While this tough competition might be just a part of your usual San Francisco existence, it's becoming more common across the country as a result of the economic downturn. Says Phil Villarreal on The Consumerist, "Although the depressed housing market has made things easy for home buyers, it seems to have had an adverse effect on renters, who face more competition with perhaps fewer openings than ever. Thanks to former homeowners who suffered short sales or foreclosures and are forced into the rental market, there are more renters playing musical chairs."
Still, there are tools you tech-savvy readers can use to give yourselves a leg up. One of the coolest and most highly recommended is PadMapper.
PadMapper scours listings from places like Craigslist, Apartments.com, and Rent.com, and lays them out on a searchable Google Map. Pick your neighborhood to see all the listings, then use their filters to narrow down your search. They have your typical criteria, like maximum rent, number of bedrooms, and if pets are allowed, as well as the age of the listing (very useful when good homes go lightning-fast). They also have what they call their "Super-Secret Advanced Features" which allow you to view average commute times to your work or school, the neighborhood's walkability, even its crime stats. You can also show nearby amenities like grocery stores, restaurants, and gyms. Once you've got a few pins left on your map, you can click them to view the listing (along with their photos) on the spot. Finally, once you find the perfect pad, you can save it to your favorites.
Another tip to keep in mind when searching rentals is to do your due diligence and check on the background of your potential landlords. CasaSugar's Kristy Korcz used Yelp to read the reviews of a building she was considering. She "checked up on the rental agency that runs the building on Yelp, and found that they've recently been sued multiple times for withholding deposits, overcharging, and not responding to essential maintenance requests like a lack of water and heat, and locks being broken on the front gate (leaving the mail boxes totally exposed). Who would want to live in a place like that!?" Bullet. Dodged.