Housing Resources

Finding a place to live in the Bay Area can be challenging, even for people who have lived in the area their whole life. UCSF campus housing is generally the most convenient option, especially for new arrivals from abroad. However, there is often a waitlist to get a room or apartment through UCSF campus housing so be prepared to have to find an off-campus arrangement at some point.

UCSF Housing Resources

Campus Housing Services

As a visitor to UCSF, Campus Housing Services is the place to start your search for a place to stay. Housing Services manages all campus housing locations and oversees the rental and process.

In addition, Housing Services has an "off-campus" housing list on their website. This list can assist you if you're looking for a non-UCSF managed apartment, summer sublease, roommate, or room in a private home.

UCSF Housing Information Listserv

The UCSF Graduate Division hosts a housing information listserv moderated by members of the Graduate Students' Association, which may help you to find a housing situation on or off campus. This listserv was established in 2014 and is gradually coming into wider use. To subscribe follow these directions:

  1. Send a one-line email message from the email address you want to use to receive housing information.
  2. In the "To" field, enter: [email protected]
  3. Leave the "Subject" field blank. Do not enter any text here.
  4. In the body of the message, enter: "subscribe housing-info yourfirstname yourlastname" (substitute your own first and last names in the locations indicated)

To post a housing or roommate opportunity to the listserv, just send an email with the relevant information to "housing-info [at] listserv [dot] ucsf [dot] edu" and follow the prompts.

Please note that the housing-info listserv is offered as a convenience. UCSF makes no warranties as to any of the housing opportunities publicized on the listserv. The listserv is not sponsored by UCSF Housing Services. And a word of caution: Do not rent housing site unseen. To protect your identity, do not submit to credit or background checks until you have met the landlord or agent in person.

Online (non-UCSF) Resources

Below are some common websites used to search for apartments and rooms that are available to rent. Most apartment rental websites aggregate listings so it's not uncommon to see the same apartment listed on different sites. On all website, please use extreme caution. There are many housing scams on these websites where people try to offer you a very nice apartment at a very low price as long as you pay in cash before you arrive. In almost all cases, if something seems too good to be true, it's probably a scam. Don't feel pressured to do anything you're not comfortable with.

  • Zillow (www.zillow.com): Be sure to select 'rentals' to see the offerings on this site since it also lists homes that are for sale.
  • Padmapper (www.padmapper.com): This site aggregates different apartment listings from different sites. Some listings may not be up to date.
  • Craigslist (www.craigslist.com): The most common site for apartment hunters in the Bay Area but also the most common place to find scams, please be careful is using Craigslist. Most useful pages are "apts / housing" and "rooms / shared". Consider looking outside of San Francisco for cheaper options (East Bay, South Bay, and Peninsula)
  • Airbnb (www.airbnb.com): More commonly used for short term rentals (days or weeks).

Tips for Finding Housing in San Francisco

Below are tips from previous visitor to UCSF on how to secure a place to live in the Bay Area.

  • Act Fast: When you see an apartment advertised, be quick! Call to make an appointment to view the unit that day. Apartments can be rented within the hour of posting online.
  • Ask Questions: Ask the landlord if the following is included in cost: application fees, deposit, laundry access, storage and utilities (gas, electricity, water and garbage). It is if often not included.
  • Credit History: Landlords will ask for proof of credit history. Explain that you are international and have not yet established credit, but that you can show a bank statement from your overseas bank, and (if appropriate) your UCSF appointment letter confirming the amount you will be paid. If possible, you can also pay a few month's rent up front to secure a place.
  • Be Ready: If you are sure you want to rent the place, be ready to pay the deposit and first month’s rent that day (bring a blank check).
  • Transportation: Use the UCSF shuttle to travel to different campuses. Live near Parnassus and take one shuttle to work in Mission Bay!
  • Commuting: It can take up to one hour to get to Mission Bay from the Outer Sunset (SF) by Muni, the same amount of time that it takes to travel from Berkeley to Mission Bay by Bart. Consider the East Bay (Berkeley, Albany, El Cerrito). It is sunny, family and pet friendly.

In general, when discussing the option of renting an apartment over the internet the ISSO recommends:

  • Meet in person before paying any money to confirm legitimacy of rental (scams are common in the Bay Area)
  • Never wire money via Western Union or other wire services
  • Do not give out your bank account or social security number electronically
  • Do not agree to rent a house or room without first seeing the inside and outside

Neighborhoods of San Francisco

The City of San Francisco is composed of many different neighborhoods and when looking for a place to live, it's common to research the neighborhood you are looking to live in. A few examples to consider when researching a neighborhood include:

  • Access to public transportation
  • Crime
  • Price
  • Proximity to Services (like grocery stores or restaurants)
  • Distance from your lab
  • Weather (some neighborhoods are known to have better weather than others)

Selecting a neighborhood you want to live in before you start looking for housing can help you narrow your search for an apartment and save you from any surprises when you finally arrive in the U.S.

You can start your search for the neighborhood that might be best for you with a simple search for "neighborhoods of San Francisco" and go from there.