What to do if you still don’t have housing

Michael Drummond/File

Maybe your housing plans fell through last minute. Maybe you procrastinated a little too much. Maybe you counted on getting a spot in a co-op and then it didn’t happen. Whatever the reason, if you don’t have your housing set for fall semester, you’re probably freaking out. We at the Clog have been in your shoes and are ready to help you out.

Step 1: Reevaluate

The first thing you need to do is figure out what went wrong. Why did you end up without housing this late in the game? How can you avoid this happening? Maybe you haven’t really applied anywhere, maybe you’ve been to a dozen open houses but you’re never the one chosen. Either way, there’s probably something you can change to fix or at least prevent yourself from making the same mistakes.

Step 2: Ask around

Talk to your friends who already have houses to find out if they have a spot available if you haven’t already. Also ask your friends everything about their leasing process — how they found the place, what websites they found most helpful, what they did at the open house or on the application, etc.

Step 3: Lower your expectations

Yes, we would all love to have a huge single apartment with granite counter tops, free off-street parking, laundry in-unit and free utilities that’s not only pet-friendly but also a block from campus for only $1,000 a month. It’s not going to happen. Make a list of what you really need in an apartment, such as a door, and separate out the things that are really improbable, like a hot tub. You need somewhere to live for next year more than you need a lease that doesn’t start until Aug. 15.

Step 4: Research

Set aside some time to buckle down and do your research. Check out places such as Zillow.com, Padfinder, Craigslist, the Off-Campus Housing page and leasing agencies. Also, check out the Housing page on Facebook — you have to have a Berkeley email to access it. Make a comprehensive list of which places you’re interested in and contact each person. Make sure to do this around 10 or 11 a.m. on a weekday if you can, so agencies and other people who work real-world business hours see your email or phone call and respond the same day. Phone calls are always better.

Step 5: Create a plan of attack

Once you’ve narrowed down the places you’re interested in, make a schedule of the times in which you can go see them. For most places, this is going to be an open house. Our advice is to have several places that you really like so that you don’t have to spend too much time deliberating. If it is at all possible, pick three or four days in which you’re looking at places, and decide that you will have a place by the end of them.

Step 6: Have the material in hand

Seriously, have a holding deposit, filled-out rental application if you can find it (usually available on the website) and any other information you might possibly need in your backpack so when you find a place that you like, you can hand them your holding deposit then and there to secure the place. For those of you who have applied to a dozen places but never succeeded, this is probably the technique that’s been beating you out. It might be hard to come up with a holding deposit (around $1,000) right away, but it’ll significantly help your chances if you can.

Step 7: Finalize and follow through

If you’re going through a leasing agency, you know you’re going to have to sign a lease and everything very soon. That means coming up with the money for your security deposit and usually for your first month’s rent as well, so be ready for that. If you found the place via the Housing Facebook page or something a little less formal, make sure to get on the lease. Never settle for an informal agreement, make sure that everything is in writing. Once you get the lease, actually read it before signing and paying and make sure to know your renter’s rights as well.

Good luck!

Contact Taylor Follett at [email protected].