We told you we were prepared to pull out every low-down dirty trick in the book: now we'll tell you how we did it.
The good news is, we've got a roof over our heads and a place to live. The mixed news is, it's really hard. Here's how we did it.
1) Tell everyone you know that you're moving. Things open up, you might be surprised.
2) Set your budget but be flexible about your neighborhood. We even know someone who was really happy (gasp) moving across the bay. Hey, if it works. At least they'll still be able to eat.
3) Be creative. Think about alternatives. Think about what you really can't live without (a window that sees something green, a wood floor, direct sunlight, a one-person apartment) and what you can compromise on (location, etc.).
The upshot is, successful apartment hunting--especially today, in San Francisco--has a lot less to do with aggressively beating out the rest of the crowd for the best apartment (it won't happen, even if you can fling cash at landlords like rotten fruit) and a lot more to do with being open to something you didn't imagine. San Francisco is a great place to be happy: let yourself figure out how to make the unexpected work.
And eventually, like us, something will work, something will open up. If you're lucky and you've gone with your instinct, you might even have some cash left over for bookcases and a margarita party.
Ok ok, since you asked nicely. Here's the nitty-gritty--but as a disclaimer, the idea was to keep a search diary anyway, and let you know what worked for us.
As far as locating apartments, websites, and resources, everything we found was really sub-par and not very useful--Padmapper, Craigslist, and LiveLovely were what we went with, as we mentioned in the earlier posts, and they, as well as rental agencies and real estate listings, were pretty useless. This is because they all face the same problem right now: huge demand and a lot of people willing to pay any price.
So tips for locating? Just keep checking the internet and tell your friends. We happened to get lucky, which eventually everyone does.
We talked to some people who web sites worked for, but the people we compared notes with who were looking for apartments ended up settling on places outside of the city. We looked at about 30 places over the course of a month and got beat out or overbid on each one.
What we did instead was share a flat with a couple of friends and turn a four-room flat into a three-room share with a proper living room. Our rent went down (no, but seriously) and we had to broaden our neighborhood preferences, but we still ended up right around the corner, in the Richmond.
That's all, folks.