How do I figure out the best time to rent?
April 9, 2007 9:02 AM   Subscribe

Is there somewhere on the web that offers analyses of the best time to look for an apartment in an area (specifically, Berkeley/Northern Oakland)? Or, alternately, is Craig's List conveniently archived somewhere?

I'm planning on looking for an apartment in Berkeley either for August 1, August 15 or September 1. Basically, I'd like to see how the volume changes among these rental dates, and other data on available rentals -- price, room size, distance to campus, etc. Personal anecdotes are also appreciated.
posted by one_bean to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Sorry, let me amend that: other data on available rentals as it changes across those three dates. Having lived there before, I have a general expectation of prices, etc., but I want to know if/when that changes as students come back to school.
posted by one_bean at 9:06 AM on April 9, 2007

You have to travel out here, is that it? I'm not sure why you wouldn't just start skimming the ads and wait until you see something good? Even if it's objectively the best time, the best apartment for you might pop up at a different time.
posted by salvia at 9:25 AM on April 9, 2007

One more thought: since school starts August 20-something, the masses will probably move in August 1 - August 15, with less choice after that.

But I've also found not much renting happens far in advance -- the good ads all seem to pop up just shortly before the potential move-in date. Even people I know who started searching way ahead of time have ended up signing their lease a week ahead of move-in. (But that's mostly for smaller, landlord-owned places or for house shares. Property management companies might do their business further in advance. Are you looking for your own place or for a room in a house?)
posted by salvia at 9:48 AM on April 9, 2007

Response by poster: Yes, I'm moving cross country, and I'm trying to determine whether I should go in time to look for a place for August 1 or not. If there's no appreciable difference, I'd get there later.
posted by one_bean at 10:17 AM on April 9, 2007

Personal anecdote: I just moved to north Berkeley, but looked all over beforehand. My problem was finding an apartment in my price range that took cats, and I literally couldn't find a damn thing for weeks. I ended up landing an apartment based on insider knowledge - a small studio adjacent to a friend's house randomly opened up, and I swooped in, and here I am.

I know the time of year I looked is precisely the opposite of when you'll be looking, but here's some advice that might apply...

1. I do think salvia's right about apartments opening up close to their move-in dates. I was looking around the beginning of March for an April 1 move in, and I think that's why my luck was so bad.
2. Because of this, and also because it's a popular area, and also based on the time you'll be looking (influx of students), I think you should definitely come out here in mid-July to start looking. It was incredibly competitive for the few places I looked at, in mid-March - it'll be magnitudes worse at the start of the school year.
3. On the other hand, if you're willing to add a bit more of Oakland into your search, your life will be a lot easier. Going by the Craigslist divisions, the north Oakland/Temescal area is on the Berkeley border, but has some nice areas interspersed with spotty sections, especially as you go west. Look also at Piedmont/Montclair (I was subletting there and loved it), Rockridge (more expensive and yuppified), and Lake Merritt/Grand Ave., which is a little further inside Oakland, but a beautiful area with cheaper rent and a good mix of people. If I were looking in Oakland, I'd choose either Piedmont or the Lake Merritt area.

Good luck to you, and feel free to e-mail me with any more questions.
posted by granted at 11:23 AM on April 9, 2007

Aside: if public transportation is important, Rockridge has a BART stop. The other BART stop in northern Oakland is MacArthur, which is not a great area. I'd recommend getting a bike.
posted by granted at 11:29 AM on April 9, 2007

I think your best best for moving cross country to Berkeley is to get a sublease for some or all of the summer, even if it is pretty much a dump. Then, when you are local, you can take advantage of the transient availabilities of good apartments.

Having a local phone number probably will help more than timing, too.
posted by janell at 12:08 PM on April 9, 2007

i attended cal through 2000, and have rented three to four apartments while going to school there.

A couple of things (assuming you're going to Cal) :

1. Is this your first year? If this is your first year, I would try to get something close to campus -- by close, I mean within Ashby on the South and probably not farther than Rose or Eunice on the North. Rents are stupid in this area, but many of your friends will probably 1) not have cars and 2) think that Berkeley ends past the Andronico's on Telegraph. North Oakland is a fine place to live and attend Cal (I lived on Alcatraz and Telegraph for many many years), but your social opportunties are somewhat reduced (not drastically, as long as you're willing to walk and bike, but still). Alcatraz and Tele is still very walkable, but I'd say that it is pretty much the farthest you'd want to be.

