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Finding Rental Housing in the Bay Area

Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > Housing, Neighborhoods, & Moving > Finding Rental Housing in the Bay Area


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2013 - 2014 Recommendations


Looking for family-friendly areas, max $2500/month

March 2014

hello, we are moving to the bay area from Portland. I am looking for some suggestions of great family friendly neighborhoods, with parks, maybe a public pool, good schools etc. we have a 3 year old in Pre school so I am looking for a rental to start for maybe a year or two. We are looking at a max of $2500 a month for a rental. Hoping for a 3 bedroom with a nice yard. I have been looking in Berkeley, Alameda, and am open to Oakland but do not know the best neighborhoods to look in. We would really prefer a small house over an apartment. We will be moving in the next couple of months. Any help is appreciated ! Cindy


I can't speak to Oakland or Alameda, but what you're looking for simply doesn't exist in Berkeley. For a 3BR home with a yard (assuming you could even find one) you would have a to pay a minimum of $3,500/month. Even 3BR apartments rent for more than $2,500.

I hope someone here has some better news for you regarding Alameda or Oakland. JP


Look no further than Alameda, which IMHO is the most kid friendly neighborhood in the Bay Area. Kids bike to school, and there are parks and playgrounds everywhere. We have lagoons and the beach. Everyone seems to own a dog too, because it's also dog friendly. The schools are good, and we also have lots of preschools because there are so many families here.
El Cerrito - pool, good toddler/preschool programs, walkable. I have been hearing that house rentals go quickly (maybe this is universal across the Bay Area), but otherwise a good place to get your feet wet in the East Bay. El Cerritan
Welcome to the Bay Area! I hope you find a great rental - be sure to arrive at open houses with your forms filled out ahead of time and check for app fee ready to go, as this could be key. I know as recently as a year ago, this was the only way to snatch a place since demand for rental homes has been so high.

At a max budget of 2500/month, you will be unable to find a single, detached house (even small ones) with a yard anywhere in Berkeley or even Temescal, a popular neighborhood for young families in North Oakland. There are some neighborhoods near Temescal where you might find something at this price, but prepare for a culture shock. (Still early in gentrifying transition.) Berkeley does indeed have tons of parks and families (so does north Oakland), but you'll need to accept more of a duplex/triplex situation at that budget. West Berkeley and South Berkeley is probably where you'll have success in that price range.

You may also find some gems in Emeryville, though the housing there is mostly condos/town homes.

Also check El Cerrito - I know of some families there who have house and yard for around that price.

It's good to keep an eye on craigslist for what is being offered at your price range, but be aware that nothing stays on the market longer than a day or two after the open house... Unless it has something wrong with it and isn't priced correctly. Your best bet is to get serious with your search when you're truly ready to hand over the deposit and sign the lease. Welcome to eb


We stumbled upon the Richmond Annex a few years ago when we moved here from so cal and we were quite happy. With some determination you might be able to find a 2 bd house for $2500 there. The rec center has a great pool and splash park and there is a nice library and health food store nearby. You would also have access to the schools in El Cerrito which I hear are good. We have since moved to the Richmond Heights section, also known as the Richmond View. We have noticed an influx of young families here in the last year as it is one of the last affordable places to buy a home in the Bay Area. You could definitely find a single family home to rent for less than $2500. Our rental on Arlington Blvd was $1800 for a 2 bd with a backyard. It was right next to Alvarado park which has a nice playground and you can hike throughout the hills into Berkeley. Stay East of San Pablo avenue in Richmond to look for rentals in The View. The downside, the schools are not considered exceptional but there is Crestmont (private co-op) nearby. Good luck! Shannon
At that price range, you might want to consider San Leandro, which is just south of Oakland by the bay. I recently saw several nice homes for under $2500 a month rent in some of the best neighborhoods in town (Estudillo Estates, Broadmoor). My husband and I moved here in 2012 and love San Leandro. Great neighborhoods, great location, great library, and wonderful neighbors. It's a great town for families. happy in San Leandro

Finding a rental house online - Berkeley, Oakland or Alameda

Jan 2014

Dear BPN, We moved to Berkeley 1 year ago and regrettably our landlords decided to sell the house so we're finding ourselves moving again within 60 days. We're looking at moving from north Berkeley to Oakland or Alameda. We have 2 young kids and would love a house with a yard in a safe neighborhood.

I'm using Craigslist, Zillow, Trulia, and Padmapper. It might be the time of year but there doesn't seem to be much out there! I'm about to panic. What's the deal? Is there another online site I should be searching through. Are there realty companies that deal with lots of rentals? Surely the age of driving the neighborhoods looking for ''for rent'' signs is over, right?

Feel like I'm missing something!! Thanks for any advice Happy New Year!


Yeah, you're missing something: a broader search! Real estate is insane in the Bay Area right now, and limiting yourselves to a few exclusive neighborhoods is self-defeating and unnecessary. Take a look at El Cerrito, Albany, San Leandro, or do what I swore I'd never do and did (with fantastic results): move to the Richmond Hills. Terrific schools, beautiful views, and nice neighbors. Don't be scared! Friendly
''Surely, the age of driving the neighborhoods looking for ''for rent'' signs is over, right?'' Maybe for some, but just like networking works best for job searching since hundreds of people see the online ads, I still recommend driving the neighborhoods, because people still put signs in their windows and you may find the perfect place this way.

You may want to try to find an agent who will help you, as they may have inside information (property that they manage that they will know will be available weeks before it hits the market). This is hard to do, since the commissions on rentals are much lower, but there are still agents out there who are willing to help. Friend? Family?

As a back-up plan, you may want to look for furnished and/or short-term rentals to buy you time to find the home you want. transaction coordinator for a realtor


There is little to rent this time of year. Rental season is spring and summer. The good news is that you also have little competition. So if you find someplace good, you can probably rent it. If want a wider range of choices, maybe you can negotiate with your landlord/landlady.

You might be able to stay a couple of extra months if you just ask. Or maybe you could offer more money. Another possibility is to tell him/her that is okay to get the house ready for sale while you are living there. Make sure that you find out what they want to do and that you can truly live with the construction and commotion before you offer.

I suggest that you start a conversation with the owner of your rental. Good luck! Anon


I can speak for Alameda, where I live. You should know that the market is VERY tight here, and even longtime residents have found it tough to find a new rental right now. However, there are some Alameda-specific resources that you need to know about. First, Alameda is unique in that there are realty services that specialize in Alameda rentals and many landlords will only rent out through them (you will not find these on other websites). Note that you will need to pay a brokderage fee: OMM property management, Harbor Bay Realty, and Gallagher and Lindsay. Second, you should join the Alameda Parents Network Yahoo Group, which is very active with 4600+ members. I have frequently seen people posting looking for rentals -- I don't know how much luck they have had. Occasionally people also list rentals. You also may want to take a look at Alameda Patch, the local news/social blog. Good luck! Alamedan
We were looking for and found a house-yard situation last year in Oakland and the hunt is indeed exhausting. The Mills College section is a good place to focus on for house and yard, but prices are continuing on the rise. Unfortunately, the rentals are spread out among owners as landlords and various property management companies - there is not one company that has most of the rentals locked up. I tried trulia and other fancy sites too, but the best strategy ended up being to check craigslist every single day (once you've narrowed your search to regions you want and the price range, you'll be able to tell immediately when a new rental has popped into the market.) Checking CL daily gave me the best upper hand on making sure we had info about the application and open house. I think now that the holidays are concluding, you will start to see more properties go on the market. But also keep in mind that home rental prices are very high (think 3k+/month). Sorry to hear that you have only 60 days. Good news is that once you find a place, things move quite fast, so some would say that your search is too early. It is helpful though to use this time to check out open houses and see what your price range can get you in various neighborhoods. You may discover neighborhoods you Didn't know about
We found our current rental home on http://www.sabbaticalhomes.com/ . Some are only temporary homes on there, but we were able to find a long-term rental. GL! Kelli
Finding a new home is a miserable process! Our family had to move recently and were able to find that single-family house in a relatively-safe neighborhood with a yard within the 60 day window.

We considered virtually every listing from South Berkeley to San Leandro. Three times a day, I looked at Craigslist and the property management companies in Alameda to see what new rentals were available. Anything that didn't send up warning signals was researched as much as possible with google maps to check out the house, yard, neighbors, and neighborhood. Other places I researched were the crime maps (pretty discouraging in general) and the house sales/value history. If all was ok, I'd send an email expressing interest and describing my family. Most prospective landlords that we met went out of their way to mention that they appreciated this information. I also spent mornings and afternoons driving to look at listings.

When we went to open houses or to meet prospective landlords, we had all of our documentation with us so that applications could be filled out quickly. We were also decisive at the meeting, deciding quickly on whether to put in an application or not. That way it was clear to the prospective landlord during the face to face meeting that we were very interested.

