Forget Craigslist — I found an amazing apartment in San Francisco using Yelp

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Searching for an apartment? Look no further.
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Vanessa Porter/Flickr

Few web services will break you like Craigslist.

It’s the go-to classified ads site for people looking to find an apartment, and yet, Craigslist’s visual clutter and chaos leaves most users dazed. Day one of my apartment hunt in San Francisco, I wanted to cry looking at the purple-and-white mess of listings.

Then I tried searching Yelp on a whim. It’s the most tried-and-true recommendation site on the web, though typically reserved for restaurants and other retail operations.

But using Yelp, I found a new apartment in less than two weeks. Here’s how I did it.


For the last year I’ve lived in Oakland, a 35-minute commute from Business Insider’s office in San Francisco. It has a hopping downtown and quiet residential centers.

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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

But my boyfriend’s commute to Silicon Valley proper cost him three to four hours a day. We decided to move to San Francisco to make both our lives easier.

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Google Maps screenshot

We didn’t need a Victorian. We enjoy the amenities a new development brings, which, in San Francisco, usually means a fitness center, a mail room, and parking.

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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

We tried looking on Craigslist but became quickly overwhelmed by the number of choices. It was difficult to suss out the scam posts from the legit ones.

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Craigslist screenshot

Because I was new to the city, I didn’t know what buildings were out there. It would take me weeks to discover them on foot. So, I turned to Yelp.

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Robert Couse-Baker/flickr

From the Yelp app home page, I selected “More Categories” from the menu.

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Yelp screenshot

I scrolled until I reached “Real Estate.”

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Yelp screenshot

I plugged in the neighborhood I wanted, Dogpatch, in the location search field.

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Yelp screenshot

Yelp returned a list of mostly new developments in Dogpatch and nearby Potrero Hill and SoMa. These were large apartment complexes, not Victorian homes, to be clear.

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Yelp screenshot

Yelp’s curated list worked for us, because we wanted a new development.

If you’re looking for a more traditional home or a unit in a Victorian, you will have better luck on Craigslist or one of its equivalents.


I clicked into the second listing, The Gantry, a new building that sits right on Third Street, a main artery in Dogpatch. It included a website address and a phone number.

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Yelp screenshot

When I took a screenshot of the page, Yelp asked me if I would like to send the screenshot with a link the page. This feature was helpful when I wanted to show a listing to my partner.

I did not find success using the filters, however, which aim to organize the listings by price.


I never trust the photos on an apartment’s website. They’re taken by a professional and usually staged. But on Yelp, I could see images taken by other, unbiased Yelp users.

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Yelp screenshot

If Yelp users came to a consensus in their reviews of the building, I could make an easy decision whether or not to research the building more and apply.

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Yelp screenshot

This hack works best in a dense city like San Francisco, where lots of new construction means there are openings all the time. Suburbanites might not be so lucky.

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Belmont, California, is part of Silicon Valley.
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Flickr / Craig Howell

We didn’t end up applying to The Gantry, but we did move in last weekend to another Dogpatch apartment I found on Yelp. I also found the nearest pizza place using the app.

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Robert Galbraith/Reuters