Our latest compelling tale comes from my ride share passenger, Christine. I picked Christine up in the downtown Tenderloin area and brought her about 25-minutes south to the foggy residential Sunset District. Christine was enthusiastic, had an authentic and truthful quality to her personality and stunning long, dirty blonde hair that showered down over her shoulders like dripping honey. No longer a resident of San Francisco, Christine told me of her struggles in what is likely the most competitive and challenging housing market in America. This, in part, is why she left the Bay Area.
She had a sublet situation, which was soon coming to an end. After weeks of searching, she had finally received responses back from a few parties who were interested in speaking with her about their soon-to-be-open rooms. She only had a week left in her current place, so this timing, although it could have been better, was good.
Oddly over formal
She arrived at the first apartment to be greeted by the current tenants who she described as privileged, strangely overly-formal hippy offspring. The room was laid out like an alcoholic’s anonymous meeting held inside of a maximum-security prison. (I would guess the living room was a bit more pleasantly decorated, though.) 25 people came that day to view the room. They stood awkwardly in the apartment waiting for instructions.
There were cold steel fold-up chairs placed neatly in a circle around the room. Without being offered any food or drink, these potential roommates, who were being treated as second-class citizens, we’re asked to “please quickly find a seat.” Christine was asked to join the other “parties in the room.”
One of the current residents acted as a facilitator for the group. He suggested that “we go in a circle and answer the following questions: What kind of music do you listen to? What are your eating habits and what kinds of food will you be storing in our refrigerator?”
Midway through the meeting, a young woman entered, late. She was asked to take the only seat left in the room. As the current residents looked at her unappreciatively for interrupting their perfectly planned event, she cringed and took the barren seat next to the facilitator. He turned to her and asked, “alright, what kind of food would you be keeping in the refrigerator? Do you eat junk or fried food?”
When you just had enough
This was the straw that broke the camels back. As the late arrival struggled for her words, Christine stood up in total disgust, and with a red face, threw up her hands and said, “Am I the only one who thinks this is total fucking bullshit? This is so weird and sterile. I’m leaving and anyone here can join me.”
As she left, the room looked at her in amazement. No one got up from their seat. About to walk out of the door, Christine heard the rigid protagonist call out to her, “Christine, excuse me, Christine? Would you be so kind as to leave your email address?” Christine declined.
Christine continues her apartment search
Even more surprising is how Christine found her apartment. The next day she went to another “open house.” She knocked on the door of the building in the residential Western Addition area of San Francisco. An energetic man answered the door and started running her through the crowds of people who were also there to look at the room. “Here is the bathroom” “Here is the open room” “Here is the Kitchen and that’s Aaron and you should talk to him.” “He lives here!” How cool, right?!” Christine did not expect there to be a large house party full of people competing for a room the size of a shoebox. But, there she was.
Taking the man’s suggestion, she started to approach Aaron to introduce herself. She overheard a conversation between one of the other guests and Aaron. The guest found out that she and Aaron went to the same art school. Overhearing this, another potential roommate jumped in front of the girl, flailing her arms around manically, exclaiming, “I went there too! I went there too! I was a great student and love love love art!!” At that moment, her original host came skipping into the kitchen. “Heeeeeey guys, how’d you all get here?” They answered, “I walked!” “I drove” “I took the BART!” He looked at Christine said, “How about you? How did you get here?” Christine hesitantly responded, “umm, I rode my bike…” He replied, “YES!! That’s the answer I was looking for.”
What happens when Christine gets angry
Once again, Christine started to become enraged about the menagerie that is house hunting in SF and how current residents sometimes handle the roommate hunt. And, again, she expressed her discontent: “You guys have some hell of a nerve, inviting me here under false pretenses so I can be a contestant in your weird game show! I’m out of here!!”
They were so intrigued with her, they literally chased her out of the door trying to coerce her to stay. At work the next day, while recapping her experience to coworkers, she received a text from the people at the second house asking her to, please come back. They were very interested in her. Her colleagues suggested that she continue to curse off the current residents so that they want her more. So, she basically did that. She was invited back for a one-on-one interview, the only such interview this household ran. She reminded them how dissatisfied she was and that she did not appreciate their lack of communication and their treating her and the others in substandard ways.
The current residents agreed with her. She was the only one who spoke up. They really liked her and offered her the apartment on the spot. To this day, she is close friends with one of her former roommates.
A lot can be said of the rental market in the Bay Area. I can’t blame Christine for her frustration. It is very challenging to find affordable housing that is convenient, safe and reasonably priced. Residents, looking for roommates, get reportedly hundreds of emails for one open space. I’m not sure what the correct approach would be to finding a new roommate but, apparently for some, the way these two houses went about it most certainly did not rub everyone the right way.
What is your craziest apartment hunting story?