We only put in two applications and were accepted for both. To make it clear, during our entire time looking we only found TWO places that fit our finances and our minimum requirements (which were small yard, 2 bedrooms, outdoor cat friendly, reasonably safe.) The housing market is insane here!

I would really recommend not mentioning your children in an initial email or voice mail message if you are trying to find a place in Berkeley. Never once did I receive a reply from anyone in Berkeley, even when I would see the same listing reposted! I didn't have the same problem other places - Alameda, Oakland, and San Leandro were all welcoming.

If we had not found this house, we were planning to put our things in storage and move to an apartment on a month-to-month basis until we found something.

Best of luck in finding your new home! Fellow Mover


Charming and safe neighborhood we can afford

Dec 2013

Hi, my husband's company is relocating to the Bay area and he will be working in the SOMA district of SF. We have done some research and have discovered Albany, Berkeley and Alameda as possible locations to rent an approximately 1700sf home for under 3.5K/month. We like these areas because they appear to be walkable, safe, have historic charm and are of course family-friendly. We also aren't sure we'll be able to continue private schooling since it's more expensive in SF, so the elementary schools and middle schools need to be good. Are we missing any other neighborhoods? Would appreciate any advice. Thank you! Mom in So Cal Moving into Bay Area


Alameda Alameda Alameda! We live in Alameda and we love it. The schools are good, it's safe, and it really has a small town feel. Kids bike to school by themselves. Some people describe Alameda like a snapshot of the 1950's. You can catch the ferry here that goes straight to downtown SF.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you are going to have to make a lot of concessions off your dream house list in this area of the country if you have limited means (Concord is considered a lower cost housing alternative in the Lamorinda region). My family and I live in a home we purchased for well over a million in the east bay in a 'nice neighborhood' where crime is high and there are no good public schools.

For rentals, you will have a hard time finding a place in your price range by good schools in general, but especially that allow pets (or they may require a big security deposit). With the exception of the educational program, you have listed all the qualities that pretty much everyone wants- and there are a lot of people in the Bay Area with high incomes/tons of money in the bank that can outbid you on anything matching what you have described. Like it or not, you will need to move to somewhere like Oklahoma to be able to buy real estate away from crime in good public school districts. Sounds OK to me


Finding a rental in Berkeley or Oakland

Dec 2013

Hi, my husband and I are new to the area. We are looking trying to find a long-term home to rent in the Rockridge area but would be open to anything in a family-friendly neighborhood in Berkeley or Oakland. We have been looking on craigslist and livelovely.com for over a month and have not found the place that works for us. Any suggestions on where to look? Or any insider recommendations on specific living spaces that are up for rent?

Here is what we are looking for: 2-3 bedroom (we have a small child), family-friendly area, washer/dryer in unit, preferably a yard or park very close by, reasonably large kitchen (I cook a lot), walking distance to the BART station and grocery store/shops, price range up to $3000/mo, preferably a single family home. Anything with one or two of these ideals missing would be worthy of consideration to us. Thank you! new to the area!


I'm sorry to say it, but for what you want, I think your price range is too low. I rent four apartments on the Rockridge side of the Ashby BART station, and they have all of the amenities you are looking for, but the 3bd/2ba rents for $3200 (and if I re-rented it now, I'm pretty sure it would rent for more). Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. Hope you find the perfect place
Welcome to the Berkeley-Oakland area! You have lots of fun times ahead because this area holds more gems than you could imagine! And I'm just talking about the east bay.

With that said, welcome to an area where many wealthy people live and where a tech boom is occurring. We just rental-home hunted last spring and, unfortunately, 3k/month as your ceiling will not find you all the things you are looking for, especially if you want a single family house with a yard in Rockridge. Also, prices skyrocketed in the past 1.5 years, so anyone who hasn't home hunted in that period of time will have outdated concepts of where the affordability is.

For the sake of experimentation, try making 3k your bottom limit and 4k your ceiling when you search craigslist and see if the homes you were hoping for start popping up. For around 2400-3k, the neighborhoods you probably need to be checking (if you want a single family and yard) are the ''mills college,'' and transitioning neighborhoods like West Oakland and some parts of North Oakland (though you're probably priced out of golden gate and temescal unless you're okay with duplex/condo-style living...). Also, you could find something in the El Cerrito/Richmond/El Sobrante region (house and yard) or if you look south, in San Leandro.

Sorry to bear the bad news about the out-control home prices out here. I still remember the sticker shock we felt coming from a very affordable region of the country and couldn't wrap my mind around the idea that we couldn't have a sweet little house in Rockridge to ourselves for 1500/month. (For those who are familiar with the area, they're hopefully all laughing along with me at that notion...). So, unless you find some wonderful homeowner who sees your post and just wants you to come live in their Rockridge home for the price you said, you will have to make some choices right now about what your top priorities are, because you will have to sacrifice a lot of what is on your list. If being in Rockridge and near a BART are your priorities, then it's time to think in the mindset of downsizing and being okay with triplex-style or apartment style living. If house and yard are your biggest priority, you'll need to let go of the notion of living in Rockridge and perhaps search for a house near the El Cerrito BART station. I wish you the best of luck home-hunting with small children when new to the area... I remember What it is like


Finding a long-term rental in Berkeley, are we crazy?

Nov 2013

Is it unrealistic for a family of 4 to try to rent a house in Berkeley with the intent to stay a few years?

We are considering moving to Berkeley from Oakland as our kids are about to start middle school. We love the neighborhood we live in in Oakland, as renters, but since I work in Berkeley and it's just easier to use public transportation and bike in Berkeley (thinking of moving into West Berkeley), we thought that plus schools might be a good reason to make the change. Are we crazy to try and do that?

We realize the rents are much higher and are financially prepared for that, but are kind of worried that maybe this is not a great idea. I've heard even if you do find a house to rent, there's lots of applicants and I've even heard that landlords prefer not to rent to families because they stay a long time. Sounds a little odd to me, but I don't know if it's because if people move out then landlords can raise the rent more easily or something?

We've just lived in Oakland for so long and I thought it would be nice for a change. My husband could use the N. Berkeley BART casual carpool to Civic Center and I had visions of my kids riding bikes to middle school on their own while I walk or ride to work too.

Is it really too hard to even try to find a rental in Berkeley that's not in the hills? Considering Berkeley


Go on Craigslist and start looking, check every week for the next few months, and then start checking more often when you actually start looking. Go to some open houses and see if your budget could get you into a neighborhood you are comfortable in. We found that anything relatively a bargain and kind of nice had lots of applicants. Some are rented by the owner--in those cases the owner might rent to you if they like your family, and sometimes those kind of owners want someone who will stay because it is a hassle to interview new tenants. Possibly we may have come close a couple times...but the clock ran out and we moved somewhere easier to rent in at our price point...good luck! I hope someone else, who found a rental, sends in some good tips for you, too! anon
It's only crazy if you don't have the money. A 3/2 in Berkeley, at the moment, will cost you about 3,400. It's true that landlords don't want people to stay in their rentals forever because the average rental rate goes up each year much higher than the landlord is allowed to raise the rent if someone is currently in the house.

I am a landlord and I do rent my 2nd house out almost always to families if they appear to be the most responsible of the applicants. I want the most rent my house can get (after all, that's why I bought it - it's an investment) but even more than that, I want the rent to not be late, I want the house to be cared for with love, I want people who are going to be good neighbors.

So. The best way to get into a house, whether you are a family or not, is to walk into the open house with an application already filled out (you can find good generic ones online), including references, financial statements listing your bank accounts, and a brief description of your wonderful family. Don't forget your checkbook. Sometimes a landlord will just feel like you're the right people and offer you the place during the open house. If you aren't able to write a check for the deposit and first month's rent right at that moment, you are likely to lose the house to someone else.

I know this all sounds like it's easier to adopt a baby than rent a house here, but that's just how it is during periods when the tech industry is doing well. The over-flow from the astronomical rents in SF affects the market here.

Berkeley Landlord


Is it possible to find a rental in N. Berkeley?

Oct 2013

My family is planning to relocate from New York to Berkeley this winter, and we have our hearts set on renting a 2-3 bedroom house in North Berkeley/Albany area, until we are ready to buy. I just want to make sure that it is, in fact, possible to rent a nice house with a yard in a nice area in the $2500-3500/month range. I have been looking on Craigslist and seeing houses in this range, mostly two bedrooms, but I know that Craigslist can be misleading! I would greatly appreciate any feedback on this so I know that my vision of what we're going to encounter there -- real-estate wise -- is accurate! I'm imagining that for about $3,000/month we'll be able to rent a 1,000+ sf house with a patio/yard close to a walkable part of town. True? Thanks so much for any feedback you can offer! J


Yes, it is possible to rent in N Berkeley, but it's hard. What you describe was exactly what we had our hearts set on. I can understand why you'd have your heart set on Albany/N Berkeley--it's great here! But so are Kensington, central Berkeley, West Berkeley and a lot of other places. Alameda is great too. If you have a limited timescale for when you can rent, you may want to expand your search.

