Home to the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, and a unique cityscape that you won’t find anywhere else in the USA, it’s no wonder that San Francisco consistently ranks as one of the best cities to live in the country.
San Francisco has so much to offer, from the dynamic food scene to the vibrant nightlife. It’s pretty much a sure bet that you’ll never run out of things to do in the city. Given that the city is also a powerhouse when it comes to business, technology, and innovation, it’s no wonder that it’s been called the number one global city in the world by Institutional Real Estate, Inc.
Unfortunately, San Francisco’s allure comes with one huge drawback: the city is one of the most difficult places to rent an apartment in the USA. It has a competitive rental market that requires you to be quick on your feet, and it’s tricky to find an apartment that will meet all your requirements.
Don’t worry though, we’ve got you covered! This article will help you find the perfect apartment in San Francisco using the best apartment rental websites for the Bay Area.
What are the Best Websites to Find an Apartment for Rent in San Francisco?
We went ahead and did the hard work, and we’ve identified the six best websites to find apartment rentals in San Francisco. Here they are:
A Breakdown of the Best San Francisco Rental Websites
Alex the Alpacabot
What happens when four friends come together and set out to disrupt the housing market? Alpaca Technology, Inc! Alpaca Technology is an MIT-based startup that is aimed to help renters find apartments quickly and easily.
Their crowning achievement is Alex the Alpacabot, a free virtual real estate agent. Designed to be used with Facebook Messenger, Alex is easy to use, and users can find apartments simply by opening the app, typing in search criteria, and letting Alex do the rest.
Alex’s biggest advantage is that the service is ready to go anytime, anywhere.
You’ll never have to worry about going through listings one by one, then waiting for a response from property owners or managers. With Alex, you’ll be able to create a curated list of qualified apartments, connect directly with the property owner, and even request a virtual tour.
Alex allows you to filter all the available listings by choosing your desired criteria, including your budget range, preferred move-in date, and location.
Finding an apartment in San Francisco has never been easier with Alex at your fingertips!
At present, Alex the Alpacabot is only available on Facebook Messenger. However, the Alpaca team is hard at work to expand the service to other channels, such as WhatsApp and SMS.
The San Francisco option is only in the early stages, so there aren’t as many listings available compared to New York or Boston.
Facebook Housing Groups
If you want to look for housing in San Francisco and get information about the local food and entertainment scene at the same time, check out the Alpaca Housing Groups on Facebook.
It is one of the largest housing communities online, with thousands of people using the service to list available apartments. There is a great chance that you will find the apartment of your dreams on this group.
Alpaca’s team of moderators vets all listings daily to remove duplicate listings, as well as spammers and scammers. We work hard to ensure that you only get the best listings in the group.
Joining the Alpaca housing group gives you access to “locals only” knowledge, whether it’s a great hole-in-the-wall restaurant in a certain neighborhood or first-hand experience of hospitals and schools. You’ll be able to connect with people who live in the area who can give you feedback that you won’t find on commercial apartment hunting services.
You won’t be able to use a filtering service to sift through the available listings when you search. You’ll have to check every listing manually to find the ones that you need.
You’ll also have to contact the property manager or owner directly for apartment listings that you are interested in.
Craigslist is one of the biggest online classified ads websites in the USA, and it has thousands of available listings at any given time. If you’re searching for apartments on a budget, Craigslist is one of the best apartment rental hunting websites in San Francisco.
Using Craigslist is free, and it does not have any search limits. You can use the service to find as many apartments as you want. It also has a mobile app so you can search for apartments anywhere, anytime.
Since the service is free, many of the apartments would be cheaper compared to sites that require payments for listing rentals.
The site is easy to use. You can use the search box to narrow the search in San Francisco. The search criteria include the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, price range, size of the apartment, and availability.
The website doesn’t have a strict moderation policy, so you can find duplicate lists as well as listings with incomplete information. You’ll also have to contact the property owner and arrange for a tour on your own.
Of course, Craigslist is also notorious for rental scams. One survey estimates that as much as 25% of Craigslist listings are frauds or scams.
Zillow is the largest online real estate marketplace in the USA. It is used by thousands of real estate agents, real estate companies, and private property owners.
Zillow has thousands of active listings at any given time, and the listings are updated in real-time. The service is free to use for both renters and property owners, and it offers comprehensive search criteria to make filtering your searches easier.
It has a mobile app, and it has an updated neighborhood mapping tool that allows you to see the different neighborhoods in the Bay area. The site also has a great blog that contains great information about renting apartments.
Zillow does not filter applications in real-time, so property managers can receive duplicate applications from the same renter. While searching for properties is free, you will becharged $29 to apply for a listing as a way to check your financial history.
At present, Zillow does not connect you with property owners, so you will need to find a way to contact them on your own.
There have also been instances of people getting scammed on the website, so you’ll need to be careful about checking the listings. Zillow even offers tips on how to spot scam listings and how to avoid them.
PadMapper is an apartment rental hunting service for both the USA and Canada. It was acquired by Zumper in 2012 and integrated into the Zumper database of listings.
The site is updated in real-time and has broad search criteria. You can even use the targeted keyword search to make your listings more specific. You can also filter according to additional criteria that you won’t find on other listings, such as finding apartments that are suited for renters with restricted income, designed for senior living, or used as student housing.
PadMapper has a detailed map of the Bay area so that you can check the neighborhood of each listing.
PadMapper cross-references listings from other rental websites such as Craigslist and Apartments.com, resulting in more searches that fit your needs.
While the website offers photos of the apartments, there are no videos available on the website. It would be hard to tell the actual quality of the apartments since property owners are known to use camera tricks to make apartments more appealing to renters.
You need to sign up with the site to save your search preferences. Users have also complained that they receive tons of spam emails from the company after they’ve signed up for the service.
There is also no way to remove shared houses from the search results.
ApartmentList is a startup based in San Francisco, and it is an independent apartment rental hunting company. The company’s goal is to make apartment hunting quick, easy, and transparent so that renters don’t dread looking for apartments! This is one of the best apartment rental websites in San Francisco that is dedicated to the city.
The site allows you to search for results using various criteria, such as price, number of bedrooms, and apartment types. They also show “preferred apartments” on the top of their site, with property owners that have been vetted and verified.
One of the best features on the site is that you can look for apartments near colleges and universities. This feature will be hugely beneficial for students looking for affordable housing that is close to campus.
Many users have complained that the company sends a lot of spam emails, and even calls. They have also alleged that the company sends personal information to property owners without prior consent from the website users.
Many of the listings are not vetted, which can result in duplicate and fraudulent listings.
Are you looking for an apartment in another city?
Check our other lists of best apartment rental websites: