Whether you’re a college freshman leaving home for the first time or a grad student returning to campus for your final semester, locking down UC Berkeley off-campus housing is a must.
But if you’re new to Berkeley or you’ve never lived outside of the UC Berkeley campus before, finding a rental home can be intimidating. With so many options, how do you ensure one that meets your needs and resonates with your personal style?
This guide is here to help anyone looking for home, apartment, or room rentals in Berkeley. We’ll break down some reasons why you should consider living off-campus and teach you how to find housing in Berkeley with limited stress.
Why Choose Off-Campus Housing at UC Berkeley?
If you’re on the fence about living off-campus this year, consider some of the key advantages of renting your own home:
- You could save – Depending on your desired number of roommates, your academic status (i.e., graduate vs. undergraduate), and property availability, you could save money if you choose to live off-campus. On-campus housing rates vary widely: undergraduate students should expect to pay between $13,405 and $25,375 for housing during the 2023-2024 academic year.1
- You can make off-campus connections – Whether you’re looking to get an off-campus job, network with people in your field, or participate in community events, living off-campus is an excellent way to make connections with UC Berkeley students and the greater Berkeley community.
- You can find housing that resonates with you – Looking for a sustainable home or one-of-a-kind design features? Off-campus housing offers numerous opportunities to discover a truly unique living space.
- You can expand your roommate options – If you choose to live on campus, your roommate options will be limited to other students—and, if you’re an undergraduate student looking to room with a friend who’s a graduate student, on-campus living simply may not be an option. When you live off-campus, you can live with whomever you choose.
- You may be closer to entertainment, work, and grocery options – If you’re looking for close proximity to parks, restaurants, grocery stores, or your off-campus job, you might be able to limit your commute by choosing an off-campus home.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg—there are many advantages to choosing UC Berkeley student housing off-campus instead of on University property.
How to Find UC Berkeley Student Housing Off-Campus
If you choose to live off-campus, you can use the following step-by-step guide to find your perfect home in Berkeley, CA.
#1 Assess Your Needs
Before you start searching for properties or roommates, you should make a list of your wants and needs to narrow down your options when it’s time to search. A few guiding questions can help you determine your housing must-haves:
- Do you have a car or a bike? – If you have your own transportation, you may be able to widen your geographic range. But, even if you don’t have a car or bike, you can take advantage of Berkeley’s robust public transit system—plus, the city is very walkable.2
- What’s your budget? – Developing a housing budget can help you accomplish two key tasks in your housing search: setting realistic expectations for living and housing costs as well as filtering out homes outside of your budget.
- Do you want to live with a roommate? – If you’re looking to live alone, you’ll find numerous studio and private apartment options. But, if living with roommates is your ideal plan, you won’t have a problem finding opportunities for coliving in Berkeley.
- Do you have your own furniture and dishes? – For college freshmen moving away from home for the first time, purchasing furniture can be expensive and time-consuming. Additionally, students from out-of-state or an international locale might not be able to bring the furniture they do have. Consider renting a furnished home in Berkeley to shorten your to-do list and ease your transition.
- Do you have pets? – If you plan to bring your pets to college, your options for housing will be slightly more limited. Make sure to filter your housing searches to find pet-friendly homes only.
#2 Explore Your Options
Once you create a list of must-haves for your next home, you can start sifting through UC Berkeley off campus housing options.
There are a few ways you can find out about available properties in Berkeley:
- Cal Rentals – UC Berkeley offers a free platform for students to post and respond to housing advertisements called Cal Rentals.3 If you’re looking to live with other students, this is an excellent search option.
- Social media – Joining a local Facebook group or posting about your search on other social media platforms may help you find opportunities.
- Search engine – Simply searching “off-campus housing Berkeley” on Google will offer numerous results for homes or apartments for rent.
- Asking around – If you’re a returning student, have already chosen a roommate, or have friends and family living in the area, lean on your personal connections to find housing opportunities in the city.
