This SF couple moved from a studio to a $3,850-per-month luxury 1-bedroom: Why they decided to ‘splurge

Rachel Kam, a program manager at a major tech company, started working remotely during the pandemic last year out of her small studio apartment in San Francisco alongside her husband, a scientist at a biotech firm.

By the fall, when it became clear that remote work was going to stay, Kam and her husband decided it was time for an upgrade to a bigger apartment, in a different neighborhood.

“When I had to work from home full-time, it just very soon didn’t feel sustainable for a healthy work-life balance,” Kam tells CNBC Make It.

Kam wanted floor-to-ceiling windows and lots of light.
Kam wanted floor-to-ceiling windows and lots of light.Photo: Jason Blalock.
The couple’s lease was up in October, and they started searching for a one-bedroom apartment with a budget of $4,000 a month — a significant increase from the $2,300 a month they were paying for the studio. “It was definitely a big change, but still within the budget that we had,” she says.

Kam wanted to live in a high-rise building with lots of natural light, which she says is “crucial” during her workday. “I wanted to find a place with floor-to-ceiling windows with great view in front of us,” she says.

They settled on a one-bedroom apartment for $3,850 a month in the Rincon Hill or East Cut neighborhood, right near the Financial District and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

The median listed rent for a one-bedroom in San Francisco is $2,895 as of May 23, according to Zillow.

From small studio to luxury high-rise
The couple saw about 15 different apartments, which was a “rigorous process,” Kam says. Due to Covid safety restrictions at the time, they had to do a few “self-guided” apartment tours, which means that they were given a set of keys to check out an apartment alone without a broker present.

That was a challenge. “Sometimes we were given the wrong key, so we couldn’t go inside the apartment, or sometimes we were not given the right direction to find these apartments,” Kam says. “Or sometimes we were given the keys and the unit was actually occupied.”

But apartment hunting during the pandemic also had its perks. “Since Covid started, a lot of the high-rise luxury building started giving out a lot of discounts,” Kam says. In her case, the leasing agent offered them three months of free rent if they signed the lease within one week of viewing the apartment. “So we had to make a decision really fast.”

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