10 rent hacks in San Francisco from coworkers and friends

July 12, 2020

The San Francisco Metro Area is the most expensive area to rent in the entire USA. With a median rent of $3280, the area is so expensive that some Google employees live in trailers. Here are real stories I’ve heard from coworkers, friends, and acquaintances. This list is ranked from the funkiest to the most reasonable.

  1. Sleep on a futon for $800: a coworker of mine rented out his futon in the middle of the living room for $800/month. There was no privacy but it was a steal at 25% of the median rent
  2. Sleep in a car for < $1000/month: a friend from college lives in a car. He pays for a monthly parking permit and has factored in the cost of break-ins
  3. Live in a hostel for $1500: During my internship, I lived in a private room in a hostel that offered long term living arrangements. You get a private room but everything else is shared, including the bathroom and the kitchen
  4. Live in a boat: there’s the low budget boat, which an acquaintance paid < $20,000 for but maintains every weekend, and then there’s a higher-end boat which two Directors at Salesforce live in. The pair plan to sail into the sunset once they’ve made a certain sum from Corporate America. I love this real-life romantic version of the American Dream :)
  5. Live with significant other in subsidized housing for $800: a coworker’s girlfriend works as an equestrian; they live in subsidized housing for $800, what a deal! Another person works at Google and lives with their boyfriend who is studying for his Ph.D. at Stanford
  6. Live in a house with 5 other roommates: this is common in houses and high end apartments/condos. A couple may share a room while the rest of the twenty-something crew split the rest. The big limiting factor is the number of bathrooms; I’ve heard horror stories of 6 people living in a house with 1 bathroom
  7. Live in the living room: I know coworkers who live in the main room with a screen separating their space from the rest. When I brought up the prospect of living in one myself, a coworker asked: “What if you bringing someone back to the apartment?” I thought about it and didn’t pursue it
  8. Live in a 300 square foot apartment: smaller spaces cost less and 300 sq ft is tiny; it barely fits a bed, a nightstand, and a bookcase. A coworker mentioned it forced her to be minimal since she cannot accumulate unwanted stuff. Space is a good forcing function; perhaps that’s why she arrived at the office early and left late
  9. Move out of California: given the current epidemic many companies allow workers to work remotely, people move out of the expensive California state. Someone from Toastmasters moved to Oregon; they don’t have sales tax there. I too want to move but my significant other works in the autonomous vehicles industry, which is less remote-friendly
  10. Live with parents: some people get free rent, yet the only coworker who lived with her parents in SF moved out as soon as she got a full-time job. Perhaps the autonomy was worth the rent

San Franscisco is a strange city where six-figure jobs are common but affordable housing is scarce. Getting a good deal on housing can feel like winning a lottery. Rent remains a significant chunk of most people’s after-tax income. This is food for thought if you ever considered moving into the San Francisco area.