Searching for housing the Bay Area is absurd

I’m only two days away from the Bay Area (wooo!)

Which means that I’m currently in the process of trying to find housing. I’m sure there are other / better ways of doing this, but what I typically do is just search on Craigslist and send out a ton of emails. When phone numbers are available, I will call them, but I think most people in the Bay Area know better to list their phone number on an ad (because the response is usually so overwhelming).

In most places, it’s not actually that hard to find housing. I certainly didn’t have a problem finding housing in Baltimore or a sublet in New Orleans. But the Bay Area is absurd. Not only is there tons of demand for housing, but the rent control ordinances in Berkeley and Oakland and San Francisco mean that: a) people never ever vacate their rooms; and b) when people do vacate, sometimes people advertise prices that are absurdly low. Like, my college classmates who moved to the Mission District right after graduation are often paying $700 a month for rooms that would rent for $1500 today.

This means that in the Bay Area, looking for a room is akin to applying to jobs or querying agents in that you’re not going to get responses to most of the emails that you send. And because of that it’s tempting to just shotgun the same letter to every single housing post that you find. But that, of course, only further reduces your hit rate.

Thus, I’ve been sending out 5-10 emails a day and trying to personalize each one to the given posting. It’s pretty difficult. I’m sure these people are great and all, but I don’t know them. Who am I to say that I’m excited about living with them or that I think I’ll be a good fit for their house? But it’s the same with agents and with jobs. A successful match requires an act of imagination: either one or the other of you needs to be able to imagine what it’d be like to be with the other, and, in general, the onus to provide that imaginative leap falls upon the prospective employee / author / housemate.

For a time, it was somewhat wearying, because I was getting zero responses. I used to joke that the only times I ever managed to find a room in the SF Bay on Craigslist were when they were looking for something so specific that I was literally the only person who fit their criteria. For instance, one room that I ended up staying in had a craigslist post whose subject line was literally: “Are you sober? Are you gay? This might be the room for you!”

Well yes. Yes it was.

But today I finally heard back from some more people, so who knows, maybe my querying skills have improved.