We found that most of the nice and reasonably priced places available were from sabbatical travelers, so only for a year. That ruled out a lot for us. We got our place by posting a housing wanted ad on BPN, and some kind soul (who also wanted to avoid Craiglist) reached out to us. I'd suggest you pound the pavement and contact everyone you know who might know someone.

Albany 3 br was exceedingly difficult. It seemed 2 br was more likely.

Your price range sounds right, though I don't know exactly what your standards are for quality of house, yard, exact location, etc. I can tell you that you won't have a lot of bargaining power though so what is listed is what it will go for (or more sometimes!). We found a 3 br in a good part of N Berkeley with close to what you describe: '$3,000/month we'll be able to rent a 1,000+ sf house with a patio/yard close to a walkable part of town.' Not everything about it is perfect for us, though it more than meets our needs. The prices of N Berkeley and the Bay in general still boggle my mind, but I feel what we pay is fair (though definitely not cheap!).

You could consider looking at 'cottages' or in law units of nice places, though these are mostly 2 brs and seem to go more on the academic calendar.

One final piece of advice: have a good story about your family and have an application package ready to go! Credit history, landlord refs, even job resumes...people like to see you've got your act together. North Berkeley renter--we do exist!


My husband and I were renting out our 2 bedroom/1ba (plus an additional space + 3/4 bath with a separate entrance) in North Berkeley (on Vincente, between Colusa and Thousand Oaks) until this past summer at $2500/month. (We may have had it priced a bit low, but we had absolutely fantastic tenants.) Our house was right around 1000 sq ft, had a beautiful (but small) patio and yard, and was an easy walk to Solano. I don't know what the rest of the rental market looks like, but hopefully that info is of some help to you. (We sold the house this summer, so the information is slightly out of date.) best of luck!
It's tough to find a nice 3 BR house in North Berkeley- either to buy or to rent. If you can find one, the rental price will be at the high end of the range you mentioned. I have a 2BR plus den that I rent out in South Berkeley (not a great neighborhood) and even there it rented for $3,400 a month this year with more applicants than I had time to see.

If you can live with a 2BR you will have better luck, but it will still probably be closer to 3,500 than 3,000. Longtime Berkeley Resident


How did you find your rental?

June 2013

I am a 32 year old single mom with a small child looking for a place to live in Berkeley. I can afford around $1800 for a one bedroom place with a yard to garden and play. I am having such a hard time finding a place. i can hardly even get a response from craigslist ads, let alone an offer to rent. I have perfect credit, great references and a good job. What is the deal?! How did you find your rental? Any creative suggestions for how to go about finding a place? Is using a rental agency the way to go? I'm a long time farmer/professional gardener and have every intention of creating a beautiful garden wherever we go, gardening is so trendy right now, how can I use this to get a leg up, so to speak? Any and all thoughts and ideas are appreciated! Thank you! M


Hey there, I found my place on BPN, actually! Here are a few ideas:

* post on BPN. And then post again! [Please make sure you post in the Marketplace newsletter, in the Housing section.]

* I think that right now the rental market is so super tight that $1800 may be low in Berkeley.

* Keep trying, stalk Craigslist, use any connections you may have in your current neighborhood, at Cal perhaps, anywhere! Let anyone and everyone know you are looking. Post on Facebook.

* Bring your kid to meet the managers.

* Bring copies of references, bank statements, credit reports, etc AND a check when you check out places.

* Be ready to sign on the dot if you like it and give a check right then (but don't get scammed!).

* Consider looking in areas beyond where you are now. Well, nothing beats Berkeley.

And, don't give up! You will find something! Survived the rental market search and so will you


We went through Access Properties in El Cerrito on San Pablo. It is owned by an older couple. The wife is Jan. We have been very happy with our rental. Any repair issues are taken care of quickly by their maintenance guy and his son.
We used craigslist and saw a number of potential places, but finally found something through a friend. Be sure to look at the BPN Marketplace newsletter for housing as well. Try searching craigslist with no maximum rent and see what you find - I think that a place with a yard is going to be more than your budget, unless you are willing to do some kind of duplex or share arrangement. We found that a nice yard was hard to find, and seemed to increase the price. I think you will need to compromise on yard to meet your budget.

Finding a Rental Home in Oakland

May 2013

We've been unsuccessfully searching for a 3 bedroom rental home in Oakland (as well as parts of San Leandro & Alameda) for some time now. It seems there is just very little out there, and what is out there is just pretty sad or we don't get them. I've scoured the internet and it seems like Craig's List is the primary place to find rentals. Is this true or are we missing something?

We are current homeowners (selling our place bec. we have a 2nd child on the way), have long-held full-time jobs, great credit, etc. We have a (well-behaved) cat so that's unfortunately a hindrance, but we're not giving him up! This process is starting to really weigh on us, and with a baby due in Sept. we feel like we're in the midst of countdown. We've started to open our search to ground floor apartments and large 2 bedrooms but there's just nothing. Any advise, suggestions? Unhappy House Hunter


We were able to find our rental through sabbaticalhomes.com . We have a cat as well. I answered ads that said ''no pets'' and explained that I have a well- behaved indoor cat with no fleas, etc. and asked if they may still consider us if we put an extra deposit down. This is how we ended up with our place. It turns out the owner mainly didn't want dogs due to the damage to their hardwood floors and yard from past tenants. Kelli
Welcome to my world! My husband and I have been searching incessantly for a decently priced and located rental anywhere in Berkeley/Albany/El Cerrito and most parts of Oakland. We have a new baby and a dog and are bursting at the seams in our 1 bedroom. Nevertheless, we are still looking. I wonder if this season is all about Cal kids moving in and out and so landlords aren't really keen on families when they can continue to rent gouge college students and raise the rent legally with every year's turnover. Just a thought I had to help myself feel better about this bad renter's market. Good luck, and keep up the good fight. Competition

What's the best way to find a house to rent in Berkeley?

Feb 2013

We're a family of 4: Mama, Papa & children aged 2 & 5, and we're planning on moving from Alameda to Berkeley in June. Our question?: What's the best way to find a house to rent in Berkeley? I hear landlords think thrice about renting to families, so I'd like to pull from as many resources as possible. If anyone is familiar with sources other than Craigslist - we would be so appreciative to learn what they may be. Thank you!


I have counseled people on the topic of renting in Berkeley for almost 30 years. This rental market right now is as challenging as the go-go late nineties. The tech industry is booming again, and Berkeley is experiencing the same pressures that are driving up rents in SF and Silicon Valley. Plus, there is not much inventory. Here is some general advice, and you are welcome to contact me if you have other questions:

1) Begin now. Most rentals are advertised for immediate occcupancy, but I have started to see a few June 1 listings pop up.

2) Prepare yourself for sticker-shock. At present, Berkeley rents are way higher for a lesser-quality rental than Alameda.

3) Be super-prepared. Have a Tenant Resume for each adult in your household, and if possible get a letter of recommendation from your current landlord stating that you have paid your rent on time and have kept your current rental in good condition. (The easiest way to get this done is to prepare the letter yourself and ask the landlord if he/she would be willing to sign it.)

4) I regret that CraigsList has become the alpha and omega of rental listing sources. Watch out for scams! If you are a member of the California Alumni Assn, or if one of you is employed at Cal, you can subscribe to the Faculty/Staff rental listing services and sometimes there are different listings there. Also, you can do an online search for Berkeley Property Management companies and most of them have websites with their rental listings that you can peruse. It may or may not be useful to pay for the listing service called Apartmenthunterz.com.

5) Check for new rentals every day, several times a day, and call or email immediately when you see something that looks remotely acceptable.

6) Know what you are willing to compromise on. The only way I know to do this is to get out and see a bunch of rentals. You will learn what is normal for the market and what constitutes a good deal - and jump on the good ones as fast as you can by writing a holding deposit on the spot and filling out an application along with attaching your Tenant Resume.

Hope this helps - it's tough out there! Becky


Rent-to-Own/Lease Option Homes in Berkeley?

Feb 2013

Can anyone recommend a good source or program for finding rent-to-own homes in Berkeley? We aren't quite ready to buy but would like to explore a lease w/option to purchase if we could find one that was a good fit for our family. I've searched the archives but there seems to be nothing on this subject, and all the websites I found through google want me to pay money to get a list of information. Renter-to-Owner


Dear Renter-to-Owner, I'm sorry to tell that the reason you are not finding any information on renting-to-own in Berkeley is because this form of home purchase is extremely rare in this area. Real estate customs do vary greatly by region, and also over time depending on the market climate. But I have been a very active, full-time Realtor in this area for 20+ years and during that time I have not once heard of a rent-to-own happening here. I have seen many people embark on that quest, but none (that I have heard about) have succeeded. The reason has to do with several factors, but the biggest factor is Berkeley's rent control ordinance, which is very protective of tenant's rights and restrictive of the owner's right to evict. This means that once a home owner does rent out a home to a prospective rent-to-owner, if that renter does not complete the purchase, the owner is left with a tenant-occupied property to try to sell. Tenant occupied properties have significantly lower market value, because showings are hard to schedule, the houses are not generally looking their best, and the new owner is faced with both the legal and karmic repercussions of trying to get the tenant to move out. Holly

Renting in area for family relocating from NYC

Jan 2013

Looking for some direction/help please. We are lreocating from NYC to the Berkeley area this Feb/ March with our two grammar school aged children. We have done the big stuff- got them into a great school-St Theresa's. Now need to find somewhere to live-UGH- proving to be a daunting task ! We are looking to rent for the time being. We are looking for 3 bedrooms in a safe nice area. It is hard enough on the kids moving across country; to move into something that is terrible would just be a disaster but I am not having any luck and am looking for some help. I seem to live on Craigslist and so far-nothing. Does anyone have any suggestions out there please ? Signed, frantic in New York-Elyse.


