I remember my first trip to San Francisco.
As soon as I saw its glittering lights on the horizon from Interstate 5, I was already prepared to pack my bags and move.
I hadn’t even started exploring yet.
Of course, my hopes expanded during the few days I spent strolling the city’s streets, drinking fantastic coffee and falling in love with all its open-minded people — before being quickly dashed when I took a peek at its apartments on Craigslist.
San Francisco: The Cost of Living
As you may know, San Francisco is one of the most expensive American cities.
The median rental price is the highest in the country at over $3,500 a month, according to Zumper, — and that’s for a one bedroom.
I met one guy who camped on a hammock in Golden Gate Park before squatting in a cinderblock office for a year in his journey to become a Bay Area resident.
But as it turns out, negotiation tactics — and making a fantastic first impression — are still worth their weight in gold… even in a city where you easily could spend pounds of it.
Davis Nguyen was able to secure a private bedroom on a safe, quiet, popular San Francisco street, just 15 minutes from his downtown workplace.
Better yet? He’s paying $1,050 per month — less than half of the $2,500 median price of this kind of rental.
How’d he pull it off?
Be a Better Renter, Get a Better Price
It turns out, when it comes to renting a home, a little preparation can go a long way. Nguyen approached the extremely competitive San Francisco rental market with a lot of preparation.
He took his time, knew what he wanted and made a fantastic first impression.
Nguyen gave himself four weeks before starting his job to find the perfect place, even though he wasn’t making an income and was forced to couch-surf.
He viewed the money and time spent “as an investment,” he says — “If you wouldn’t take the first job you happen to get an offer for, why would you do the same for a place you will be spending the next few months or years?”
He and his housemates also arrived at each crowded open-house with a “Get to Know Us” packet. It included a personalized cover letter, as well as a short biography and resume for each applicant.
Along with personal phone calls with each potential landlord, this tactic scored Nguyen and his friends an offer at every house they viewed.
In a seller’s market, these methods put the power back into their hands: Landlords wanted them as tenants.
How to Get a Better Rental Price, No Matter Where You Are
“If I can negotiate rent in San Francisco, I am certain no matter where you are living or moving to, you can negotiate, too,” Nguyen says.
Have a look at the full explanation of his strategies.
Next time you move, your preparation just might cut your rent in half.
Your Turn: Which of these strategies will you use next time you move?
Jamie Cattanach (@jamiecattanach) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She also writes other stuff, like wine reviews and poems.