The rental market in the Bay Area is competitive, but there are many different types of options. Some students like to be close to the law school; others enjoy putting the day of classes behind them by taking BART home to San Francisco. Some like to live alone, others prefer roommates, and some prefer roommates who are (or are not) law students.
The most important thing to know before beginning your search is that housing turnover in the Bay Area is very fast – which means apartments ready for occupancy in May or August will likely not be listed until four to eight weeks prior. While we do recommend browsing this site and others to get a good idea of the rental market, you should not expect to see listings for your arrival date until one or two months before.
TOP 10 HOUSE-HUNTING TIPS FOR STUDENTS
1. Many landlords and buildings in California prohibit smoking. Cigarette smoking is very rare in California, and prohibited in many buildings (including Berkeley campus). If you smoke, you must confirm with your landlord that it is permitted in your building. If your apartment is non-smoking, do not break that rule! The smell of the cigarette smoke will linger and the landlord will know that you have smoked in the unit. They may refuse to return your security deposit.
2. Shared housing is the most affordable housing and the easiest to secure. Shared housing is where you get your own room in a shared apartment or house (usually with other students). A similar category is Room Rentals. If you’re on an especially tight budget, consider a Work Exchange, which is usually a room rental in exchange for approximately 10 to 15 hours a week of work such as child care, gardening, manuscript typing, etc.
3. Rental with 3 or more bedrooms are harder to find. If you have your heart set on finding a rental that has 3 or more bedrooms, be aware that local rental housing consists primarily of small units with 2 bedrooms or fewer. Be prepared for a longer search and consider communities outside of Berkeley if you can. If you are looking with a group of people, be sure to read “Seeking with Friends.”
4. Get a good map. Google Maps is extremely reliable. Although all of Cal Rentals listings are pinpointed on an online map, it’s a good idea to view the whole area within 3 to 5 miles of campus just to have a general idea of where places are located.
5. Be accessible by phone and email. You will be calling or emailing many landlords. If you aren’t available, landlords simply will go to the next prospective tenant on their list. A local mobile number is best if you have one.
6. Be prepared to move quickly. The rental housing market in the Bay Area is competitive; if you find a place you like, be prepared to pay for a credit check on the spot and to pay a deposit or even the first month’s rent within 24 hours. If you don’t, the landlord will likely move to another prospective tenant.
7. Be on time for showings and open houses; dress neatly. You don’t need to wear a suit, but dress well. When you rent, you are entering into a business contract with your landlord, so you want to look responsible. If you can’t show up for your appointment, please call the landlord and explain what happened. This is simply common courtesy.
8. Look for safety features, such as working smoke detectors and deadbolt locks on exterior doors, and do not rent a place if you feel it is unsafe. However, cosmetic defects such as a stain on the carpet or minor problems such as a drippy faucet are best left for discussion with the landlord after you have been offered the place and have signed a rental agreement. Requests for repairs should always be dated and in writing, and be sure to keep copies of any correspondence with your landlord.
9. Prepare a tenant resume, such as the form offered in the Cal Rentals website. This will demonstrate to a landlord where your income is coming from and how you will be responsible for the rent. Make several copies and bring them with you when you look at housing.
10. Visit the Cal Rentals website for more information for new graduate/law students.