Can't wait to hear what people have to say - We're relocating back after living in China for a couple years for husband's job. We booked 3 months of temporary housing via airbnb and are planning on finding our permanent house during that time. I wish you the best. The affordable housing in nice neighborhoods go fast, and as far as I can tell, are rented to people in person. I have heard of real estate agents handling some rentals (NYC like) so if you can find them, maybe you can rent something permanent before arriving. -good luck

2010 - 2012 Recommendations


Best time of year to look for a rental

Oct 2012

Due to a probable future short sale of our home, our family is going to be looking for a rental in Oakland within the next 12 months. We do have a little bit of flexibility on the timing (though not tons of course), so I was wondering if anyone has recommendations on the best/easiest month(s) to rent (i.e. times of year when availability is higher and competition is lower). I know that school plays into this - are gazillions of people looking to rent in mid-summer, then? Would we be better off trying to rent in the Spring? Or late Fall, or other? Thanks much. Wondering in Oakland


I think the special time you seek to rent an apartment does not exist. Either lots of apartments are available and there is lots of competition, or few apartments and little competition. My experience is with Berkeley, but Oakland is probably similar. In addition, no one wants to move during the rainy season. Perhaps September would be a good time to move. There is less competition from students, and the rains have not yet started in earnest. If you want to find the perfect spot, look in spring when things start to become available. Good luck! Anon
In my experience as an owner of rental property the best time to look for housing is in December and January as well as in the spring. The winter months are good because a lot of people are involved with the holidays and are not looking so the competition is not so keen. The disadvantage is that there are not so many places available during this time of year. The spring brings more openings because people tend to relocate then. Good luck. Roger

Rental agent for Berkeley?

Sept 2012

We are looking for help from a rental agent for finding a Berkeley apartment. Ideally, this person will listen to what we need, and alert me when things become available. Nora


Maybe things have changed in the last three years, but when we moved out here to Berkeley about three years ago, we were also looking for a rental agent. (Boy, that would have made things so much easier!) However, after calling around, I discovered that an agent to represent the renter does not exist! (Or, at least they didn't three years ago...?) I was told that craigslist rules the day and thus there is no market for renter-hired rental agents. As far as I can tell, your best bet is to start scouring the craigslist listings. Also, if I had realized back then, I would have posted an announcement that we are seeking rental housing on BPN and even on craigslist. (I actually know a family who had luck finding their place by doing this! I never would have guessed.) Not sure where you're coming from, but good luck in your search! Finding housing in Berkeley and even Oakland (and maybe whole bay area?) is tricky and may come with a lot of wild goose chasing. In both of our local moves out here, it has been an exercise in patience. Hope I'm Wrong!

Trying to find Section 8 housing

May 2012

I have a friend who is trying to find housing in Berkeley that accepts Section 8 and unfortunately, it is no easy task. Are there any organizations (other than the Berkeley Housing Authority) that may be able to assist him? Also, are there any landlords out there that can explain why so many ads for apartments indicate 'no Section 8'? Is there a way he can 'sell' himself to potential landlords? He is a quiet single guy in his 20's that does not smoke, use drugs, or alcohol -- an ideal tenant. Thanks for any recommendations and insights. R.


I wish I had some great recommendation for Section 8 housing in Berkeley. All I can offer of advice in this regard is to look on his own for listings that say 'section-8 ok'. I think maybe some of the newer developments that have come up in recent years might have a certain number of section-8 slots as a city requirement, but I'm not sure.

As for why it is so hard to find I can shed a little light. I recently used to work for a local Housing Authority (not Berkeley). Landlords are not required to accept section-8. Most of those who offer it have sub-par, but technically passable housing that they may have a hard time filling, and once filled, may not be filled by tenants that are good about paying rent consistently. So their motivation for allowing section-8 is to keep their units filled and know they will receive at least part of their rent consistently from the government. A small number of landlords are actually saints who enroll in section 8 because they want to house a particular person who has it. However, the cost of enrolling in Section-8 is great. It is a big hassle, especially in Berkeley. There are housing unit inspections once a year that need to be scheduled. And if there is some problem, like if the rent is not coming on time from the agency, it can be a tremendous hassle dealing with this particular kind of government agency. Signing up for section-8 does not guarantee that the tenant will pay their portion of the rent either.

The good news is that a tenant can 'port' elsewhere with their section-8, usually after living in the city/county that grants it for one year (depending on the agency's policies). So if your friend wants to live in a sub-par unit in Berkeley for a year or so, he can then go elsewhere. Alameda County Housing Authority is easier to deal with, so I'd recommend him trying in the future to find housing under their jurisdiction. I don't recommend Oakland or Richmond Housing Authority.

Hope this helps. former Housing Authority worker


As a former landlord who has done both non-section 8 and section 8 rentals...

The reason landlords will post 'No Section 8' is because they are not contracted with the local housing authority to accept section 8 tenants and payments.

Under Section 8, the local housing agency will send the landlord a check for a portion or all of the rent, and the tenant is responsible for any remainder.

As a landlord, to accept a section 8 tenant, you have to register and sign an agreement with the local housing agency for them to send any checks. And you have to have the property inspected to make sure it meets Section 8 stands. It's NOT a simple matter to just say, 'oh, ok, you're section 8, I'll rent to you.' If you aren't contracted for Section 8, you can't accept section 8 tenants.

Your friend can try to find landlords directly who say they take Section 8, but I think he will end up back at the Berkeley Housing Authority anyway, because they administer the contracts, payments, waitlist, etc. Former Section 8 Landlord


Speaking as a Berkeley landlord, there are a number of disincentives in this city to take on a Sec 8 tenant. First, the City's Measure Y has a clause that applies to all rent-control housing that says you must pay low-income tenants $4,500 to move out EVEN if you are moving a close relative or yourself into the unit. The clause was originally tacked on AFTER other provisions that were restricted to owners of multiple properties. Second, the programs administering Sec 8 including the City of Berkeley's housing assistance program withhold much information about the prospective tenant. In my experience, they give such vague information, you wonder what they're hiding. While this protects the privacy of the tenant, landlords start wondering whether they're getting someone who is a drug addict with a criminal history or simply a low-income single-parent. Third, there seems to be plenty of informal advice around here that you shouldn't risk your property to Section 8 folks, especially if you're under rent control because of all the restrictions. I actually got that same advice (albeit said in a hushed, conspiratorial tone) from a rent control staffer.

Probably, making sure that you have good, solid references from real landlords (not just the city or program administrator) would go a long way in convincing a landlord. Also, I would be curious if the same sentiment holds true of other nearby cities, such as Albany or El Cerrito, which might be reasonable alternatives.

(Oh yeah, sorry, but I have tenants in my rental unit who I ADORE, and am in no hurry to see a vacancy.) An open-minded Berkeley landlord


How to find dog-friendly housing

May 2012

I currently looking to rent a dog-friendly apartment. I currently live in the Albany/El Cerrito border but am only allowed to have a cat. My husband and I would love to adopt a dog this summer but finding an apartment seems almost impossible. Does anyone know of any management offices/landlords/owners that allow pets in their units? Thanks! -Cathy


We live in the Village at Town Center (on San Pablo at Schmidt in El Cerrito) and dogs are welcome. We also looked at an apartment next to the Del Norte BART station that took dogs. Good luck!

Finding a single family rental in East Bay

Nov 2011

Greetings, We live in SF, but our kids are in school in Berkeley. We had intended to move 2 1/2 years ago, but then the credit crisis hit and thus, we are still here. I am going crazy driving over the bridge 4x a day. My body shakes even when I am out of the car. I have been scouring Craigslist and any possible website to find a ''nice'' simple single family home to rent in the East Bay, but to no avail. I have sent out a blast email to friends to see if they know of any leads. Again, nothing seems to be turning up. Do you have any suggestions on how to find a clean, well kept single family home to rent in the Berkeley, Rockridge, Piedmont neighoborhoods? I am desparately seeking a home. I figure that beyond Craigslist, there must be another system: word of mouth? I so appreciate any help! thanks a million!


