When you leave home to live elsewhere, finding your nest is important. If there are children, it is sometimes even a question that you want to resolve as soon as possible. Even if the motels, the rentals between individuals or temporary solutions can help, in unknown grounds, to put a roof over your head and to imagine your cocoon remains essential. To save some sweats to those who think of settling in the area or looking for housing, Servane Valentin, a real estate pro, decrypts the key points of the local market. She works for an agency specialized in rental properties for six years. Its scope of action? The urban neighborhoods of East Bay (east of San Francisco Bay: Berkeley, Oakland, Albany, El Cerrito, Richmond…).

When we land in San Francisco Bay, what should we expect in terms of real estate?
It’s a unique market and very different from the one we know in France! It is faster, more expensive, more competitive, more closed and more specific. To find your home, it is better to leave your French landmarks behind.

Some examples of specificities?
In the Bay, no need to start looking three months in advance! It is quite stressful but it takes no more than 4 to 6 weeks. The goods do not remain on the market for a long time and are generally rented empty for the days and weeks that follow. Note that this is a seasonal market linked to the school calendar. Between June and September, it’s a race! There are more offers but a house can be rented in a few hours or a few days days. In the Winter, there are fewer offers, the prices are a little lower but the owners still find their renters in 2-3 weeks max… When ads stay more than a month on a site like Craiglist for example this is a bad sign: it is either too expensive or there is a problem.

How is the demand at this moment?
The Silicon Valley boom has created profound upheavals in the region in recent years: many young techies, who are often well paid, have moved to San Francisco and around, causing prices to skyrocket. But today, this phenomenon has stabilized. There are fewer arrivals, less competition and by consequence prices have dropped slightly. Geographically, many families in search of garden and space left the City to expand and they often crossed the bridge to find an East Bay home. Companies have started to settled in East Bay like in Oakland which attracts more and more businesses. It is a particularly attractive and trendy corner.

What is the budget for settling in East Bay?
It should be known that here the price of a house is determined according to 2 major criteria: the number of rooms and the quality of the school of the district. Public schools are noted and this system has a direct impact on the rental price as that of the sale. The more you want a good school district, the higher the demand and the higher the price. The quality of the property, the neighborhood (public transport, shops, etc.) and the season affect prices too. If you combine 3 bedrooms, a garden, a well noted school district, the ease of transport and a sought after area, the amounts fly to 5000 dollars and more!

Is this price the same throughout East Bay?
No! The range evolves of course according to what one seeks. For a house with 2 bedrooms to El Cerrito, you can find around 3,500 dollars and for the same good in Richmond, you can go down to 2,800-3,000 dollars. In Emeryville, there are condos, apartments in co-owned buildings, with 2 bedrooms for 3,500 dollars. If you want a good school district in Berkeley or in Albany, where schools excel, it’s above. Some neighborhoods are also blazing up right now like Temescal, Montclair or Rockridge in Oakland. Those neighborhoods are changing, like Brooklyn in New York or the 18th and 19th arrondissements in Paris!

And can we find the same kind of goods in all these East Bay cities?
No, this is where this market is specific. There are few apartments in East Bay. You can find condos in Emeryville or Oakland, student residences in the center of Berkeley but overall, there is a majority of pavilions that differ depending on the city: in Albany, they are rather small; in Berkeley, there are many craftsman from the 20s to 40s with 2 to 3 bedrooms (you have to climb the hills to find bigger houses, modern with completely renovated properties or cottages, but then the gardens are more rare…); in Oakland, we are leaving more on Victorian houses; in Richmond or El Cerrito, spacious homes of the 50s … In short, it is very heterogeneous.

How to make a choice ?
In the first place, it is more efficient to choose the neighborhood in which you want to live. Then, it’s about dealing with what we find there. You have to be flexible. The choices are sometimes quite limited, it can be necessary to make compromises.

Is there a lot of competition?
It has calmed down a bit, but we are never alone! And for any rental file asked, the list of papers and evidences to provide is long. To apply, you first need proof of employment and it is good to earn 2.5 to 3 times the rent in salary. Although local wages are higher than in Paris or France in general, the ratio of wages to rent remains higher here. Then it is common to ask if you have savings and have to provide the bank account positions… You will also be asked a deposit (deposit) which varies from 1 rent to more, according to your profile or if the property is furnished for example. Finally, as a foreigner, you do not have credit history or credit score (the rating that assesses your ability to repay) and that is often a problem for homeowners. To avoid being rejected, it is then advisable to pay six months in advance. You can also make the decision waver by offering to pay a little more than what is requested … The beat-up is commonplace here!

Between these requirements and this market, it can turn into a nightmare … Any advice?
Get help! Hiring an agent is a necessary step in finding your home. It’s like that. Here, we can still try to find solo, but it’s a big challenge … You can also start with an Airbnb for a month in order to define your strategy.

It is precisely on the strategies that you intervene?
Our agency responds and adapts to needs by taking care of customers from A to Z. We start by determining their research, review and redefine their expectations – often thwarted by the constraints of the market – we organize neighborhood tours, even to distance, we gather all the necessary information on schools, transport, we make the visits and we collect paperwork. We often work “virtually” because part of our clientele is not yet there; it’s relocation, we connect with Facetime or Skype.

Going through your services costs how much?
We are asking for 80% of the first month’s rent with a minimum of $2,250. Our contracts last 6 weeks knowing that generally, it’s settled in 3 weeks!

Are you also dealing with landlords?
Yes since we are offering the management of their property, including the search for tenants or the preparation of contracts. It is a strength because we can often find the right match owners-tenants! We have a good network of owners and managers, which allows us to be fast in this voracious market.

What are your projects ?
As the rental need is growing in the San Francisco Bay Area, we are developing in Lafayette, Orinda, Walnut Creek. There are also area tours for newcomers to San Francisco / East Bay. You want to know more: contact directly Servane Valentin: servane@andrearentals.com.

MERCI Charlotte of Beyond the Bridge for having updated this article for us in Feb, 2019
Link article: http://beyondthebridge.fr/interview-servane-valentin-specialiste-du-locative-market-in-the-san-francisco-baby/


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