#3 Connect with Potential Roommates
If you want to live with roommates, you should strongly consider finding those roommates before you sign a lease. Finding roommates can be challenging, but we recommend:
- Starting with people you know – Even if you don’t know anyone who’s moving to Berkeley, your friends and family members might. If you’re a returning student, you could also ask former classmates.
- Asking your housing provider – If you’re interested in renting from a specific complex, the complex manager may be able to connect you with other prospective renters looking for roommates.
- Meeting before moving in – Living with someone is a long-term commitment. So, before you decide to make it official, spend some time getting to know each other: go out for coffee, take a walk in a local park, or run some errands together to test your compatibility.
#4 Make a Shortlist with Your Roommates
Once you’ve secured roommates (if you plan to live with others), you can start making a shortlist of homes that might be a good match for you.
While you might have to make some concessions depending on property availability and your budget, try your best to find properties that meet all of your criteria first.
Here are some shortlisting tips:
- Keep your shortlist in a running document or spreadsheet so that you can add or remove properties as needed.
- Consider ranking your shortlist to keep track of your favorite homes (and your potential roommates’ favorites, too).
- Try to identify strong backup candidates if all of the “perfect” homes on your shortlist fall through. In college towns like Berkeley, housing is in high demand and homes can go fast, so having a few backups is a must.
#5 Tour Homes
Once you’ve developed a shortlist, it’s time to start touring homes (with your roommate, if you plan to live with one). Here’s a quick step-by-step for touring:
- Make appointments – Many property managers require appointments for showings. For added convenience, try to make multiple showing appointments each day (or knock them all out in one day).
- Bring documents – If you find an irresistible home, bring important documents with you in case you decide to sign a lease on tour day. You’ll likely need your ID, your Social Security Number (for a credit check), and a copy of your most recent pay stub (or your co-signer’s pay stub). You might also need a check to pay any up-front costs like your security deposit or application fee.
- Take photos and notes – As you tour properties, take photos of anything you didn’t see in online listings. Add notes to your shortlist to help you keep track of your impressions of each home.
After touring, update your shortlist:
- Write out pros and cons for each home
- Re-rank your listings based on your impressions from the tours
- Establish three top contenders
#6 Choose a Home and Sign Your Lease
After touring and re-ranking the homes you’re interested in, it’s time to choose one.
If you’re living with a roommate, you should try your best to make a unanimous decision—this might require some compromise on both sides, but choosing a place that both roommates like is the first step to a successful, long-term relationship.
Once you choose a home, reach out to the property owner or management company to:
- Fill out an application
- Provide any documentation the owner/manager needs
- Pay any fees, which may include:
- An application fee
- A security deposit
- First or last month’s rent
Once you sign your lease, it’s time to celebrate—you’ve found your next home in Berkeley, and you’re one step closer to starting the semester on the right foot!
Discover Berkeley Off-Campus Housing Opportunities with Common
If you’re looking for UC Berkeley off-campus housing, assessing your needs, exploring your options, finding a roommate, and touring properties will all help you find the perfect home for the upcoming semester—perhaps even multiple semesters.
And Common can help.
Common offers UC Berkeley students and young professionals the unique opportunity to discover community and live sustainably in an affordable off-campus home. At Bosco by Common, residents can explore multiple living options, including:
- Traditional one-bedroom apartments
- All-inclusive coliving suites in three, five, or six-bedroom units
Plus, Bosco is Berkeley’s first all-electric apartment building, and its solar array provides 50% of its total power needs. If you’re looking for an eco-friendly home with unbeatable views and a short commute to campus (with easy access to public transit), Bosco is a perfect match.
Reach out to learn more about Bosco by Common, our amenities, and our all-inclusive coliving packages today.
- Berkeley Housing. Rates. https://housing.berkeley.edu/rates-contracts-policies/rates/
- Visit Berkeley. Berkeley Frequently Asked Questions. https://www.visitberkeley.com/plan-your-trip/faqs
- University of California Berkeley. Welcome to Cal Rentals. https://och.berkeley.edu/