Try a real estate agent? Our near Piedmont street has 3 single family rental homes and I think the landlord lists through a real estate agent. Good luck
Sorry no advice other than to say I have always found the nice rentals I lived in on Craiglist. And most of my friends who rented out their houses did it though Craigslist. I find it very surprising that you are not finding nice stuff there. Are you willing to pay going market rate? Rents are high here so maybe you have unrealistic expectations about what to pay. If you are willing to pay market rate I think there are plenty of nice rentals on Craigslist. sceptical
These homes exist. Don't give up! There are neighborhood email lists for all these neighborhoods - temescal families on yahoo, rockridge, etc. Go to the groups pages for yahoo and search on these neighborhoods to find them, then go to the groups pages for google and do the same. sign up for these email digests. Houses come through here occasionally where the landlords don't want to deal with craigslist (like me). Also, I've had friends find some rare deals via the newspaper - mostly because the landlords weren't tech savy. And last, try posting an ad on craigslist ''housing wanted.'' Be clear and specific about what you want and who your family is. It's a low maintenance way for a landlord to find a tenant while skipping the onslaught of email that posting an ad on CL generates. landlord to 3 SFHs in those hoods

Finding a rental with poor credit: big family!

Aug 2011

Hi BPN, We are currently living outside of the bay area, but are most likely returning for a job in the next few months. We are very excited. One huge challenge is that we are a 6 person family (2 adults, 4 kids) and we have poor credit. We are working to improve our credit, but basically had a rough go through the whole financial crisis, under-employment, etc. We are responsible, but just had some challenges. We have excellent rental history, good references. Any advice? nervous about being judged....


I have several suggestions. One is timing. Most people do not like to move during the rainy season. If you can find an empty apartment from about Nov-Feb, you have a better chance of signing a contract because there is little competition.

Also, stay away from rent controlled areas such a Berkeley. Since it is so difficult to get rid of unsuitable tenants in a rent-controlled apartment, landladies are less likely to take a chance on you.

A third idea to offer a lot of money upfront. If you can give them several month's or even a year's rent upfront, it will make them feel more comfortable with renting to you.

And last of all, be honest. Tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Really. Speaking as a rental agent, I find it is very difficult to rent to people when their stories do not ring true or when I uncover problems when doing the credit check and calling references. So, keep working on improving your credit score and good luck! anon


Trying to find a single family house in Berkeley

April 2010

We are a family of 5 from Minneapolis, MN moving to Berkeley in July. We are looking for leads in two areas and would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE any input from the group. We will be looking for a single family home or duplex in Berkeley (for the schools - unless I can get a teaching job in Berkekey)3BR/2BA. We have excellent credit & are community builders. We have been looking on Craigslist, but aren't getting calls returned. Any leads? Should we try an agent? Maggies


In regards to renting in Berkeley, most things are listed on craigslist, there is no reason to get an agent, in my opinion. Part of your problem is timing. Most renters give 30 days notice, so looking for an apartment more than 30 days in advance is very frustrating. I know you want to have your home figured out in advance, but that is going to be very difficult. And landlords probably don't return your phone calls because you are not in town. People rarely rent apartments sight unseen. Call one of the bigger companies like Premium Properties or K and S, and you will probably find someone to talk to. anon

2007 - 2009 Recommendations


Finding housing while pregnant

June 2007

Hello, Berkely parents! I am six months pregnant and trying to find a larger place to live in Berkeley or Oakland. When I discovered I was pregnant four months ago, I began looking for a place, and have been looking ever since. I have submitted several applications, some with credit-check fees; no landlords have cashed the checks, nobody has checked my credit, and nobody has called my references--nonetheless, I have been refused every place for which I've applied. I have impeccable references, good credit (I just bought a car and was congratulated on my score by the dealer!), am a former homeowner, and have never, ever had a problem finding a rental, even in the East Bay.

I suspect discrimination and in once case, was told directly by a landlord that she would not rent to me because I'm pregnant (she felt the stairs leading to the door were too dangerous for a child). I know this is illegal, and I've contacted fair housing, but the immediate problem is that I am in desperate need of a place. I am starting to despair that I will find anything at all, and I feel as if waiting for legal recourse will prove too long a wait.

My question is this--is it illegal for me to send a non- pregnant friend to apartment showings pretending to be me? Also, is it illegal to not fill in the blanks on applications that ask how many children I have, or to lie and say none (rationalizing that I don't have a child yet--I have a fetus)? Before I was showing, I (stupidly) was very open and excited about my pregnancy, and now that I realize my situation, I can't conceal it. I'm also wondering if anybody knows a neighborhood that might be easier for a pregnant woman to rent in, and/or landlords who welcome infants? Thank you for any suggestions. Desperate to Nest


you might try looking at a rental company to find housing. I think they are generally more aware and careful about following non-discrimination laws than individual owners. We live in a K&S building and a woman who was 8 months pregnant moved in a few years ago with no problems. Their website is kands.com anon
Yes, apartment hunting while pregnant can be hard. Landlords aren't supposed to discriminate against families, but when they have a lot of choice they don't have to pick you either. Maybe they haven't passed over you because you are pregnant, but just because they actively picked someone else. You have to bear in mind that it can take a while for anyone to find an apartment.

I just had an opening that I listed on a Wednesday, showed Sunday once, and rented that Monday. I received more than thirty applications -- and those in reaction to a listing that specified every short-coming about the apartment that I know of. I ended up deciding on the people I picked because 1) they were students, 2) they had a cat and it's okay with me, 3) one of them smokes and it's a free-standing unit and doesn't matter to me, and 4) they don't drive an SUV. Any of about another four sets of tenants would have been fine. You will never know why the places that you applied for have chosen someone else.

Is it illegal to have your friend pretend to be you? I'm not a lawyer, so I can't tell you for sure, but I would think probably. And certainly if you apply as one person when you know you will be two that is a misrepresentation. I'm assuming you are thinking that if you fool them into offering ''you'' a place, you will then turn up, and they will not be able to retract the offer. Might work, might not. If they did retract the offer, they might get away with it if you had misrepresented yourself. And if it did work, how comfortable would you be with a landlord who starts off angry with you?

Where to find a place? The last time I did this -- apartment hunt while pregnant -- I ended up renting a place over by Piedmont Avenue, from an older lady who had some flats she rented. That is, a real person rather than MegaRentals. If I were looking now, I'd check places that have lots of neighborhood children -- lower Gilman, Albany, El Cerrito. You need to find people who understand that the world contains children. Good luck on this. a landlord


I was looking for a rental(house) last year summer, back then I was pregnant and lived in Illinois. One owner agreed on phone(she was okay with long distance transaction) but backed off the next day after knowing I was pregnant. She showed the long distance as denial reason. From then on I didn't mention my pregnancy. It is perfectly legal to say ''no child'' while pregnant, because there isn't any...yet.

But I would NOT recommend sending someone else posing as you...this is not legal. This is fraud. You can always say you are not in town or sick to go out that day, but will send a friend to see the house. Remember to tell the friend not to mention your pregnancy. adit


You're what- 4 months pregnant? I'd just wear a covering outfit and put 0 for children. The baby's not born yet. I would not send the friend in to do the applications though. That could backfire. anon
you're not lying to say you have no kids- you have no kids!

I don't think sending a friend would work. If she says she's looking ''for a friend'' she'll probably not be taken seriously. she'd need to lie about why you can't make it. If she says she's you, there will be big issues at move-in.

My guess is they're skeptical you can't make rent once baby comes. keep trying


Dear Finding Housing While Pregnant: Finding a new apt. is much like getting a new job, from my prospective. Landlords seek tenants who are courteous, responsible, have excellent credit rating (fico 700+ is ideal) and gainfully employed. For many young people who do not have the financial means, they need someone, like a gainfully employed parent, who will guarantee the rent.

