Friday, January 18, 2008

Using Google to Find Housing in SF

About a month ago, I decided that I wanted to find a new place. I'm currently living in a 1-bedroom apartment near the San Antonio Shopping Center in Mountain View, and I have a couple issues with it: 1) It's BIG. Until I moved my bed into it, the "bedroom" just served as an area for me to walk through on the way to the bathroom. It's entirely unnecessary for one person to have both a living room and a bedroom. (Keep in mind that I literally lived in a closet last year at USC). 2) I'm all alone, and 'fraid of the dark. I know, I'm supposed to get over that fear - but I can't help it if the monsters are still alive! It would be better for the environment for me to live with roommates, as there's a chance I'd then turn the lights off at some point, and it'd be better hygienically as there's a chance I'd take showers at night. 3) I miss having roommates. I love having the possibility of interaction with a human while I'm sitting on the couch coding and watching trashy TV.

So, thus begins the housing hunt. I started off at this AMAZING mashup site called CribQ (I knew about it as the author emailed me about geocoding issues previously). It's a Craigslist/Google Maps mashup similar to, but it takes it to a whole new level. It gives you a login, lets you rate listings, add notes, search by viewport and price range. Plus, it shows how Google Maps + Virtual Earth can live peacefully together: whenever you click on a marker, it loads the Birds Eye View for that location below the Google Map. How perfect is that? You get the great aerial navigation of Google Maps plus the hard-to-navigate-but-easy-to-look-at side view from Virtual Earth. Oh, and one more thing: it's a mashup of mashups. It has another tab that loads in a WalkScore ranking for that location, and WalkScore is another of my favorite Google Maps/AJAX Search mashups. So I used CribQ to find a listing from a guy interested in starting up a house in the Mountain View area, contacted him, and together we signed a lease for a house he'd found earlier using a different Google hack. He'd done Craigslist searches for certain housing criteria, then subscribed to them in Google Reader, and starred the ones he liked. The house he found was pimp - 4 bedrooms, outside covered hot tub, and plenty of room downstairs for a bar and dance floor. So thus began the hunt for a roommate, and of course, more Google hacks. We made a shared Google calendar between us for tracking when we were meeting up with potential roommates, created a Google doc for our ridiculously organized and comprehensive Craigslist roommates wanted listing, and created a Google spreadsheet to keep track of room rent prices/dimensions and potential roomie pro/cons. The collaborative aspect of Google technologies is what makes them so useful for doing something like a househunt together. Anyway, we're pretty much decided on our roommates now, and moving in in a few weeks. I look forward to using Google apps for doing our house party planning (and clean-up duties :)!