the cuteness of your animal. Not sure how? Check out our piece on pet resumes. If you see something that needs to be fixed in your potential apartment or something you want changed, ask if it'll be taken care of before you move in. If not, ask if the landlord is willing to split the cost(s) with you. The last thing Abby said was up for negation (in some cases) is the deposit. Some people balk at the idea of giving over thousands of dollars for the landlord to just "keep," especially if you've got a great rental history. "While you probably can't get away from any deposit, I've heard success from those willing to pay several months of rent in advance for a much smaller deposit."
· On the Hunt: How To Prepare Yourself For the Perfect Rental [Curbed SF]
· On The Hunt: How to Organize your Rental Search and Avoid Information Overload [Curbed SF]
· On The Hunt: Applications that Move You the Front [Curbed SF]
· On The Hunt: Open Your House to Me [Curbed SF]
· On the Hunt: Room for Negotiation (and Hey, We Signed a Lease For Our New Apartment) [Curbed SF]