How late is too late to find a good apartment?
May 11, 2012 6:10 PM   Subscribe

How early should we look for apartments in Pittsburgh to move in July?

We currently live a 9-hour drive from Pittsburgh. It's more economical for us to rent a car and drive than fly, so we'd like to only make one more trip to find an apartment before we move.

We'd like to move and start our lease on July 1. We're looking at the neighborhoods: Shadyside, Squirrel Hill, Friendship, East Liberty, Bloomfield, etc.

We were planning on going maybe next weekend, but then I got offered a job interview in the city on June 1 that can't be changed. So now we're wondering if that weekend (June 1-3) would be too late to look if we wanted to start a lease in July. Would the selection be a lot more limited than if we went earlier this month?

(Any other apartment hunting tips in Pittsburgh would also be welcome. Right now we're just bookmarking stuff off of Craigslist.)
posted by nakedmolerats to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You should definitely check out Land or Slum ( for landlord ratings.

As for searching for a July 1 lease at the beginning of June, it will depend on the landlord and neighborhood. Many of the leases around the universities start in August, but there definitely are plenty starting in July as well.

I would definitely recommend Shadyside/Squirrel Hill, then Bloomfield, then Friendship/East Liberty.

Feel free to MeFi mail me if you have any questions (I live in Pittsburgh).
posted by stevechemist at 6:21 PM on May 11, 2012

I strongly recommend Padmapper, which will take those Craigslist postings that are unscammy enough to have actual addresses in and plot them on a map... it will also tell you how the listing price compares with rents for other similar apartments nearby. The overlays don't work in pittsburgh, but you can enter an address to get a rough estimate of how far an optimized you could walk or drive in a given amount of time...

It depends on what you're looking for, but of those neighborhoods my recommendation would go pretty much the other way round: I'd take Bloomfield, Friendship, and most of East Liberty over Squirrel Hill or Shadyside. You can also feel free to message me if you have questions; I work in Oakland and live in Lawrenceville.
posted by FlyingMonkey at 7:54 PM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

I strongly recommend Padmapper, which will take those Craigslist postings that are unscammy enough to have actual addresses in and plot them on a map... it will also tell you how the listing price compares with rents for other similar apartments nearby...
posted by FlyingMonkey

I'm not in Pittsburgh, although I have been. However, the situation I currently have listed on Craigslist comes up as either 23% below norm or 83% above norm, depending on what options you select.

It's really 23%, or much more, below market, so look carefully at Padmapper.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:25 PM on May 11, 2012

I've found decent apartments in June, for an August start date - I actually think you'll have more trouble with the July 1 start date, so if there's any way you can swing a month, you'll have a lot more options. Either way, you shouldn't really have a problem.

I've lived in...all the places you mention, and I give my endorsement to Squirrel Hill, especially if you work downtown. Safe, fun, interesting, and it's so easy to get anywhere. Plus, Jerry's. And a Belgian waffle store.

If you're more of a go-out-at-night person, Shadyside might be a better fit.

I'm biased against East Liberty, Friendship, and Bloomfield due to some violence that friends have encountered there.

If you're looking for apartment-style apartments (so, in an apartment building, rather than a divided house) I recommend Mozart Management. They have an undeservedly bad reputation (probably due to their slightly insane leases) but I've been nothing but happy with them. Most of the people in my building have been here for more than a year. I've found them to be very responsive and proactive.
posted by punchtothehead at 9:07 PM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Pittsburgh rental housing is both easy and hard to find at the same time. It's cheap and (in some neighborhoods) plentiful, but then you go to look at places and ... ick. A lot of it is old and hasn't been updated in decades. So I think my husband and I looked at more places before finding one here than in any other city we've lived. (We had leeway because we were staying with family at first.) But after looking at about 7 places, we found something totally awesome, and it was so cheap for how nice it was. We've since bought a house, but we loved living there. So if you do wait until June 1, make sure you've lined up a lot of places to see -- more than you think would be necessary.

We were looking in late October, by the way, which may have made things more difficult; there's a lot of turnover here in the summer.

Finally, selecting among those neighborhoods depends a lot on where you are in life and what you like to do. Kids or planning to have kids? Squirrel Hill (the best neighborhood to raise kids in the history of the universe) or Bloomfield/Friendship. Night life? Shadyside.
posted by palliser at 12:48 PM on May 12, 2012

2nding the notion of having a lot of places lined up. A few years back, I was looking at places in Friendship/Bloomfield with a Sept. 1 move-in date, and several of them got snapped up between setting up an appointment one night and going to look at the place the next day (and this was in mid-to-late July, nothing last minute). I was competing with scores of college kids, though. I think your July 1 date will help you out. I see a lot more For Rent signs up now than I do during the rest of the year.
posted by jabes at 12:52 PM on May 12, 2012

I agree w/ punchtothehead's recommendation of neighborhoods, but I would *not* recommend Mozart realty. I rented a studio from them for 1 year. It had roaches & very thin walls (clearly these had once been larger apts that were later subdivided). Ok, they fumigated for roaches. But at the end of the year, I left the place absolutely spotless--certainly much cleaner than it had been when I moved in.

They claimed that I had left it unclean, and stuck me with a bill, saying that I had failed to steam-clean the carpets. I refused to pay this bill and tried to argue my case. But they stood their ground, and socked me w/ bad credit for 7 years.

Now, of course, they were right. I had done everything EXCEPT steam-clean the carpets.

That's b/c there WERE no carpets. The apartment had only hardwood floors.
posted by Lettuce_Leaves at 6:07 PM on May 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

More on Mozart aka NALCO. Scam city.
posted by Lettuce_Leaves at 1:45 PM on May 22, 2012

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