1) I came from NYC and was not hungry for hills, and did not mind a commute as I was used to the train.
2) I went all over 15 neighbohoods in San Francisco and, for the price range, up to $1,500 I was not satisfied
- this is a low price range by the way, not that realistic for a great place within the city
3) I spent one day in Oakland - Jack London Square, and fell in love with the whole thing.
Since then I have explored alot more, I would totally live in Berkeley, the whole East Bay, even Alameda. You get alot of bang for your buck, but you are missing out on the city scene. The commute in the morning is awesome if you carpool (maybe 20 minutes over the bridge). My office is in the mission, so right over the Bay Bridge and you are here.
BART sucks IMHO, it doesn't run past midnight and the pricing is ridiculous - so unless you are REALLY going to ride the BART or MUNI, who cares about paying a toll?
Parking is AWESOME in the East Bay. My apartment in Jack London Square is $1,350, is 3-5 years old, includes a washer/dryer, dishwasher, microwave, gym and parking. The marina has restaurants, cool bars and a farmers market, Whole Foods, Trader Joes and more are nearby. BART is there if you want it too and the highways are easily accessible.
Anyway, pick a price range and get out there. I found that there were some good deals. I found a great 1 BR with balcony, in the Sunset neighborhood of SF, for $1300 with parking. The neighborhood I am talking about in the east Bay, Jack London Square is ZIP code 94607, below are some buildings - one even has a heated pool, depending on your budget you can get an amazing loft there!
In regards to commuting - driving over the bay bridge takes me about 30-45 minutes at 8:00 am - paying the toll CASH, if you leave earlier, get a fasttrak, it will be much faster. BART is just 2 stops from Downtown SF from the Lake Merritt station (which is 4-6 blocks from Jack London Area).
Of course, your lifestyle will be completely affected by where you live. If you're looking for a neighborhood that will let you walk to public transportation, restaurants, etc., you will have to accept the fact that the rental costs will be higher.
My advice would be to get a firm grip on your maximum rent, and look accordingly. If you are open to a roommate, you could end up in a better neighborhood. Location means a great deal, whether you're buying or renting. --Eileen
Realtor Services for San Francisco Bay Area - Peninsula, South and East Bay. Buyer and Seller Representation for Residential Real Estate Market, Comparative Property Market Analysis
Eilleen is correct that you will find things cheaper in outlying areas, and if you rent something close to a BART station the commute shouldn't be too painful, but there is also the quality of life issue. If you are planning on spending time in the city other than work and you can afford to live here, look for a place here.
The other factor you want to consider is if you are planning to buy at some point. I would want to get familiar with wherever I was thinking about buying and rent there before pulling the trigger. You may find that if you choose to live outside the city that commuting isn't as bad as you thought, or that it's a deal breaker - and go from there.
Lance King/Managing Broker
You'll find the commute times shorter and more reliable if you stay on the SF side of the bay, as getting across the bridges by car can be painful and when trains have problems they usually seem to be the trains that go to the East Bay.
Rents vary according to neighborhood and the associated crime rate. I manage properties in Palo Alto that rent: 1 bedroom: $1100, 2 bedroom $1450. Farther south in Mountain View take $100 off each of those, stay in San Francisco add $300 to each, same with better parts of Palo Alto. I recommend you look around and see what area floats your boat, then check out Craigs List and other rental posting sites. Best of luck!