You may need to secure the assistance of a good friend or family to help you locate housing--and, I do not mean people who are looking help you to file a claim against a landlord--that is not a good friend. Other options: you can offer to pay six months of rent in advance, to show your good faith and ability to pay rent. Or, you may need to consider moving into an area or apt. where the landlord cannot afford to be too particular about his tenants because he has so few applicants. Good luck! -Anon


Finding a large rental house-Berkeley or Oakland

May 2007

Some friends of ours are trying to move here from out of the area. They have been looking for a 3+ or 4 bedroom house and have been having a lot of trouble finding something. They'd prefer Rockridge or Elmwood, but would be also be happy to look at places near Piedmont, Grand, or Lakeshore Avenues. Craigslist has been a bit barren lately. Is there a seasonal aspect to house vacancies? Are there other resources or listings that they should be checking? Thanks for any suggestions. sandra


My family and I were in the same situation last year. We moved from NYC in summer 2006 and started looking in late May for a house. It wasn't any easy process, fortunately my family here helped alot, including driving around the neighborhood looking for rental signs. We ultimately did not find a house until after we had arrived (and could not move in for a few weeks). We tried to apply for several other houses (before renting our current place) and we found that landlords don't want to rent to people is they haven't met them in person. I also called real estate brokers to see if they had rentals, I saw a few potential houses this way. My advice to your friends is to be patient, the right house will come their way, its just might take more time than they want. We ended up with more than we could have hoped for in Rockridge, which was our 1st choice of a neighborhood to live in. Let your friends know that they are welcome to email me with any additional questions. Shauna
Hi there, It is really tough to find a great place, but the best way to go would be to check out a couple of local realtors. Wells & Bennett Realtors is really great! They have some really nice properties for rent in Oakland's Montclair district & also in Berkeley. I have worked with a couple of the agents & they are all very helpful, knowledgeable, & very personable. Their web- site is www.wellsandbennett.com. Click on listings & scroll to the bottom of the page to look at their rentals. I would recommend Shaun Martin, but Shalene Rose is also nice. Happy hunting

How to find a rental in Berkeley/Oakland

May 2007

We live in NYC and are moving to the East Bay in July. I'm looking for some advice on securing a rental. I've been checking Craigslist, but I see there are listing services that charge a fee (MetroRent and Cal Rentals, for ex.). Are these good services or a scam? I'm planning on coming out for a week and a half, over memorial day weekend and the following weekend. Should I assume I should be able to find just the right place during that time?

In case anyone has any specific suggestions: what we're looking for is a fairly nice place with a yard (house, townhouse, or apt with yard access), 2+ bedrooms, dining room, decent kitchen w/ gas stove, in a neighborhood like Rockridge, Temescal, or similar; and we're thinking $1600-2100/mo... Your thoughts? Thank you! cammie


Your best bet is Craigslist as opposed to those other agencies. Also, you should be able to find a place as you described around your price range but it won't be in the best neighborhood. Look further from Rockridge and you might have a better chance. Try Oakland Hills/Mills, Temescal or Emeryville - not as nice of a neighborhood but prices are better. Summer is a tough time but if you set up appointments before you come out, that will make things easier. Also, have your rental agreement prepared so that if you find the place you like, immediately submit the application that very day since it might take a while for them to check your references, etc. Good luck, Rockridge Rentor

2004 - 2006 Recommendations


Finding rentals when you have kids

May 2006

Should I disown my children to get rental housing?

I don't mean literally, of course. What I mean is to conveniently leave them off my application, out of discussion, etc., or at least not bring them up until I have to declare point blank who else might be living in the house? Can I wait until after a lease is signed to explain that they exist?

I don't want to get off on the wrong foot with a potential landlord, but I've been pretty frustrated so far trying to rent housing for months without success. In at least a couple of cases, I think it's clear that we lost out to other applicants because we have two small children. Yes, I know that there is a potential legal violation here, but pursuing legal options isn't going to get me what I want, which is a new place to live.

Up until now I assumed that our being a family was a selling point, as it means we are not likely to throw lots of loud alcohol fueled parties, that we intend to stay put for awhile, and that we're at the grownup point in life where we take care of our living space, have careers, etc. Have I miscalculated? Are the kids a dealbreaker? Craigslist Stalker


Dear Renter,
As a landlord, I'd recommend telling the truth from the beginning re. your family. The landlord will find out eventually either at the application time or signing the lease. If the LL feels you're trying to lie or be manipulative, s/he may not trust you about other things as well. It's not a good way to start a relationship. Good Luck with your house hunt!
Deena
No, of course not. Instead focus on family-friendly housing. Why would you want to put yourself in a situation, or your kids in a situation, where they have to hide and not be comfortable in their own home. You'll find something, just keep the focus on your family. Has it gotten that bad?
Yes, it's really frustrating finding a place to live!!! I have done it so many times, I could do it in my sleep! That's not to say I like it... I always mention my daughter after they ask who will be living in the place. I don't make it a big deal. I do try to find out who the neighbors are: are THEY throwing alcohol-fueled parties? I decided if a landlord didn't like that I had a kid, then I didn't want to give them my money. You have to be comfortable where you are living, right? If that's a problem that keeps coming up, try asking right away, ''are two kids going to be an issue?'' If they hem and haw on the phone, then don't pursue that one, if they seem okay with it, then there's a good place to go and look at. You'll find something. good luck renter with kid
I am a really small-time landlord (I rent 2 apartments), and am more inclined to rent to a small family than 3 college-student roommates. I would feel deceived if someone inquired about renting and later said ''Oh, by the way, I have two children''. I would wonder if they were being dishonest about the other items on their application. So no, don't ''disown'' your kids. But document the rejections and make a formal complaint if you think you are a victim of discrimination Nora
I so feel your pain. Every time we rent a new place we've gone through the exact same thing as you--and felt like people were crazy to prefer students over us, a nice family. As it looks as though we will certainly outgrown our current place I've been looking over things at craigslist and kind of shiver with fear. Now we will have THREE children--will we ever find a good place to live while renting?!

As tempting as it is, I would NOT leave the kids off until the last minute. This seems very dishonest and would perhaps violate your application. I'm tempted to consult a lawyer, though, because it seems like there must be some way to indicate that you will have four people living in the house, but not state their age. If you must state their age and relationship to you, then it seems like the only reason this information is relavent is if they are discriminating against children/families.

But then again, do you really want to rent from someone who doesn't want kids living on their property? Is this the kind of person you want to hand over all that money to? hate to rent in the Bay


About a year ago I ran into this a little bit when looking for housing. One landlord was renting a second-floor apartment and actually said she would not rent to someone with kids except on the first floor. I thought it was probably illegal, but was not sure and didn't know whom to call. A few months later I became an apartment manager myself and took a class in which I was certified in fair housing law. Please call Sentinel Fair Housing at (510) 836-2687 and let them know when you suspect discrimination. They have discreet ways of checking up on these things. I believe that they sometimes just need to have a few of their staff members call and pose as prospective tenants with kids to sniff out a rat. It is possible that there are other factors that are working against you (check your credit report: there may be something on there you don't know about, possibly a mistake). But if people are casual about getting their applications rejected over children, then the law will be of no use and discrimination will only increase.Good luck Liz

Moving to the Bay Area - should we rent or buy?

April 2006

My husband and I and our three young sons are moving to the Berkeley area from Washington state. Does anyone have any advice as to whether it is better to rent/lease a home for awhile before buying or just plunge into the market. It is so much more expensive in a mortgage payment, almost twice as much, as renting a comparable home. Any experiences with this?
mom on the move


