I Moved to the City During COVID for the Cheap Rent Prices. Here Are 4 Things I’ve Learned

updated Apr 1, 2021
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Credit: Photo by Flemming Fuchs on Unsplash

I’ve always wanted to live in a big city, but somehow, I’ve never gotten the chance. I’m in my 50s now and recently began to wonder if I’d ever leave the Bay Area suburbs and fulfill that dream of mine. One question always stopped me in my tracks: how could my husband and I afford to live in San Francisco, one of the priciest cities in the country? It seemed far-fetched. Then COVID hit. 

In the wave of COVID-19, rent prices went down, competition mellowed, and more affordable rentals came on the market. Though this turn of events was an unfortunate blow to landlords, it presented an opportunity I knew I had to jump on. In the process, I learned four things from finding a COVID rent deal in San Francisco.

Make your intentions known.

Letting others in on my dream to live in the city opened doors — literally. COVID, it seems, has given many a heightened desire to help others. Once I started letting people know I was interested in moving to the city, I was flooded with leads. One came over social media from a friend from high school I hadn’t heard from in years. Others vowed to be “on the lookout.” I ended up scoring a one-year rental with generously reduced rent through a couple at my church. They had left their SF apartment empty when coronavirus hit and moved back to the ‘burbs. When they heard I was looking to rent, they contacted me. 

Don’t go for the jugular in negotiations.

As I first started looking at places during COVID, I assumed my husband and I would have more negotiating power than we actually did. While it’s true landlords want to fill their rentals, in most cases they’ve already lowered the rent hundreds of dollars. They do have a bottom line, after all. 

Also, though competition amid other potential renters may be less intense, in our experience, it hadn’t completely disappeared. If we didn’t agree on the price of a rental we were considering, someone else would have soon enough. 

Accept that you’ll need to be adaptable.

COVID restrictions are more stringent in the city, and this reality called for me to adjust. There are many restaurants and educational and cultural opportunities still open to enjoy, but these experiences are currently modified. Instead of focusing on how things have changed or what I can’t do, I adjusted my focus. As a result, I’ve found some of my greatest “entertainment” has been free, right outside my front door, or a short drive away. (I suppose that’s a perk of being a city dweller.) In SF, for instance, gazing at the architecture in Noe Valley or strolling Golden Gate Park never ceases to thrill. 

Just go for it.

Life is unpredictable. How many times has the phrase “in these unprecedented times…” been uttered, penned, and sighed by everybody everywhere during COVID? With this reality has come a renewed fervor in me to pursue my dreams. I’m not getting any younger — none of us are, by the way — so I’m embracing city life and doing all that I can to make the most of this experience while I’m here. Who knows what next year may bring? 

I’m not sure I would have seriously looked into being a city dweller if it wasn’t for rent deals I noticed due to the pandemic, but I’m grateful I did. Why not explore this opportunity (no matter your age) and use it to move forward and pursue your own city dream?