How to Find an Apartment in Silicon Valley Without Going Bald (From ripping your hair out)

Are you currently buried under hundreds of floor plans, pricing, and amenities brochures all named similarly- like Aventino, Aviare, or Arioso? Have no idea which of the five places you toured today had stainless steel appliances, had two allotted parking spots, or a year-round heated pool?

You’ve been apartment shopping in Silicon Valley. Recently, MSN Real Estate predicted San Jose, California as the top city for rent increases in 2013. So, grab a beer, relax, and read this post for the top 10 tips to find your haven in Silicon Valley.

Rental prices from

Rental prices from

1.  Determine your budget. Pick a range between ‘I’d love to find a place for that price’ and ‘I’d have to have a second income from YouTube videos of my cat’. Keep in mind that the Silicon Valley Business Journal recently posted that 1 BR apartments had surpassed $2,050/month.

2. Where are you working? How far do you want to commute? Assuming you understand the bonkers traffic situation in the Bay Area, find your comfort level of commute times, map it out on Google maps, and begin your search in those communities.

3. Essex, BRE Properties, Irvine Company, and Prometheus are some of the largest property management companies and are a great place to start your search. Craigslist is also a good source for all rentals- but beware that there are a few really great properties that do not list with Craigslist.

4. Be very wary of the wide-shot camera angles and nice photos of the “gardens” or “updated kitchen” (see below). Always, check the area in Google maps or street view.

A nice, bright, wide angle apartment photographed like this.....

A nice, bright, wide angle apartment photographed like this…..

...Could actually be like this when you visit

…Could actually be like this when you visit


5. If all looks good from a birds-eye view of your desired properties, go ahead and schedule an appointment through the property management website to tour the property. The best time to tour apartments is less than 30 days from your preferred move-in date. This is because current tenant move-out notices are required by property manager 30 days or under from their scheduled move-out date. The property will have the best idea of their inventory during this timeframe.

6. Ready to see your next home? Come prepared with a lot of questions. Create a rubric for each property to record your thoughts before everything begins to become a blur of Whirlpool appliances and hardwood floors. Also equally important is feeling out the leasing office staff- these are the people that decide how fast your broken dishwasher gets fixed and how easy your leasing process goes. If you get an uneasy feeling from the leasing staff, it’s highly recommended not to lease there. Here are Questions to Ask Prospective Silicon Valley Property Managers to get you started.

7. As you are touring your prospective home, take note of your surroundings. Is there a bar or business nearby that could cause noise? How do the tenants look- are they people you would want to call your neighbors? Are the grounds well taken care of? If you are coming from the midwest, lakeside property is a huge plus. Let’s take a poll- how many natural freshwater lakes are there in Silicon Valley? None! Living “lakeside” in Silicon Valley actually something to avoid. These “water features” can attract a host of pest issues like silverfish, rats, termites, and even rattle snakes. Not to mention, bed bugs. (Yes, it is something you have to be careful about in the area.)

Fair Oaks Property in Sunnyvale, CA

Fair Oaks Property in Sunnyvale, CA

Also important while you tour- look up. Are trees overhanging on the outdoor parking? Are there crows/seagulls/assorted birds in those trees? If so, purchase a yearly pass at your local car wash because every morning you aren’t parked under a covered spot, your car will look like someone threw white paint on your vehicle. Enjoy!

8. Now, you’ve just toured a clean, well-managed property at a great price without going totally crazy! They even have floor plans for your living situation! Congratulations! Put down a deposit. Now. Putting down a deposit means you have up to three days to revoke your application and hold on the unit with the agreed upon pricing. Clarify with the property management how long you have to revoke your application, get a copy of your deposit check and associated paperwork. This resource from the State of California outlining tenant law will be a great reference for anyone new to the area.

Since the Silicon Valley housing and rental market is at an all time high, it is entirely possible for someone else to put a deposit down on the same unit you are touring- while you are standing in the units living room. Yes, it is that crazy.

9. Congratulations! You’ve just decided on your reasonably priced apartment with a lake-free community, stellar leasing staff, and safe property. Time to sign your lease and start your move in process! Now, for one of the most important steps: READ. THE. LEASE. Every single word. You could be signing your life away to a property that has the right to kick you out of your apartment with no notice if they decide to renovate at any time. Take the time and understand what you are committing to. Or, it could be a very, very long 6-12 months.

10. You’ve memorized the lease. Got the moving truck packed without any major bodily injury. You’re ready to start making this space in Silicon Valley your home! Wait. Remember that move-in checklist the leasing staff gave you? Do a thorough walk-through of your space before moving in. Look in the drawers. Under the sink. Inside the oven. Turn all appliances on- are they in working order?

Any major issues you see, take a photo and note it on the document. This is incredibly important to save yourself the hassle of the “was the 3 foot scratch on the wall caused by the couch you moved up here?” questions from the leasing office. Download a copy of an example move-in checklist here.

Living in Silicon Valley is fast and sometimes can be crazy. Survive it by creating a retreat for yourself that is hassle-free and you’ll be set for success. Enjoy!


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