From someone who runs these type of numbers as part of my job, I can say that renting clearly dominates. You would need to know that you are buying right into the house where you want to live for at least ~15 years for buying to make sense in this market if you are at all risk averse. You could make a mint if the market continues or lose your entire net worth if it does not---this is the nature of highly leveraged investments. However, when the house is a home for the long haul you can ignore such changes. For your situation, renting is a great option even if it is not quite the ''American Dream''. anon
We rented for 5 years and payed $2000/mo the whole time. During that same time we watched a 3 br home go from $350,000 to $650,000. We just closed on a home for the latter price. Homes here will never go down so I would say to buy if you can. Even if you paid nothing on your loan you would make money from equity. If you need a real estate agent/ mortgage person I can recommend ours. They are quite tenacious. There were higher bidders on our house and they still got us in. Joanne
We bought a house in Berkeley last year after renting here for two years. Our mortgage + property tax is 2.5 times our old rent. It's been a very difficult adjustment and one that we wish we hadn't made. We dream of the days when we had savings and flexibility. Now we have a house. It's really just a lifestyle choice. Since we were very focussed on owning a house before we did, we selectively blinded ourselves to what we were really getting ourselves into. Knowing what we know now, if we could sell it and break even, we'd do it in a second. My opinion is that this is a great area to be a renter and invest your money in other ways. Good luck with your decision. Either way, you're moving to a very exciting place!
Renter Wannabe
We moved to the Bay Area nine years ago and rented a home for a year before we purchased. The Bay Area is huge with lots of different kinds of a communities, even climates! Families' needs are different. Renting gave us a chance to figure out some of the things we wanted in a community and some of the areas we would enjoy more than others. I have friends who bought a home in the Berkeley Hills when they first moved here. It was beautiful with fantastic views. But they found living in the hills isolating. So they moved to the Berkeley flats near a retail area where they could walk to shopping and restaurants. When my sister-in-law's family moved here they purchased a home in El Cerrito. She said it was the coldest place she'd ever lived--and they moved here from Chicago! So I think if you can find a comfortable rental home, it's a great way to go while orienting yourself to the area.
Take your time
As a realtor, my advice is to rent for at least 6 months before seriously considering a purchase. Even if you have the means, it's difficult enough for someone who's been here for years to determine the right setting for them--there are so many choices between price, transportation, schools, shopping, even climate. Take your time and explore the east bay--within a 15 minute drive of Berkeley there is a huge range of communities. The housing market has slowed, so you aren't likely to be priced out by waiting. If you are used to owning your home and feel like renting is taking a step down, let me assure you that most people in your situation rent, and between BPN and craigslist, you're sure to find a space big enough for your family. Buying property in the bay area is a huge investment, requiring a level head and proper planning, and most importantly, time to find the right home for you. Don't rush.
Casey
You don't say how long you anticipate being in the Bay Area, but that's an important factor in whether you rent or buy. As you noted, rents are a lot lower than mortgages, so if you may be short-term, you should probably just rent. If you think you'll be long-term, I would buy. The market is flattening a little, making it easier for buyers, but interest rates are rising, which means even if prices drop, you won't be able to afford as much at a higher interest rate. Moreover, you earn 100% appreciation on 20% down, and get a great tax break. There are obviously other factors, such as stability, to throw into the mix, but those are the off-the-top-of-my-head observations. I'm a licensed real estate broker and would be happy to talk to you more about your circumstances and needs if you'd like. Star
The comments about buying a house vs renting because ''prices here never go down'' are misguided. Sure, those who've lived here for 6 years and rented are sorry they didn't buy. That's short term thinking. My family has held property in the bay area for over 50 years and there have been several multi-year cycles where prices declined SIGNIFICANTLY. Sure, if you're positive you can buy and hold for 10 years, you're probably on relatively safe ground. But what happens if you buy, and then 3 years later you or a spouse loses a job, or gets a job transfer, etc. and you have to sell, and the market has gone down 10% (It's happened here MANY times before). Your entire down payment can be easily wiped out. (Don't forget that you're GUARANTEED a 5-6% loss due to agent fees, transfer taxes and other costs when you sell even if your house holds its purchase value...and that 5-6% loss is on the TOTAL value...so if you buy a house for $750,000, and you put down 20%, or $150,000, and the market goes down 5%, your house will be worth 712,500. You'd then pay 43,000 in selling costs, you'll owe the bank $600,000 if you had an interest only mortgage, slightly less after a few years with a traditional mortgage, so you're left with 712,500-43,000-600,000=69,500, or a loss of $80,500 or 53% of your down payment! That's with just a 5% decline! It CAN happen, it HAS happened, and it WILL happen again. Again, if you're sure you'll never be forced to sell within the next 10 years, go ahead and buy in...this is a wonderful, special place to own property long term. But if you're on shaky financial ground without the savings to support your mortgage, taxes, insurance if you lose a job, and if you'd be stretching to get the mortgage, and especially if you'd have to get an interest only or a short term adjustable or one of the other ridiculous mortgages out there, DON'T DO IT!! Just for reference, I'm putting my own money where my mouth is. We've just sold all of our bay area real estate, including our house, and we're renting. Renting is NOT shameful..it's a viable financial strategy. Good Luck. benjamin
It is true bay area prices have dropped as much as 10%. They are down 10% now and the bidding wars are pretty much over. It's a good time to buy if you can because list price is pretty close to the price you will pay where 6 mos to a year ago people were bidding $100,000 or even $200,000 over asking. Joanne
I wish I could buy here. I am obsessed with the real estate sites and zillow (which has been so off for me). I'm just frustrated that every home we've made an offer on has been outbid-some by $100,000. If we could buy now we would. Would love to own in the Bay Area

How to find a dog friendly rental house

Aug 2006

I'm wondering if there is a resource for those looking for dog friendly housing. I am currently renting a 3 bedroom 2 1/2 bathroom townhouse in Upper Rockridge. While I love the neighborhood and the unit, my landlord will not allow us to get a dog, which I would really like to do this Christmas. From looking on craigslist, I've learned that most places don't allow dogs, and those that do are either (1) not particularly well kept or (2) way too expensive. Is there a website, list or e- mail group that provides leads on pet friendly housing? I am only interested in single family housing and I'd like to confine my search to North Oakland, Oakland Hills, Berkeley, Albany, and/or Alameda. Thanks Alicia


we had the same problem, i would call the ''no dogs'' listing anyways and ask if you left a hefty deposit would they reconsider. or let them know it's one dog and a well behaved dog. some times land lords don't want to be bothered with this. let them know you are serious. we have 2 dogs and the house we are renting now was isted as ''no pets allowed'' good luck, and dogs are definitely worth the trouble of finding a dog friendly house michelle
First, I'd suggest checking out the SF SPCA website. They have a program called ''Open Door'' that facilitate & encourages pets being allowed in rentals. Go to www.sfspca.org/opendoor. They have resources for both tenants & landlords. They have current listings of landlords registering with them who are OK with pets, including landlords in the east bay.

I am an apartment manager who inherited a no-pet policy. After a few years I realized I was missing out on good prospective tenants just because of a cat or dog. I changed my mind & changed the policy, using Open Door's ''landlord info packet'' of forms and suggestions of how to implement a pet policy.

If you really don't want to move, you might make an offer to your landlord offering to pay increased security deposit & perhaps a small monthly rental fee for a pet, & in general negotiate an amicable solution. The Open Door web site is full of good advice & concrete suggestions. If you are good tenants the landlord wouldn't want to lose, do your homework and present a responsible pet plan that addresses the landlord's concerns, you might both end up happy.

It's important that landlords unerstand that allowing one pet doesn't mean they have opened the floodgates to all pets! My pet policy is strictly approval on a case-by-case basis. For liability reasons I won't allow certain breeds: pit bulls, rottweillers, dobermans, german shepherds, for example. I also insist on the pet being spayed/neutered, vaccinated etc. The tenant signs a Pet Addendum to the lease that details other requirements (covering issues of ''doing business'', barking, leash control, etc.) Good luck!

Pet-friendly apartment manager


How to find an in-law to rent in Montclair, Piedmont area

May 2006

I am looking for a in-law kind of place to rent around Montclair, Piedmont area. We can't quite afford to rent a house but maybe able to rent someone's in-law. I have been looking Craigslist but is there any other place I should look to find such things?


We rent a studio in Rockridge and while initially we listed our property in various places, we ended up only using craig's list, b/c it was the venue most used by prospetive tenants. Other than craig's list and BNP, you may want to try to join neighborhood groups (parent groups or crime groups or something like that), I've also seen a few listings in our neighborhood group list (but very sporadic). Good luck EP

Finding a rental in the East Bay

May 2005

I'm new to the rental market. Where do I look for the most comprehensive rental listings for Berkeley? Do you really get your money's worth signing up for a listing service, or is there one paper that carries most of them? Thanks very much. -anon


The best place to view rentals in the East Bay/Berkeley is www.craigslist.com. As for viewing houses on market, I would go www.grubbco.com. They usually have the photos of properties and they generally sell really nice homes. We spent over a year with zip reality because we are internet people but didn't have any luck buying or finding a hosue with their agent. We switched over to Grubb Co. and worked with Hope Broderick and she was able to not only find our current house, which we love, but also get it at an amazing competitive market within a month or so. I met her at a random open house and was really impressed and charmed by her. We also had the pleasure of working with her associate Michael Friedman, who was also great. Check out the Grubb Co. site and you'll know what I mean! Chi
March 2005

How does one find a rental in the east bay these days? I am a Berkeley native, and in the past have mainly found housing through word of mouth, but have also looked using the Express and Homefinders. I will be moving back next month and have been looking at Craigslist and BPN. Does Homefinders still make sense given the popularity of the internet? Also, I now have 2 kids, so hope to avoid lists of rentals geared mainly toward students. Any suggestions on additional/good routes to finding a house/apt, and does having kids change the process? Thanks jessica Sorry, Homefinders recently went out of business, thanks to Craigslist and the sluggish rental market. UC Berkeley's housing office has a listing service that might cater more to the faculty/staff population, but you might have to be a UC affiliate to use it. David


2003 & Earlier


Using the Campus Community Living Office

Last updated: June 1999
From: Becky White Community Living Office

I wanted to address the inquiries from several people who have been house-hunting lately, and also give a shamelss plug for my office, since Homefinders was mentioned recently. I wanted to point out that the University services (Community Living) are much less expensive, we update the emailed listings more frequently, and we usually hear that our customers get a better reception from our landlords. We're a smaller operation, because we are exclusively for UC, but many times that can work in one's favor. (642-3642 for students; 642-0706 for faculty/staff/visiting and post doc scholars.)

Students should contact the Community Living office at UC Berkeley for housing assistance. We are the University's rental listing service, and we have rental listings that landlords (and other students looking for housemates) have advertised with us because they are targeting students for their prospective tenants. We have an email service that's very reasonable compared with the local commercial rental listing services.

We can be reached either by email at the above address (homeinfo at uclink4.berkeley.edu) or by phone 510-642-3642. We make an effort to return all email messages or phone messages within 24 hours or by the next business day. We are located at 2405 Bowditch Street at the corner of Channing Way. Phone hours are M - F, 8 - 5, office hours are M - F, 10 - 4 and Saturdays through August 21, 10 - 2. www.housing.berkeley.edu/housing/community/

We also have a service for faculty, staff and visiting scholars.

