Initially, looking for housing can seem a bit daunting. Especially for many Berkeley students, this is the first experience they will have to find housing in Berkeley. As a first step, look for roommates. Since there are many different types of housing, having an agreement with your roommates is key to having a smooth living accommodation process. Once you have roommates, remember to keep calm! Finding housing can be hard especially when trying to work with other people. Compromises may need to be made but losing your calm should not be one of them. Below are the steps to get started.
Step 1: Roomates
Find people you want to live with (1-3 roomates recommended)
Make it clear with your roommates that communication is key (if there are issues in the beginning with your roommates, then the apartment finding experience will be terrible)
Step 2: Rooms: Recommended number of people to room with per living situtation (including yourself)
Studio: 2 people max
1 Bedroom: 2-3 People max (3 is a tight fit)
2 Bedroom: 3-5 People max (5 people is a tight fit)
3+ Bedroom: Usally 2 people per bedroom
Dorm style: 2-3 people
Step 3: Distance
Near Campus (5-10 min walk): Places close to campus are usally 1 Bedroom/Studio apartments
Close but not near campus: Usally have 2-3 bedroom apartments avalible
3 is rare in new buildings unless there is a penthouse
Step 4: Cost
Set a limit to how much each person wants to pay
Step 5: Necessities
Prepare a list of potential amenities you guys would:
a) Absolutely NEED (ie. Living Room)
b) To make it comfortable (ie. Carpet Flooring)
c) Would be nice to have (ie. In-unit Washer and Dryer)
Step 6: Ask Around
Ask upperclassmen friends (perferably graduating) if they're leaving their place
Post on FB pages (check Step 8)
Step 7: Bane of My Existence spreadsheet (at the bottom of this page)
Check out BME spreadsheet:
a) For questions to ask during a tour
b) Rental agencies with properties near campus
c) Berkeley Rental Property Company Websites
Step 8: Facebook Pages
Free & For Sale (cheap furniture / apartment necesities)
Berkeley Off-Campus housing page (can also post for help in finding apartments)
Step 9: Spreadsheet
Copy BME spreadsheet to your own Google Drive
Catalog any places you've seen and amenities you and your roommates have agreed upon
Tips & Tricks
- People who are vacating their apartment usually give a 90 day notice to their rental company (usually March 1st). So between March till May (there will be a plethora of listings)
- Start finding roommates early (December/January)
- If there is an open house for an apartment, expect that after one week the apartment to be pulled from the market.
- The biggest lag in submitting an apartment application is the Co-signer form. Unless you are a student that has a stable income and good credit, it is recommended that a parent, relative, and/or guardian submit a Co-signer form. Co-signer forms are liability forms that guarantees that if you cannot pay for the apartment rent, someone else will cover the rent. These documents usually need to be notarized.
- Getting a cashier's check can be another source of time lag. The difference from a cashier's check from a regular check is that cashier's check already deducts the money from a bank account before the check is made. Regular checks deduct the money once the receiver of the check has deposited the check. It can take 24 hours for a cashier's check to be ready for pickup.
- Make a copy of everything you submit to the property owner/rental property company!
- If an apartment that you want is taken off the market, you can ask the rental property company to hold onto your group's collective application. If you see another apartment within that rental property's portfolio, you can ask to transfer the application to that apartment.
- Do not worry if you cannot find a unit by early April, rental companies and property owners will be posting rental listings until July (We, ESC, have seen listings posted in August/September)
Using the ESC Housing guide
This guide has been been tested and shared for the past four years. What started as one engineer's struggle to find housing, transpired to a spreadsheet of information, from housing agencies that serve the Berkeley area to questions to ask while on an apartment tour, to make it easier to find housing in Berkeley.ESC Housing Guide Spreadsheet
Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for any issues/updates needed for this document.