An open house in San Francisco is a notoriously competitive affair. As you and your roommates-to-be marvel at the hardwood floors and closet space, there will definitely be several other seekers obnoxiously glad-handing and kissing up to the landlord right in front of your face. Naturally, you wish upon these people poor credit scores and, even better, furry pets or B.O. It is a strange feeling wishing bad smells on other human beings, but it is a necessary one. For San Francisco, apartment-hunting is a fierce game, on par with competition for Rhodes scholarships and Heisman trophies.
Anecdotal research suggests that for every vacant apartment within city limits, there are, more or less, 423,000 people looking for a vacant apartment within city limits. Half of those people can be eliminated right off the top, due to racism and employment instability. Based on median income figures, however, everybody in the other half likely makes more money than you do. Not to worry. There are crafty ways to outmaneuver these bastards.
Attire is critical. Aim for a professional but sensible balance. Clashing colors and untucked shirts can signify a messy room, which can signify a lack of interest in cleanliness. A Cartier watch or alligator loafers can mark a frivolous spender tempted to sacrifice this month's rent on Black Friday doorbuster sales — because if you were really ballin' you wouldn't be perusing a $2,300 3BR in the Outer Richmond.
When possible, complete the application in advance and be sure to bring your credit report. You might be concerned about giving a total stranger your Social Security and checking account numbers. What do landlords do with those stacks of rejected applications, anyway? Is there some sort of local incinerator specially designed to destroy rejected apartment applications? Is there a government regulator charged with ensuring that landlords follow proper disposal protocols? Could a landlord — financially savvy enough to own investment property in the first place — really resist the temptation of selling all this valuable information to identity thieves?
Best not to consider these questions, because there is nothing you can do about them. Sometimes you just gotta say what the hell, and charge it to the game. Find peace in knowing that all your personal data is probably already on the Internet.
Accept that some applicants face intrinsically better odds than others. For instance, if you are a serious couple looking to settle down but in no rush to have a child (good to make this detail clear), anything short of a blunt visibly tucked behind an ear should leave you in solid position.
Of course, you may be part of a group of three or four young single men. Sorry to hear this. The last thing a landlord needs is a Thursday night beer pong tournament or cracked paint from roughhousing. But these stereotypes can be overcome through orchestrated dialogue.
Here's a pro tip: As the landlord stands in the living room, your group should meander into an adjacent room.
“Hey man, so how'd your weekend go?” says one, audibly but not too loud.
“Went great, thanks for asking. Finally finished Pride and Prejudice. You know I just feel so much more productive ever since I quit drinking,” responds another.
“Any chance I can borrow that book?” asks the third. “I donated most of my reading material to my little cousin's book drive at school.”
If possible, have a white guy with you as a precaution. This is San Francisco, city of tolerance and progressivism, but provincial mentalities remain in certain circles.
For all apartment-seekers, controlled aggression, though not desperation, is key. The more shots attempted, the better the chances of scoring — the sweet spot falls somewhere between Nellie-ball and drunk single guy at last call.
Finally, and this should go without saying, shake the landlord's hand on the way in and the way out. Nobody likes an unfriendly asshole. And don't ask if it's okay to smoke on the fire escape.