Let’s get real: Craigslist is the best way to find an apartment in the Bay Area. Replete with loads of listings and images, it’s where most people score a home in the city. But it’s not the only place to look. If you’re looking for a pad in San Francisco, give these alternative outlets a shot. While they can’t promise you a sweet deal on a living space—the median rent in San Francisco hovers around the $3,700 mark for a one-bedroom apartment—they can offer you a slew of apartments to peruse.
Besides, no one should have to sleep in a bunkbed for $1,200 per month.
This site, which is one of our favorite alternatives, has some exclusive features. It lets you draw your own neighborhood rather than sticking to the boundaries of a neighborhood that has been defined for you. (Ideal for large neighborhoods like SoMa and the Richmond.) There are property videos, 3-D tours, and more than 1,600 rentals currently available in San Francisco. There's also an option to plan your commute for each listing.
Zumper has been making a big effort in the San Francisco market with an outdoor advertising campaign. The interface is easy to use, and you can check availability of apartments and apply to most through the site itself. It also vets all of its listings, meaning that you won't get scammed. Like many other Craigslist competitors, Zumper can suffer from low inventory, and many of its listings are from the city's bigger, newer buildings.
Apartment List starts the rental search process with an interactive questionnaire that asks you about your ideal apartment, from size and price to pets and amenities. It even double-checks your income to make sure you are qualified for the price range you are looking at. Apartment List will email you new matches to make sure that you see all of the latest apartments that come on the market, but the downside is that you're not allowed to see your matches until you pony up your contact details.
It will only be useful if you want to move within your own neighborhood, but this local posting board often has ads from people looking for roommates. You can only sign up for the neighborhood that you currently live in, so it works as a great resource if you need to move but want to stay in the same area. Postings are irregular and there's no search tool, but you just might come across something here that doesn't show up anywhere else.
This site is based around a map search tool. It pulls data from several other sources, including Craigslist and Airbnb, to show listings. You can add filters to narrow down data both by normal search criteria like size and price and also what sites you want to pull from. There's also the option to add commute time. There are a lot of listings, but the interface isn't quite as slick as those on other sites.
Hotpads started out as a rental website but was acquired by Zillow last year and now shows properties available both to rent and buy. You can see how many people have recently looked at the listing and how often the listing's owner has been contacted lately, along with lots of stats about the neighborhood. It's easy to send the landlord a message through the site, but unfortunately many of the listings are weeks old.
The slogan of this roommate-finding website is "We take out the trash for you," meaning that humans review all roommate profiles to weed out the "scam, spam, or scum red flags." The site uses IP addresses to determine a potential roommate's exact location and has "roommate behavior ratings" that delete anyone who sounds "insincere, completely off base, or completely unwell."
This site allows people to look both for roommates and for entire places, something that many of the Craigslist competitors are missing. You can connect with other site members using social networks like Facebook to verify that people are who they say they are. Roomster has been around since 2003 and operates in 192 countries but still doesn't seem to have dethroned Craigslist as the place to go to look for a new roommate.
Facebook’s MarketPlace now comes with housing listings, including rentals. While the offerings are not as bountiful as the other sites listed above, it might have a home or two that’s not found anywhere else.