After moving out of the dorms, there is a plethora of housing options to choose from. If you decide to find an apartment, house or unit to rent, it can be a daunting experience and a harsh introduction to the adult world. Fortunately, apartment-hunting is a skill that can be acquired quickly, and there are many resources out there to help.
Finding people: Choosing whom to live with is the first step of the process. Some people decide to sublet an open space in an already occupied apartment while others gather a group of friends and then look for a space together. In either case, make sure you get all those “living together” questions out of the way. Living with friends can change your relationship, for better or worse.
Finding places: If you’ve rallied up a group to live with, the first step is to think about what size of apartment you’re looking for, which amenities are important to you and how much you can afford. Once you have that settled, it’s time to begin looking.
PadMapper, one of the most useful apartment websites, gathers information from Craigslist and other sites and plots it on a map. The map function allows you to keep track of what you’ve seen, focus on places by location and set maximums and minimums for bedrooms, bathrooms and rent.
However, PadMapper does not include all Craigslist posts, so it is useful to conduct a supplementary search of the site. You can limit your query by searching for keywords like “laundry,” inputting a max rent or simply scrolling through all the 2+ bedroom listings in the Berkeley area. Craigslist is comprehensive, but it’s also, well, Craigslist, so be on the lookout for potentially sketchy listings.
The Facebook group “Housing” under Berkeley groups is another useful resource, great for finding rooms and spaces available as well as whole apartments that people are leaving. The fact it’s on Facebook opens up communication and limits the possibility of creepers.
Cal Rentals, part of the UC Berkeley Housing website, is a subscription-based apartment-search website. Placing rental ads is free, but students must pay $20 for three months of access. The site also includes a map function as well as an option to search for a room or roommate.
Another strategy is to simply walk down the street. Many units will advertise outside that they have rentals available. Jot down the number and address, and call away — you never know whether it might be the one.
Getting a place: You don’t always get the first place you love. It’s important to be persistent, straightforward and polite. Make sure to ask all the questions you can think of and more. It’s better to find out surprises now than later, and having a professional, trustworthy landlord will save you endless trouble. Search early (two months before you’d like to move in), and have money and applications ready.
Apartment application processes can be competitive. Create a profile of all the people in your group to gain that extra edge. Include pictures and a short bio with your major, job, and activities so the landlord can see that you’re a responsible, hardworking bunch.
Although it’s not easy, apartment-hunting is great life experience. Best of luck in your searches! There’s more out there than you think.
— Fiona Hannigan