How to succeed as a Berkeley renter

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Eran Kohen Behar/Staff

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If you told me a year ago that moving out on your own was not as simple as it sounds, I wouldn’t have believed you. As a transfer student, I had a few more years at home to let my parents baby me before getting hit with the hard reality of surviving by myself. 

My journey started when it was time to look for housing for the fall 2021 semester. I was set on the assumption that UC Berkeley would provide me with campus housing, so I did not bother communicating with my incoming transfer class the entire summer and denied a roommate request because, in my eyes at the time, there was no way I would be renting. 

But soon, months passed, and a rejection letter from the campus housing office left me with narrow options. An Instagram direct message was exchanged, a Zoom interview was had and boom! I had a place to live. I packed my bags and moved six hours away into a house with four strangers. My journey was a crazy one, but here are some renting survival tips I learned along the way!

Make an effort to socialize

Don’t be afraid to socialize with your roommates! Before I knew it, Chloe, Michelle and Shadi became some of my closest friends, even transcending Berkeley. You live with your roommates, so you might as well get to know each other. It is easier said than done, and while I know it isn’t always possible (trust me, I know), putting in some effort can make your new living environment more enjoyable. 

Double-check the place

Learn to recognize every area of your new rental. Even if you move stuff around to make the place a home, put everything back in place before you move out so you get your security deposit back — and you will want it back when it’s over. 

Get familiar with your surroundings 

If your new home takes a little longer to warm up to, go out and explore the new neighborhood! You might meet a neighbor or find your new favorite spot. Plus, it will distract you from your busy life as a UC Berkeley student. 

Make your house a home

When it comes to furniture shopping and decorating, Facebook Marketplace and Urban Ore are your best friends. Facebook Marketplace offers a vast selection of comfy couches, loungewear and even TVs if you’re feeling spicy, while Urban Ore boasts amazing deals on lamps, chairs, dining tables and more. They’ll also deliver to your door for a fee so small, that if divided with roommates, it’ll be almost as cheap as a cup of coffee.

Communicate with your landlord

Don’t be afraid to reach out to your landlord if anything breaks or stops working. It can be scary reaching out for the first time, but normally, landlords will be happy to help you; and you can be more comfortable in your space knowing you have that security. 

Make an effort to cook

I know going to the Durant Food Court, Chipotle, Blaze Pizza or anything else sounds better than cooking at home, but your wallet (and your friends) will thank you when you cook that four-course meal (just kidding — or am I?). Jokes aside, learning how to cook a few staple meals will not only keep you pushing throughout the day, but it will also help you develop culinary skills. 

Keys are important!

Always keep a spare set of keys, especially if you are renting a house or single apartment, where no one can come and unlock the door for you. Having an extra key can save you from anything from a few bucks to even sleeping outside. 

Location, location, location!

Consider location, amenities and perks before moving in. Personally, being close to bus and train stations was crucial to me on my housing checklist. Make sure you know the estimated cost of your housing amenities, and check for parking availability if you are bringing a car. Paid parking in Berkeley can be expensive, so plan ahead! 

Don’t forget that you are not the first or last to experience the beauty of moving out on your own. Renting your own place is an opportunity to figure out more about yourself and grow as a person. Cheers to your new place: You’re an adult now!

Contact Ari Cortes at [email protected]