As you may have heard, finding off-campus housing in Berkeley can be kind of crazy. I would know, I’m in the process of that right now. So, if you are wondering where to start, what to expect, or even just get a general overview of the off-campus housing process. This is my general advice and experience for you. Hope you enjoy!
How/When to Start Looking for Housing
Apartment hunting season for the next academic school year typically starts in the Spring semester. So, February-April is high time to apply for housing. I would say it might be safer to start earlier and build some connections with upperclassmen to see what’s available. However, most open houses occur during the “high time” months, so just be flexible.
Figure out whether or not you want to look for housing as a group or individually. They both have their own difficulties. For a group, the amount of people matters because that changes the number of rooms and the sizes of rooms you are looking for. For an individual, you might want to look for studio spaces or a single room to occupy in an apartment. Singles are generally more expensive as you have more space to yourself. Consider your options and your budget. Once you decide the housing type you want then you can start looking for housing.
A resource that UC Berkeley has is Cal Rentals, which is great if you were looking for just yourself. It can be a start but may not have all the options you want. I am in a group, so it was not as helpful. Generally, I would go straight to apartment listing websites like Zillow, Apartment Finder, etc.
Another great resource is our housing Facebook groups like UC Berkeley Off-Campus Housing or UC Berkeley Housing / Sublets / Rentals. All of the local property management companies post there when it’s the house-hunting season and it’s also great for places that still need a single room or a double they need someone to fill in. You can also post yourself asking about availability for a specific apartment (ex. 2b/1ba) that you want. Facebook is great for finding sublets, which are short-term housing, specifically summer sublets.
Another strategy may be to walk around the neighborhoods you want to live in and find the local property management logos or signs that are offering availability for the next year. Take a picture so you can look them up later and see what they have. You can identify specific brand-name housing complexes as well to check if they have availability.
Finally, it really doesn’t hurt to talk to your classmates, friends, or coworkers about your struggles in looking for housing. You might find some pretty good advice or better yet a place to live.
What to look out for
Make a Google Doc or an Excel document to list all of the places you are interested in and their rent price, utility information, number of rooms/bathrooms, and the open house dates (GO TO THEM). Label what is included in rent and what is not. For instance, the garbage, water, electricity/gas, whether or not there is laundry in the unit, and wifi. If you plan to bring a car then check parking fees as well. Include the lease start and end date, some floor plans, images, and why you like or dislike them.
Look into the neighborhood as well. For example, many apartment listing websites include things like safety, transit, or even bike scores. Check the proximity to campus and local grocery markets.
Once you have a few places you like then start an application. Most housing rentals are first come first serve, so just get your name in the pool. The housing application does require some important documentation like IDs, income, and financial aid. Have those ready to go. If you are a full-time student then make sure you have a co-signer like a parent or a sibling that you can list on file to make it more secure for the property managers that you can pay for this place. Have their financial info and important documents ready as well.
When you get a housing offer, they will first conduct a credit check, so there’s that fee. The next fee would be either the holding deposit or the housing deposit itself. Make sure you can take those into account if you are tight on money. Once all the procedures are done you are set to go.
Disclaimer: This is based on my personal experience. Some places run things a little differently, so this is just a general idea.
Alternative Housing Options
If you don’t want to go straight to looking for off-campus apartments, consider applying to the Berkeley Student Cooperative. They offer much more affordable housing options in exchange for students being required to do chores in the housing they live in.
Another option is applying for some of our public/private partnerships including Bowles Hall and International House. These are nice because food is included in your housing. But, it may not be quite as affordable.
Finally, if you end up in Greek life then living in a fraternity/sorority house is an option for you.
Well, that’s it! I hope this helps you get your head in the game a little easier. Just know that you are not the only one struggling with “adulting” and give yourself some breathing room.