2. Forget about BART. BART is crazy expensive. $4 a day on BART (yes, if you go to Cal, it's likely you'll want to be in Berkeley that often) x 6 days a week X 4 weeks a month = about a $100 a month. Buses, however, *should* be 'free' for you as a student (if Cal still has an arrangement with AC Transit). They may charge a nominal fee, like $60, but still, that's per semester, and usually works out to be $20 a month. Look at places where you can catch the 40 or 51 without having to make a transfer -- these are the most convenient buses to hit campus with. I usually preferred to walk or bike, as the bus is usually pretty crowded and takes way longer, but it's a nice option when it's raining or you're feeling lazy.

3. Check into Co-op housing with USCA. I met most of my friends through the co-ops, although I did not live there myself. Co-op housing is pretty cheap and includes food, which can be pretty good depending on who's cooking. As a new co-op member, you *will* be living with room-mates your first year (in your room, like a dorm setup) or so. Still, the situation is much nicer than the Cal dorms (which I lived in for six months), and the co-op attracts a lot of interesting people (a warning, certain co-ops also attract people heavily into party culture, so you'd want to visit the co-op to get a vibe of the community before signing up.) I'm not sure what the costs are these days, but there are a lot of big wins to being in a co-op, like 1) proximity to campus, 2) lots of social opportunities, 3) dinner cooked for you every night, 4) very cool houses. There are also some downsides. if you like living alone, or are a little introverted, co-ops may not be the place for you.

4. the time to look for a new apartment is really in June, after everyone leaves. I haven't looked at apartment listings for berkeley in years; I think a lot of people who are getting apartments will be getting them by August 1st, however, considering school starts mid-Aug. It's likely there will be less options on Aug 15 and Sept 1 than Aug 1.

5. It *may* be worth dropping the $60 for the 'premium listings'. A lot of stuff on craigslist ends up just redirecting to these places anyhow. It's a bit annoying to have to pay for listings, but I think many management companies like them because it selects a demographic that they would like to rent to. A lot of people will share the costs of these listings, although you usually only get listings for a limited area. I'm not sure if craigslist has entirely supplanted these services, but I doubt it. Additionally, berkeley has a listing service that is only for students which you should look at as well.

i'll stop here, as it's already getting a bit long, but if you have any questions, I can give you some more info.

on preview: totally agree with getting a sublease while looking for an apartment. summer sublets are cheap, and you won't be as stressed.
posted by fishfucker at 12:37 PM on April 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Okay, sorry, let me give more information so my question I guess becomes clearer. I have lived in Oakland and Berkeley before; I have been renting apartments for four years in the Bay Area and NYC, so I know how to look for an apartment, and I know the areas in which I want to live. I will be a first year grad student and have a car. I understand that the big turnover is June 1. I won't be sub-leasing for the summer because I have friends whom I can stay with for as long as I like. However, I would like to find a place before I get too caught up with school. I won't be leaving my current job until June 30, and I'd like to be able to take as long as possible driving cross country with my girlfriend, trying to see as much as possible along the way. If it turns out that there's a much bigger turnover on August 1, I'd like to know and I'd cut the drive short. Otherwise, I'll plan on looking for the 15th/September 1. I do appreciate that you're trying to help, but none of the information so far really applies to my question.

Let me re-state: is there somewhere on the web that will tell me annual trends on the rental market, particularly in the East Bay; or, if not, is there somewhere I can find Craig's List postings from a year ago; or, if not, has anybody found a big difference between trying to find a place in Berkeley/North Oakland (yes, Rockridge and Temescal and maybe even parts of Piedmont but not Lake Merritt because it's too far) between August 1 and September 1?
posted by one_bean at 3:24 PM on April 9, 2007

whoa. sorry for totally missing the point. I wasn't able to find any info on apartment vacancy rates in Aug vs. Sept 1st. We looked for an apartment around the same time last year, but we were looking well outside the area that UC Berkeley influences (we live in West Oakland, and we were looking for something in Lake Merritt/Alameda area).

anecdotally, I would say that the market is gonna get thinner between aug 1st and sept 1, but both of those are pretty late dates for students to find housing by. I don't think you're going to see a whole heck of a lot of difference in volume available (July 1, maybe). if I see anything come up on the myraid housing blogs about the bay area I'll update.

as an aside, rental rates have climbed dramatically in the last few years, as there's fewer people buying.
posted by fishfucker at 4:20 PM on April 9, 2007

Response by poster: No problem, I should've been clearer, thanks for the help. I had noticed that rents had gone up a bit... I'd rather not be paying downtown Berkeley prices, but I figure an extra couple hundred a month is pure gold if it means I make it to school every day.
posted by one_bean at 6:57 PM on April 9, 2007

Best answer: Craigslist conveniently archived somewhere.
posted by salvia at 8:49 PM on April 9, 2007

Response by poster: Only mostly archived, but damn close. Thanks.
posted by one_bean at 11:47 AM on April 11, 2007

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