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December 4, 2019

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Moving to the San Francisco Bay Area: DIY or Hire an Expert?

October 13, 2017

Set yourself up for success with intention, education, and a plan of action.



If you’re relocating to the San Francisco Bay Area - whether it’s a move across continents, states, or even from a neighboring town - you may be experiencing a range of emotions. Feelings of exhilaration and anticipation of the possibility of a new chapter in life (great culture, dining, nightlife, outdoors, yes!) are mixed with fears of change, the unknown, and of making mistakes (rental prices, location, schools, commute times..ouch!) As a relocation consultant, I have seen hundreds of clients go through these emotions as they move their family, pets, belongings, and entire life from what used to be their home to build a new life in the San Francisco Bay Area.


I have found that my clients who prepare, are introspective about what their needs are, and have a good sense of what to expect at the beginning have an easier time with their big move. Here are four key “pre-game” steps for anyone considering a move to the Bay Area.  Using these steps, you will build a solid foundation for a happy and successful move, and gain the tools for an informed and intentional relocation.  Developing a moving roadmap, learning the unique rental market here, knowing who the key players are, and, last but not least, gaining an understanding of your own rental personality type will help you to make the best plan to achieve your goal: Finding the perfect new home here in San Francisco.


Are you ready?


Step one: Make a list or mindmap of your ideal move.

It should include your basic housing requirements, as well as the intentions and fears that go along with a big move. Take this time to discuss your hopes and fears with your spouse and family. Think about your ideal home together and write down all of its characteristics that would make you and your family happy. Be sure to include ideal commute times, school environment (if applicable), and your family’s needs in order of highest priority.  You may realize at this point that hiring a consultant to help with the relocation process is the way to go or you may decide to give it a go on your own.



Step Two: Educate yourself about how local rental mechanisms work.

This seemingly obvious step is often ignored, leading many of my clients to have unrealistic expectations and confusing agent interactions.  So, let’s start with the basics: how does the rental market work in San Francisco and the Bay Area?


It is unique. Unlike other large metropolitan areas in the US, San Francisco does not have a Multiple Listing Service for rentals (the MLS is used by real estate agents to post and share access to rentals or homes for sale with other agents). In other parts of the country real estate (sales) agents show rental properties but in San Francisco, this is rare. Because there is no MLS, owners of rentals often contract with specific leasing companies/property managers to show their rental. Only that company’s “rental agents” have keys to the properties to show them. This is very different from the MLS-based system where any real estate agent may access a property, as long as they are licensed. As a result, there are specialized rental or (relocation) agents who show rentals only and do not sell homes. It is also quite common for owners to show their own properties and lease their rental directly to the tenant.


Another unique thing about the San Francisco rental market is that it’s the hottest in the nation right now. Therefore, not only do you have to figure out who and where you find rental listings from, you are probably competing against several people just like you.


Step Three: Learn Who the Parties Are.

Next, gain a fundamental understanding of the three basic types of people you might interact with when looking for a rental. They all have different motivations, and may or may not fulfill your moving needs, which could range from basic (just show me your cheapest apartment!) to involved (I need someone to get me the best listings!)


Who shows rentals in SF?