Congratulations! With some hard work and persistence, you landed your dream internship in the Bay Area. You start thinking of the Golden Gate Bridge and envisioning yourself talking tech with your new coworkers. Then reality hits: Where will I live? Can I find affordable housing? Will I end up writing horror stories about my roommates from Craigslist?
Finding housing in an unfamiliar area can be nerve-wracking. However, with the right information, you'll find a place to call your own. Before starting your housing search, it's important to know what role your employer will play. Some employers offer corporate housing or a housing stipend while others provide nothing but some info and links.
Figure Out Your Ideal Location in the Bay Area
Since you're moving to the area, you might not know that San Francisco is not synonymous with the Bay Area. The Bay Area actually consists of numerous counties and cities all with their own unique qualities. Some important factors to consider when choosing a location are where you'll be working, how much you can afford, and what type of area you'd like to live in.
San Francisco Neighborhoods
San Franciso is made up of lots of neighborhoods — 35-100+ depending on who you ask, with a total population of 880,000. Each of these spots offers different vibes, restaurants, and housing options. Fact: they don't all look like they've been pulled straight out of "Full House."
If you're working in the city, chances are you might be spending your days in the Financial District. Since you'll be spending lots of your time at work, it's a good idea to live within a 30-45 minute commute. Some neighborhoods are more popular with interns for their affordability, proximity to the Financial District, and overall vibe.
Named after the Mission San Francisco de Asis church, the oldest standing structure in San Francisco, the Mission is home to a mix of Latinx families and young tech professionals (increasingly the latter). This neighborhood provides plenty of taquería options, dive bars (if you're legally allowed to drink), and a chance to unwind in Dolores Park.
Known as the "Little Italy" of San Francisco, North Beach is home to cute cafes and cozy restaurants. It's only a little over a mile walk from the Financial District. The MUNI doesn't run through here, so be prepared to walk, bike, or take the bus.
This neighborhood is located just north of popular Nob Hill. It's full of quiet, picturesque streets and steep hills. The rent tends to be slightly higher than North Beach, so be prepared to pay a few extra hundred dollars for your place each month.
South of Market (SOMA)
SOMA mixes new apartment buildings and offices with old warehouses, swanky nightclubs, and museums. It's located a short distance away from the Civic Center and the Tenderloin, so certain areas tend to be safer than others. We recommend asking a local to provide recommendations for the best area to live in.
Longer Commute ... but More Affordable
If you don't mind spending more time on the bus or train (AKA you're okay with extra time to read a book or catch a nap), living further away from the hub of the Financial District and Union Square can help you save money.
Daly City is located south of San Francisco and is just a short BART ride away from the Financial District. If you're looking for affordable, quiet living, it's a good place to check out.
Oakland is the largest city in the East Bay area and offers lots of affordable housing options. If you look a little further north in Berkeley, you'll likely be able to find students subletting to those looking for summer intern housing. Both Oakland and Berkeley connect with San Francisco via a 15-20 minute BART ride.
South Bay Cities
If you're working in Silicon Valley and want to live close to work, it's best to look for housing in the South Bay and Peninsula areas. In case you didn't already know, Silicon Valley is located about an hour's drive south of San Francisco. If you've landed an internship with Google, Apple, Tesla, or one of Silicon Valley's startups, you'll likely be living in the city you're working in for an easier commute.
Named for its view of the Santa Cruz mountains, this small city (pop. 80,000) has a cute downtown focused around Castro Street. It's home to easy-going residents and lots of parks. Google paid $1 billion for real estate in Mountain View, so if you live here, you'll likely see lots of Google employees biking around (if you're not a Google employee yourself).
With a suburban and slightly sprawling feel, Sunnyvale (pop. 150,000) has a bit less character than surrounding areas. However, it's a perfectly fine place to live and it does tend to have lower rental prices. Both Google and Apple have large offices here.
Home to lots of startups and a few larger technology companies, Redwood City provides a walkable downtown area with a movie theater and restaurants. Redwood City's population has been on the rise (currently at 85,000) especially with the new Pacific Shores tech campus that Google now owns.
With a bit of an older and quieter feel, Menlo Park (pop. 35,000) offers nice houses and easy access to restaurants and grocery stores. Facebook headquarters are located in Menlo Park, but lots of employees live in various cities thanks to Facebook's commuter buses.
