If you’re thinking about relocating to San Diego, you might want to start with a roommate finder first. Though the rent isn’t as scary as other parts of California, it’s far from cheap but certainly tight on space. In fact, while the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in the city was around $1,900 as of February — far less than the $2,400+ price tag in Los Angeles and whopping $4,100+ rent price in San Francisco — housing has been in high demand. Like many U.S. metros, San Diego’s vacancy rate has been dropping rapidly in recent years.
Only 3.62 percent of San Diego’s rentals were vacant in 2014, nearly 2 percent less than in 2011. When you compare this to the national vacancy rate average of 6.32 percent, San Diego proves to be as hard as many other large metros to find affordable housing. The good news is that San Diego residents may be able to rent up for a lower cost than elsewhere — as long as you know where to look. We talked to some local residents who offered their advice on how to snag luxury rentals using a roommate finder and some San Diego know-how.
What’s the Deal in San Diego?
The Affordability of San Diego Rentals
While local renters like Walter Meyer are concerned about the rising rents in his city, they recognize San Diego’s relative affordability when considering the amenities and space to share. On average, renters spent less than 25 percent of their median household income on median monthly gross rent in 2014, according to Census ACS Survey, which means the average San Diego is not rent-burdened, by definition. Meyer says he feels fortunate enough to live in a city where he can afford shared housing in a nice part of town, even while the rents continue to rise.
“The neighbourhood in which I live, Hillcrest, is considered one of the most desirable in San Diego — actually, the country — it has made national lists of ‘most walkable’ or ‘best neighborhoods’,” he says.
“There are a lot of bars, restaurants, theaters, gyms, coffee houses, etc., and we are walking distance from Balboa Park and have easy access to all of the major freeways. We pay a price for this convenience — our rents do seem to be climbing faster than other areas.”
Another local renter, Daeli Parker, agrees that if you have some help (like a good roommate finder), you can find the right place in San Diego and live a comfortable life.
“The first place we rented was nice, as far as luxury goes: Rooftop pool, valet parking, etc.,” she recounts. “We were right in downtown so everything was within walking distance, and that was a plus, including the trolley, which went as far east as El Cajon.”
She continues that downtown San Diego sports a variety of options, many of them small and expensive, but with a few luxury high-rises which offer the amenities she had. But in these areas, the rent is high, and climbing, and the choice apartments might already be taken.
Expenses and Rent Rise
Though the median renter isn’t rent-burdened, many in San Diego do feel the weight of rising rents, and the city is getting too expensive for some — making the need for a good roommate finder greater than ever.
Jessica Whitt* is sad to say it, but she’s jumping ship later this year for greener (cheaper) pastures. Whitt, who rents alone and is fortunate enough to work from home (no need to commute), says she has no reason to pay high prices to stay put, though she won’t be happy to say goodbye.
“I love it here, but the rental market has gotten out of control,” she says. “Every year they raise the rent, and it’s impossible to negotiate because if someone new moves in, they can get more money from them. The attitude I encountered in general is that they’re doing you a favor, which really bugs me because I’m making them money.”
It’s a common complaint, even in other major cities.
Pro Tip: Use a Roommate Finder in San Diego to Rent Up
Whitt and Meyer had some advice for renters trying to score a rental (or keep one) in San Diego. Whitt recommends if you already have a place, hang onto it, especially if it’s within your means.
“Renew your lease — if possible — during the ‘low’ season, which is September to March in San Diego,” she offers. “In my experience, they’re more likely to negotiate during that time. Also, if you know you want to stay there, renew for more than a year.”
She also points out it’d be easier to afford rising rent with the help of a roommate, as long as communication is solid. Average renter household sizes have increased nationwide, and it’s no coincidence. As rental markets get more expensive and more competitive, renters are making room for hopefuls. It’s a way for renters to create more housing and lower cost for everyone without relying on developers and city officials to build affordable housing.
Meyer says the best roommate finder is a local renter in San Diego. So ask around, make friends, and get the word out there!
“I hear stories all the time of people who called about an apartment and by the time they ran over to see it 20 minutes later, the place had been rented,” he says. “But if you have a friend or a friend of a friend who is renting, perhaps you can get it before they go public with the rental notice.”
If you don’t know anyone in San Diego, but want to, you can check out a few listings using a roommate finder website or app and find someone with a lease. You can skip the hard stuff of applying and move right in.
*Person’s name changed to protect privacy.