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How to Find an Apartment in San Diego

Here's how to find an apartment in San Diego.

Finding an apartment in San Diego, California, is no easy task; finding one that’s suitable and within your budget may seem impossible.

It’s not, but this process is certainly one that takes a lot of time to do well. Even with these tips for apartment-hunting, you can spend an inordinate amount of time pounding the pavement, interviewing people, dealing with false starts, and having to start the process all over again.

The secret of how to find an apartment in San Diego that you’ll like and can afford long-term is to think of it like applying for a job or hiring someone: You’ll have many options, but you ultimately need to decide on one. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you through, outlining the best ways to find the loft, house, or apartment of your dreams.

how to find an apartment in san diego

1. Familiarize yourself with prices and the sizable change in the cost of living.

We’ve mentioned it before, but it’s very important to remember the giant spike in the cost of living and average rent compared to many other places in the U.S., including some other cities in California. Don’t reject the first listings you see.

Rent here is unlikely to be cheap; you’ll find prices that are about twice the national average, with $2,357 being the overall average monthly rent price. All costs together are about 33 percent higher than the national average, landing San Diego in the top ten most expensive cities to live in in the U.S. but below cities like San Francisco, which has a cost of living that’s 61 percent above the national average.

2. Calculate the commute and find the most reasonable distance (for your wallet and your sanity).

Considering all of this, some professionals wondering where to find apartments for rent in San Diego will actually look elsewhere, in surrounding suburbs and communities like El Cajon, Chula Vista, or Oceanside. Some even consider going across the border into Tijuana. But will you be able to commute across the border every morning?

Take into consideration the costs of travel, but also consider the costs of the stresses of commuting on your system. It’s great to find an apartment that’s a few hundred dollars cheaper, but will a sudden gas price increase ruin that, and will the frustrations on the road make you lose it after a year? Draw out a radius from your point of work that seems workable, and then consider the neighborhoods within that region.

how to find an apartment in san diego

Image source: Trulia

3. Find out which neighborhood really fits you.

Use our neighborhood guides and find the areas of the city that have the kind of style you’re looking for. Are the surfs of Coronado calling? Do you want the welcoming, comfortable, LGBT-friendly community of Hillcrest? On the other hand, the glitz and glam of the East Village might be perfect for you. Find the right neighborhood by doing some research online with Jumpshell.

4. Interview/consider roommates.

If you want to keep costs down, finding an apartment in San Diego, CA, should include looking for a roommate. A roommate would help to keep the famously outlandish rent prices more affordable. Typically, you’ll spend about $950 that way, rather than the normal average of $1,350 for a studio alone. Take the time to sit down and interview people.

Roomi is a new roommate find-and-chat app that streamlines the roommate search process. Here's a look at the interface (for its desktop website).

how to find an apartment in san diego

5. Spend a few hours browsing listings.

Numerous websites feature listings, and unfortunately, there is an unpredictable variety of offerings online, from sloppy places featured on Craigslist to elegant places on select, high-end sites. Don’t expect to find much in old-school printed classifieds, but don’t entirely discount them, either: You never know where you might find the right listing.

Note that many landlords these days work with a rental agent just because the vacancy rate is so low and there’s so much renting competition. Add "talk to a broker near me" to your list of things to do when shopping through listings. Do that and you’ll often have a more effective apartment search.

6. Visit neighborhoods and apartments in person.

Enlist the help of a friend (you should have a buddy) and start driving around to the places you found interesting. Do so on a rainy day, if possible, to see if there are any leaks. Check to make sure the lights and plumbing work, and be sure to check the cabinets. Note that if you’re working with a broker, an expert will know exactly what to look for.

7. Double-check your credit score and referral information.

Some landlords check for crazy stuff, going well beyond the normal practice of background checks and pulling numerous types of consumer reports. Have referrals handy, and be sure your credit score is in a good range.

8. Look for referrals for the landlord.

Hey, they want referrals for you, so get referrals for them, too; it’s only fair. Have you and your roommate talk to your new potential neighbors about their experience, or see if your landlord has any connections or a reputation in the neighborhood.

9. Read the lease before you sign it.

This may seem obvious, but so many people are too excited to move to really give the lease a good look. Out of all of our apartment-hunting tips, this is the most important: Read carefully before you sign anything. If anything is amiss, don’t be scared to discuss it. It’s better to bring it up now than for it to become an issue in six months.

Those are the basics of how to find an apartment in San Diego, California. Note that many of these processes can be smoothed over when you contact an expert apartment-finder with Jumpshell, who’d be happy to help you find the perfect place!

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