With an energetic, upscale vibe, Palo Alto (pop. 70,000) is one of the most expensive areas in Silicon Valley. Although it's adjacent to Stanford University, it doesn't have a college town feel — the streets are quiet after 10 p.m. without much nightlife.
Known as one of the most diverse cities in the country, Fremont (pop. 240,000) is home to many families. Although it provides less in nightlife and entertainment than surrounding areas, it has BART access and more affordable rental costs. If you know someone working at Tesla, you can get a free tour at the Tesla factory (and see an incredible number of Teslas in one space).
San Jose is the largest city in the South Bay (pop. 1.04 million) and offers the most affordable housing options. It offers a variety of rentals in different neighborhoods. Beware: traffic here gets extra-heavy during morning and evening rush hours, so commuting by car is not recommended.
What to Consider for Your Intern Housing Options
Once you've decided on a neighborhood or city, it's time to think about what's important to you in your soon-to-be home so you can narrow down your options.
Leases that Suit Your Timeline
Whether you've snagged an internship that requires a month of summer housing or a four-month fall internship, you want your housing contract to meet your needs. There's nothing worse than paying for a year-long lease and having to sublet or find a replacement for eight months.
When you're looking for a place to live, search for temporary housing suitable for students completing internships. Short-term and mid-term housing options will ensure you don't overpay for an unrealized extended stay.
Another thing to look for is move-in and move-out dates that suit your needs. There's nothing worse than showing up at your new apartment building's front desk and learning you can't move in for another two weeks.
The co-founders of Kopa started the company out of their own need for housing during their internships since they found themselves coming from the Toronto area to the Bay Area.
If you know you're the type of person that needs your own space at the end of a day, consider looking for a single room. As you've probably guessed, privacy and space do come at a price.
If you're looking for the lowest-cost option and don't expect to have a private room, there are multi-bed spaces with lower costs per bed. The tricky process of finding good housemates doesn't have to be so hard. Kopa's Housemate Finder can help you find others looking for the same location and stay dates as you and make your home not just bearable but enjoyable — whether that means quiet nights, deep conversations, or rowdy pillow fights.
If you're coming from across the country or from a different country, you probably won't bring furniture with you. While it is possible to find furniture for an empty rental, furnished spaces remove that hassle, and they usually work out to be similar in cost to moving furniture.
Make sure to ask any potential hosts what is and is not included. Some properties don't come with utilities such as wifi and cable, so make sure you know who is responsible for what so you don't end up with unexpected bills.
The Bay Area has a multitude of public transportation options, making it easy to get around. Depending on where you live and how far you are traveling, you may end up riding the bus or hopping on a bike or scooter.
MUNI provides many localized bus and light rail routes that help you get around San Francisco. When looking for a place to live, note how long it will take you to walk to the closest stop. If you're heading between San Franciso and another part of the Bay Area, you can jump on BART or Caltrain.
For short-distance trips, electric bikes and scooters are often faster than public transportation. There are a number of rental companies operating in the area, so you don't have to worry about buying or storing your new ride.
How to Find Your Home Away from Home
So, once you've figured out the type and location of your ideal (or realistic) housing, how do you actually find a place to live?
A good place to start is your employer. As previously mentioned, they might provide you with a stipend or even housing. If not, they usually have suggestions on where to look for housing or a lead on an employee who has a bedroom for rent.
While it may take you down a rabbit hole, Google can help you find housing options. Try searching for "student housing" or "summer internship housing" to find lower-cost, temporary options. If nothing else, some good internet digging can help give you an idea of prices.
Craigslist's classified ads can help you find both housing and roommates. Rental companies and Airbnb hosts sometimes post their properties on Craiglist, so this can be a viable option. However, remember that if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Facebook Marketplace or Facebook Groups
Facebook Marketplace has become popular for people posting sublets, so make sure to check here for multi-month rental options. You can join Facebook Marketplace or local housing groups, usually called something like "Bay Area Intern Housing." Just be sure you like the other people living in the space before you commit!
Kopa helps you find furnished housing and compatible housemates by matching you with verified hosts and/or roommates. You can browse listings by rental date, price, and neighborhood.
Start your search early
Although it is possible to find an affordable and desirable place to live in the Bay Area, the housing market is competitive. Most interns secure their housing 2-4 months before the start date of their internship. So, now that you know how to find housing, get to work!