We know it's exceptionally difficult to find housing during the summer, and those who need affordable housing and/or are having to house children are having a particularly rough time. We hope that students will seek to consult with one of the Community Living counselors for realistic advice and written materials on how to expedite a housing search.

Looking for Housing

Last updated: June 1999
From: Becky White Community Living Office


First, let me first paraphrase everything I'm saying with the observation that this is the worst summer for housing I have seen in 14 years working in Community Living here at UC. There are lots of market reasons for this, and I won't bore you with them, but they are real and they are affecting (negatively) the volume of rental housing to a significant degree. Additionally, July and August house-hunts have always been challenging simply due to the volume of University people returning to campus for the start of school. Expect a long and difficult search, and be pleased if you can land housing within a month.

There are some things one can do to expedite the process:

1) The suggestion of having a Tenant Resume is excellent. House-hunters are welcome to request a student Tenant Resume from Community Living, which can be readily adapted for non-students. I am not happy about the idea of putting one's picture on the Tenant Resume, since that could invite discrimination (age, race, whatever), but frankly--given the difficulty of the rental market--if you feel it would work in your favor, you should do it.

2) Plan to BE in Berkeley to conduct your housing search. Earlier in the summer, Community Living was suggesting that people as "near" as LA could get the listing updates during the week by email and make appointments to view places over the weekend. Now, however, there are so many people here now and actively looking that one must be here to compete. Almost every rental, even shared housing, receives 50 - 150 calls the first day it is advertised. It is important to jump on anything new.

3) Re-evaluate how much you can spend on rent. Everything has gone up by at least $200 - $400 in the past year. If a rental has artificially low rent due to rent control, a kind landlord, or whatever, expect it to be mobbed. A couple of weeks ago, we had a listing for a one bedroom apartment at Oxford and Hearst around $700 and over 400 people went to the open house. It is not unusual for a one bedroom to rent in the $950 - $1,100 range, so this was a true bargain and people knew it.

4) Get a letter of reference from your current landlord. Ask the landlord to mention that you have kept the place up nicely and always paid your rent on time. If possible, ask the landlord to mention that your child(ren) is/are quiet and well-behaved or your pet is quiet and always picked-up after.

5) When you go to look at places, try to make a little conversation with the owner or manager to help establish rapport. Admire some nice feature about the place, and indicate your willingness to keep up that feature if the place were offered to you.

6) Never come across as a fussy person. When looking at places, never make a disparaging remark about the paint job, the carpeting, the leaky faucet. You have NO power as a prospective tenant, and there are simply too many people looking for housing for the landlord to consider anyone he believes might be extra work for him later. Once you have a rental agreement, then you have the power of a business relationship to support your requests for repairs.

7) Consider as wide a commute range as you can tolerate. We get 3 and 4 bedroom houses listed under $1,500 in Pinole, Hercules and Vallejo that languish, whereas a 3 bedroom house in Berkeley can hardly be had for under $2,000. Get the local papers for these more far-away areas and examine the classifieds.

8) It is a STATE law, not a "funny" Berkeley law, that landlords may not deny you housing because you have kids. But, it's very hard to prove because at present most landlords have sufficient singles and adult couples who are wealthy enough to rent almost any kind of place and in most cases that's a legitimate reason to rent to someone else. If a landlord is actually stupid enough to tell you that you can't see a place because you have a child, report that person to Fair Housing: 1-800-884-1684. Also, know that the excuse that a place is "too small" is really not legitimate by Fair Housing standards. Guidelines state that a one bedroom place should, in most cases, be able to house a family of three, and a two bedroom place a family of five.

In addition to receiving listings from Community Living, students may find it wise to branch out and use one or more other housing resources. Such resources might include:

HomeFinders.  Telephone: 510-549-6450.  www.homefindersbulletin.com
Berkeley Connection.  Telephone: 510-845-7821.  www.berkeleyconnection.com
e-housing: Telephone: 510-549-2000.  www.ehousing.com
Rental Solutions: 510-649-3880.  www.rentalsolutions.com  (Not a listing
service.  For a fee, they may secure the housing for you.)
Smooth Transitions: 510-620-0887.  smooth.transitions at cwix.com  (Not a
listing service.  For a fee, they may secure the housing for you.)

Students who are interested in housing east of the Berkeley Hills in east Contra Costa County may be interested in the classified ads from the Contra Costa Times: www.hotcoco.com/classifieds/index.htm When searching for rental houses and apartments, try plugging in the names of the towns you are interested in, such as Walnut Creek, Lafayette, Concord, etc.

Best regards to all house-hunters this summer,

Feel free to call me about specifics--643-6544.

Becky White
Assistant Director
Faculty and Community Housing
510-643-6544


To the undergrad who islooking for housing. First, my sympathy. Apartment hunting for student-parents is very difficult--probably more than it should be.

Our family spent 18 months on the waiting list for family housing in the village. And it was only after we had lived there a couple of years that we learned that frequent inquiries about the "status" of one's name on the list served to make a difference in how quickly one moves up on the list. (We had just meekly waiting for our turn!) At least I know this policy was in effect at some point because a friend of ours was told thsi by the village office. So, my advice is to begin calling into the Village housing office on a weekly basis like clockwork. Be certain to let them know if you are willing to take a one-bedroom apt. until a two-bedroom one becomes available.

I also spent some time working for a graduate dean on campus. Often, she would receive pleas for help from grad students in your shoes who were desperate to find housing. Usually one call from her and the Village was able to accommodate the student. I think they may keep a few apartments on hand for just such emergencies. This was a graduate dean, and I am not sure if there is an undergraduate counterpart, but maybe the dean of your college could intervene for you. I'd start with a respectful phone call to the dean's secretary/assistant and then be prepared to follow up with a letter explaining your dilemma and the steps you have taken so far. If you feel you can't approach the dean, try the chairman of the department you will be entering.

This may not be the most useful advice for solving the immediate problem, but anything that gets you into the village faster will save you money in the long run and will be worth the effort. I only hope I have not passed on any heresay.

One last note--if you make it into the village but find you have a really crappy apartment--don't hesitate to put your name on a different, internal waiting list for a newer apartment. The rent will be higher, but the apartment will be a bit nicer. It just depends on what you need.

Good luck,
Rebecca


From: Becky White

Hello. I wanted to report back that I responded personally to the undergraduate student who was having trouble looking for a rental with her child. I also wanted to let UCB parents know that, if you are using Community Living to look for housing, I am always willing to see if we can strategize together on housing searches--there may be some extra thing that can be done to expedite the process. And yes, it is correct that it is illegal to deny someone housing because s/he has kids. Fair Housing may have a thing or two to say to that landlord!! It's a tough market out there and I am always willing to help.

Regards,
Becky White
Manager
Faculty & Community Housing
Housing & Dining Services


From: Kris (8/98)

Unfortunately, finding housing in this area can be very trying. I suggest you sign up for Homefinders or another service which posts new listings every day - you can then immediately call/check it out. Sometimes, by the time a newspaper ad is printed the apartment could be rented or the landlord is so swarmed that he/she doesn't return calls. As you might have observed by now, some people go to open houses with special resumes. (I know this sounds crazy, but it works!) The resumes could outline who you are, your occupation, rental history, references, and personal interests! Some people include a xerox of a photo at the top. I created a resume quickly when I saw that my husband and I weren't even in the running without it. We also did anything we could to create a personal tie with the landlord. On landlord message machines, I always left desirable info about myself - professional couple, etc. At the end of it all, we found a place after a week of full-time searching (8 hrs/day). Good luck!


August 1998

I am trying to find a place to rent for a visiting scholar, but so far I did not have any luck. The problem is that he has two children. I've been using UC Housing Office rental listings, and found a few suitable apartments. However as soon as a landlord or a manager finds out that the potential tenant has a family, the deal is off. I know that it is illegal to discriminate against tenants with children, but I don't know where to find more information on specific laws, etc. I called Housing Office, they provided me with some telephone numbers (Berkeley Community Law Center, Rent Board, etc.), but neither place had ANY needed information. Is there anything I can do? The scholar can not buy a house for his 6 month stay in Berkeley. Any information will be appreciated. Tatiana


I am going through the same right now. I am looking for a place to live with my 2 year old son and it is extremely difficult. I have visited place after place but no one wants children. I have actually had landlords telling me that children are an "extra wear and tear" on the house. I called the housing office with the specifics, and they told me they would call the landlords and tell them what they were doing is against the law. Other than that, they told me that if I really wanted to stop them, I should sue. Well, I, and numerous others I am sure, do not want to go to that extreme, so landlords get away with it. I also called a number I got of the Home Finders website (homefindersbulletin.com) which, I believe, was called Housing Rights. I talked to a very nice lady called Eloiza, who said that if I would fax over the names and phone numbers of those landlords who discriminated against my son, they would investigate the charges, anonymously. I can't remember Housing Right's phone number, try the Home Finders website, but their fax number is 548-5805. I hope you have better luck than I. Jannette
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