Two weeks ago, after coming back from the Fire Festival at 2 in the morning, Stephanie and I got up early and went down to the city to look at apartments together. We saw an expensive 4th floor apartment in ritzy Pacific Heights where the current tenant had left a giant bag of pot open on the kitchen counter. Nice. We saw a decent apartment with a rockin’ kitchen on 39th Ave, but it was a little too close to foggy Ocean Beach for comfort. We saw a loft with great views on the 12th floor of a large complex in the Tenderloin. It was appealing for its availability, but I wasn’t feeling the neighborhood (“known for its drug trade, prostitution, ethnic restaurants, and bar scene,” hawt!) or the density of the building.
Totally worn out, we drove a few blocks north, smack into the cuteness that is Polk Street in Nob Hill. We walked over to a creperie on the corner, shared a nutella and banana crepe, and tried to evaluate what we’d seen. After a few moments, we realized we really liked where we were. Right there. Right at that creperie.
Afterwards we took a walk around the neighborhood and realized Nob Hill was San Francisco to us. Close to downtown, but not. North enough to make getting to Sausalito a breeze. Comfortably residental, but still lively along Polk Street. Not touristy. Hilly, but not unwalkable. Did I mention perfect?
That night we got back to Santa Rosa and immediately hopped on Craigslist and narrowed our search to Nob Hill. Stephanie and I kept wondering, why hadn’t we looked for apartments here before? Sure enough, there were some open houses scheduled for Sunday. We contemplated going but didn’t commit—another trip down would make it our third that weekend (on top of my going down every weekday).
We also discovered another reality of Craigslist. Looking back over the neighborhoods we’d visited during the day, we noticed that some people list their open houses the day of! We never thought to recheck the ads before leaving that morning. I mean c’mon, Stephanie compiled the list Friday night!
So come Sunday morning the first thing Stephanie does is check for any new Nob Hill listings. Sure enough, there are a few. Some strangely without published open houses—instead they requested that we call for an appointment. Which we did, for several, with two definites later that afternoon. Which meant…we were going down to the city again.
The weather was beautiful that day. Sunny, but not hot. Good omen I guess. I think we looked at a place or two, but I don’t really remember the details because they were wholly overshadowed by what we saw at our 2:15 appointment.
This was the second place we’d seen in Nob Hill. The ad had some pictures, not great ones, mostly of the building and interior areas, not of the apartment itself. But the description seemed promising. We got there a minute or two early, it was on Pine Street, between Leavenworth and Hyde. While we were waiting for the owners to arrive, two well-dressed young women left the building. We were on the edge of moving on when the door opened again. What I assumed was the 2 o’clock appointment departed and we entered.
The interior of the building was well kempt. Nice decorative carpet. Walls with bright yellow wallpaper. Decorative paintings, occasional tables. Not especially important details, but they suggested that the current tenants respected the building and the owners had cared for it.
The apartment was on the 2nd floor of 3, a 1 bedroom, still occupied, though the current tenants were out. I think the first thing I noticed were the hardwood floors. They had this inlaid wood detailing around the border of each room—which I really like, and which reminded us of the very first apartment we saw in the city, just to see what an Edwardian apartment was like, this before I’d even been offered a new job.
There was a bathroom on the right after entering with a clawfoot tub and a shower curtain rod hanging overhead. Stephanie noted approvingly of the long counter on either side of the sink. We walked into the bedroom which was striking for two reasons. First, it had a large bay window that looked out over the street with a view of a tree out front. Second, it was separated from the living room by two, presently open, sliding pocket doors, creating the effect of a much larger space.
The living room itself also had a large bay window with an unobstructed view of Pine Street below. Together they let an exceptional amount of natural light into the apartment. The kitchen I’d say was large, compared to others in the city, with enough room for a small table and chairs. There was a gas stove, a refrigerator, even a window that looked out into the narrow space between this building and the next. On that same wall was a door to a fairly large, but uninsulated pantry, containing another door which opened onto a shared wooden staircase down to the trash bins.
We chatted with the owners in the kitchen for a few minutes. They’d owned the building for over twenty years. They described some of the current tenants (two art students, an actor, a writer, etc.) and the application process. Basically we’d both need to fill out an application, provide them with two credit reports, and give them a check for 1/3 of the deposit to indicate that we were serious. If they offered us the apartment and we accepted, they’d deposit the check, if not they’d tear it up. We walked back through the rooms, told them we had some other places to see that afternoon, but would call back if we were still interested.
The funny thing about going to open houses as a couple is that I can’t really speak freely while I’m there. For one, I’m experiencing it all for the first time, and I kind of like to process my observations before letting out my thoughts or hearing Stephanie’s. And of course usually we’re being guided by an unobjective third party, so I don’t feel comfortable just blurting out what I do or don’t like. But the instant we got out of there, I think we were both getting the feeling.
The first thing I said was, “Ok, let’s start with what we don’t like. The crazy linoleum in the kitchen. No laundry in the building. No parking.” Then silence. She agreed. We really liked the place. Other than the no laundry, it had pretty much everything we wanted, with a healthy dose of charm and character at that. And it appeared that there were two laundry places on the block, and several others within walking distance. If we could suck it up…
But first we had to check out the other places on our list. There was a berber-carpeted apartment in Pacific Heights with central vacuuming that had a minuscule kitchen straight outta the 70s. There was another weird place nearby that was actually dirty inside. And then we went back to Nob Hill for an apartment with an amazing view towards downtown, lots of walk-through closets and kitchen charm, but the whole place was freshly carpeted, probably to add some sound insulation between the floors. Call me a hardwood floor snob, but I really think it subtracted from the character of the place. Plus it was $355 more a month than the Nob Hill apartment we’d seen (and loved) earlier.
After an emergency bathroom break and some talking, there was no question. We wanted that apartment on Pine Street. I started angsting about not having brought a checkbook to drop off a deposit, and thinking about just pulling $500 cash out of my bank account. I really wanted them to know we were serious. But the applications needed a lot of detailed information that we didn’t have on hand, so we called back, they said no worries, just fill everything out, and we made arrangements to drop things off Monday evening after work.
Of course we walked back past the building one last time. I snapped this picture with my cellphone. The apartment is on the second floor. Behind the bay window in front of the tree is the bedroom, and to the right is the living room.
The next morning Stephanie told me she’d dreamed about the apartment. Very good sign. We’d printed out our credit reports, they looked good (phew…), we filled out our applications, wrote a check, and I stopped by and dropped everything off after work. I was worried about getting so excited about this place and then not getting it that I started to tell myself there had to be other good apartments out there, and if we didn’t get this place, it just meant there was another (maybe with laundry in the building!) out there for us. And we knew if we had to, we could do this apartment hunt every weekend until we found it.
Wednesday morning I’m brushing my teeth and wandering around, per usual, when I happen to notice my cellphone vibrating inaudibly on my nightstand. I pick it up and answer with toothbrush still in mouth. It was the owner of the Pine Street building calling to offer us the apartment! I swallowed the toothpaste, looked at Stephanie who seemed to know what the call was about, and said yes, we definitely wanted the apartment. And that was it. I felt naseous, I think more because of the toothpaste I’d just swallowed than the shock. We were done. We’d found a place. I was so expecting a long drawn out ordeal, that I didn’t know what to think or do. Our plan had been set in motion. Now we just have to get there.
This is the 3rd post in a series about finding an apartment in SF.
Part 1: How to find an apartment in San Francisco
Part 2: The great San Francisco apartment hunt begins!
Part 3: The great San Francisco apartment hunt ends!
Part 4: A look inside the apartment, finally!