As much as I love the Berkeley community, the ordeal of finding housing always makes me consider becoming a commuter student. With the constant competition for limited housing and the high prices of rent, finding a place to live in Berkeley can feel like a never-ending battle. As someone who has put in years of arduous effort — not so much blood and sweat, but a whole lot of tears — into apartment hunting in Berkeley, I feel uniquely qualified to advise you on how to make the search a little less painful.
Maybe the most important advice I have — don’t wait until the last minute to find a place to live. Starting early may be a lot more early than you think, too. Whereas a month or two may seem like plenty of time to find a place in a typical housing market, I’ve started housing searches as early as a whole semester in advance. Even if that seems way too early, especially if you’re just getting settled into your current living situation, it doesn’t hurt to keep an eye out for any compelling listings. No matter what, you don’t want to start your search within just weeks of moving in.
Do your research
As I’m sure we all know, the housing market in Berkeley is like no other. That’s why it’s so important to do your research about what to expect: price ranges, typical accommodations and local neighborhoods, for example. If you do your research, you’ll be better suited to anticipate realistic offers and even negotiate for better deals.
Branch out and be flexible
Maybe you’re considering living in student housing or apartments, but have you thought about co-ops? Fraternities or sororities? There are a lot of options out there, and you just have to seek them out. I recommend doing some soul searching to figure out what’s important to you — whether it be a low cost or good location — and just apply to everything that covers that criteria. You may find your dream home in a setting you hadn’t even considered.
Don’t be scared of online marketplaces
Even though the threat of scams or scrolling through endless listings may seem daunting, Craigslist or Facebook can actually be your best friends in your search. There are hundreds of posts online about cheap rooms or students who need a roommate or subletter. As long as you avoid any scams — usually posts that seem too good to be true — these websites will show you options that apartment listing sites could never. Looking for something niche? Publish a post about yourself! You’ll be surprised with the responses you receive.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
Even if you have a promising lead, always plan for a backup until you’ve signed the lease. You never know if your plan may fall through or if the landlord will ghost you out of nowhere. Stay hopeful, but still plan for the worst.
Work together with friends
Even though apartment hunting may seem like an everyone-for-themselves type of battle, it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, teaming up with your friends may help to cut down on the work. Get to know what type of housing everyone is seeking, and then send each other any listings that pop out. If you’re searching for housing anyways, you’ll definitely come across options that may not work for you but will be the dream for your friends.
The housing search in Berkeley may seem daunting — and I won’t lie, it certainly is — but tips like these can make it seem a whole lot easier. Set reasonable expectations, manage your time accordingly and I’m sure you’ll be moving into your new apartment in no time.