Rent prices in San Francisco are laughably steep.
The median rent for a one-bedroom apartment is about $3,500 a month, a deterring reality all young professionals face when moving to the Golden Gate City.
One such millennial — 23-year-old Sarah Carter, who recently moved to San Francisco for a new job with a large e-commerce company — figured out a creative solution to this real estate conundrum: Rather than settling into an overpriced apartment, she moved onto a sailboat.
“I have loved sailing for years,” she tells Business Insider. “I can’t sail by myself, but I’ve been out with other people 15 to 20 times, and there’s no place that I’m happier, so I really do hope to learn to sail.”
Carter had been toying with the idea of living on a boat for years offhandedly, but didn’t start to seriously consider it until last January.
She was visiting San Francisco and met up with her friend’s sister, who lives on a sailboat with her husband. “They had me over for dinner, and I saw their sailboat and the setup of living on it,” she tells us. “It seemed really perfect for me.”
“I was looking for apartments at the same time because I had to find something pretty quickly for my job and was weighing all of my options,” she says. “I was leaning towards a sailboat, but thought it might be a bit impractical.”
She didn’t have to search long before finding something both affordable and practical. “I took the first boat I looked at,” she says. “It was in amazing condition and I was comfortable with the marina, so I snatched it up quickly.”
In early September, she bought a boat of her own on Craiglist for $9,600.
“If I live there for five months, I’ll hit break-even on the rent of the apartments I was looking at,” she says. “It really is a steal.”
Plus, if she leaves San Francisco anytime soon, she could likely resell it for the same price, she says.
Carter pays for electricity and water, and a small monthly docking fee at a marina about 15 minutes from downtown San Francisco, which includes internet access. She expects her housing costs will add up to $350 a month, varying a bit depending on how much electricity she uses.
She also doesn’t have to deal with renting for the near future: “It’s essentially like owning a home. It takes me out of the stressful rental situation, which I really am so grateful for.”
Another perk: Parking, which is notoriously expensive in San Francisco, is included at the marina. Carter commutes 45 minutes to work, and has to pay a toll on her way, but it won’t be a daily hassle: she travels two to three days a week for work, and also has the option of working from home.
Having lived in Washington, DC and New York City before San Francisco, she’s experienced high housing costs.
“It’s really painful to pay rent prices like that,” she says. “I felt financially restricted in other cities — even when earning a reasonably good income — but I don’t feel that way anymore. That’s one of the really nice things about living on a boat: You can live the lifestyle that you want to live, and you aren’t tied down as much by needing to pay your monthly bills.”
The tradeoff for such low-cost housing is space. The boat is 136 square feet, she estimates, but it doesn’t feel cramped: “It’s really small, but designed so intelligently that it doesn’t feel small. Tables fold up into the walls and shelves are hidden into every little nook and cranny.”
She has a back deck that seats eight people, a sizable living space, tiny closet and bathroom, and a kitchen outfitted with a stove, refrigerator, and toaster oven.
The one amenity missing is a shower, but there’s one on land that residents of the marina can use, and one at her office.
Life on the sailboat provides more than financial freedom for Carter — it offers an escape from hectic city life.
“I grew up in the country, and a constant problem in my life has been that I love being around nature, but the jobs I want are in cities,” she tells us. “I get exhausted if I don’t have some contact with nature, so going home to my sailboat every night and recharging is a really fabulous solution.”
She’s not sure how long she’ll stay in San Francisco — after five months of training for her new job she’ll have the option of moving anywhere in the United States — but she’s enjoying the lifestyle so far.
“It’s been fabulous,” she tells us. “Moving across the country in general is a lot, but I’m having so much fun. It’s a big adventure.”
She’ll be documenting her big adventure via Instagram, @sarahdenaecarter.