Searching for moving to Santa Barbara
March 24, 2014 12:41 PM   Subscribe

How would one conduct a search for renting a place in Santa Barbara? What peculiarities of the market should I know?

What can you tell me about moving to the Santa Barbara area? I'm primarily interested in when to start searching against when a lease would begin; if there are better or worse times of the month to move; and how long the search should take. Assume I would only be able to be physically in the area for the minimum time required to sign a lease. Do people generally look at Craigslist for this area? Are there other sites/methods worth checking?

Of course I'm interested in locations and/or general commentary, but mostly just want to know about the logistics of actually looking. Thanks and much appreciated!
posted by cacophony to Home & Garden (3 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Craigslist is the way to go. There are a few big property managers in town that can help as well, but those are mostly for finding a complete apartment or studio. I've rented through Meridian and was happy with them (they were very fair and compliant with CA's tenant laws). You should be careful with landlords, though, because there are a few in town that are not attentive at all. Unfortunately, due to the high property value here, Santa Barbara tends to attract investment buyers who aren't great with their tenants.

Leases vary -- every place I've rented from has been month-to-month, so I've never dealt with a lease obligation. If you're careful about selecting the right apartment, you shouldn't have too much to worry about.

Security deposits tend to be high, so be prepared to have 1-2 months rent ready up-front.

I've been here for several years, and there's two big "renting rushes" you should be aware of: the start of summer, and the start of the fall quarter at UCSB. Basically, demand and supply shoot up at the same time. Personally, I've moved at various times in the year and have had no issues finding good, solid housemates. There is such a constant, high turn-around here that you should have no trouble finding what you want.

If you're nearby, give yourself around 2-3 weeks to find the right place. If you're not, maybe you can arrange a relatively inexpensive airbnb arrangement to help you figure out where exactly you'd like to live.

The major areas here are:

  • Main State St: This will be pricey, potentially loud from the clubs/bars nearby, but it's a great place to live culturally. There's quite a lot to do in town, and the closer to lower State St you are, the easier it is to participate.
  • Funk zone/Milpas area: relatively inexpensive way to live by downtown. I'm here, and I love it -- everything is biking distance away, and there are plenty of wineries and breweries nearby. Plus there's produce markets, fish markets, etc.
  • Upper State/Mission: Similar situation, but closer to the northern border between Santa Barbara. More convenient for big-box stores. Plenty of restaurants nearby. Excellent place if you're into long-distance biking.
Mesa Area:
  • You'll find reasonably priced housing here, but it can be isolating. Often you'll have to rely on a car to get to downtown unless you're really into biking up big hills. However, they are very quiet, family-friendly neighborhoods.
  • Isla Vista: If you're really into partying with young people, this is the place to be. It tends to be loud closer to campus, and a bit quieter closer to the western edge. Lots of cool little restaurants, cupcake spots, coffee shops, and parks. The apartments are often shabby and ill-maintained, so beware of who you rent from. A small handful of wealthy and well-connected landlords (really, at times slumlords) control most of the real estate here.
  • Ellwood Beach: I lived here several years, and I loved it, especially Ellwood Beach Dr. There's plenty of rooms in houses here, or you can rent apartments in the beach flats.
  • North Goleta/Cathedral Oaks:
  • Mostly houses and families here. Tends to be very quiet, will probably require a car (or if you're patient, you can bus it; to be honest, the bus schedules aren't the greatest) or a bike if you don't mind biking a few miles to, say, campus.
There's more that I'm excluding, but these should cover the most popular designations.

Feel free to MeMail me with more questions!
posted by spiderskull at 1:36 PM on March 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I lived in Santa Barbara (Goleta, actually) for a few years, just moved away in October. I'll second everything spiderskull said. As part of my job, I wrote this off-campus housing guide for grad students, which should be relevant for non-students as well. It was up to date as of last summer.

Both times I moved within SB, we spent one Saturday looking and had a lease signed within a week to move in within about 2 weeks. Craigslist is the way to go. It is such a small area, really, so there's not too much to look through every day. This time of year it will be full of Isla Vista listings (don't live there unless you're an undergrad who loves to party), but those are easy to spot and pass over. You might also see Lompoc and Santa Maria listings on there for much cheaper, but those towns are 30+ minutes away. Places tend to come up all the time, so I don't think there's a better or worse time of the month to look.

I'm happy to answer more questions too!
posted by wsquared at 3:10 PM on March 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I lived in a bungalow in downtown Santa Barbara between 2010 and 2012 and also endorse everything spiderskull said. I was able to find a place in three days (using Craigslist and visiting literally everything that fit my criteria), visiting a few months before my move, which was the outer limits of what was reasonable. If I had felt comfortable leaving my visit closer to the time in question -- which I didn't; I was a grownup with a family moving cross-country -- I would have had more options; I ended up being more than happy with where I was living, but there was a steep dropoff in quality between my choice and the second-place apartment. Downtown is great, but pricey; I was paying significantly more than the high end listed in wsquared's guide, which I assume is talking about grad student housing in IV or Goleta.

Do you want to provide any details? Are you moving there for school? Interested in roommates? What sort of price range you're talking about?
posted by snarkout at 6:36 PM on March 24, 2014

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