Basic Info

This is a guide for finding housing in the Berkeley area. In addition to reading this guide, talk to your fellow graduate students! They are your best source of up to date housing info.

There are University-wide housing resources at your disposal, mostly through the Cal Housing website. For instance, they have information on housing for students with families.


Typical rents paid by grad students in our department are in the range 1000-1500 dollars/month/person. A survey in 2019 of the grad students in the department showed the median rent + utility cost is $1,265 / month.


The best place for apartment listings is craigslist. You can use this to find apartments and potential roommates. Apartments are generally listed as available immediately, or on the 1st of the next month. So, if you're looking for an August 1st move in, the best time to look is the last two weeks of July.

The university also runs the Cal Rentals office, which will let you access its listings for free (it costs money to post, but you can look for free). There is also the more full-service (and more expensive) Bay Area Rentals. Most students opt to work entirely via Craigslist, though.

There are also various Facebook groups in which people advertise housing for students (e.g., “UC Berkeley Off-Campus Housing”).

There is often significant cross-posting between the Cal Rentals and Craigslist pages. However, sometimes landlords (usually those renting out a single room in their house, or a in-law studio) are specifically looking for Cal students or affiliates– those are often posted only on Cal Rentals. This is nice because that cuts out some competition and you're the demographic the landlord is seeking.


Most landlords will ask you to sign a 1 yr lease when you move in. There will be a security deposit, typically something like 1-2 months rent. If you live within the Berkeley city limits, the landlord is required to send you a check for the interest on the deposit each year. Most people do get their security deposits back; if you are worried about not getting your deposit back, it is your right to request an inspection before you move out. The landlord will then point out any areas where they see damage, and you will have a chance to repair them.

After your first year is up, if your landlord does not ask you to renew your lease it defaults to a month-to-month lease. Before the year is up, they can ask you to sign another year long lease.


Look at lots of apartments. Even if you know you won't be living in an apartment, it helps to get a sense of what the market is like. This helps you figure out if you are getting a good deal at the places you will submit an application.

If you think that you might want to sign on a place at the viewing, it's useful to have your bank account info and such around, but pretty much everyone will want you to fill out an application of their design which asks for all the information that would go into such a resume.

You will also want to run a credit report on yourself. If you leave it for the landlord to do, they will usually charge you $30, but if you do it yourself, it's free. CreditKarma provides free credit reports.

My strategy is, if you are remotely interested in an apartment, give the landlord your resume and credit report the first time you see the place. This is helpful in showing the landlord that you are organized. While the landlord checks your references, use that time to look at other apartments and decide whether you are still interested. When the landlord calls you to offer you the place, you can still say no.

Keep in mind that, as a graduate student, you are an excellent tenant. You have a very stable income, and you aren't going to throw parties that destroy the building. Convince the landlord that they want you.

Incoming Student Strategy

If you're an incoming student, finding housing is even more of a hassle than usual. But it's possible! The most important thing to know is that you must plan ahead. If you show up in mid-August without a lease, you'll get stuck in something expensive and unpleasant. Unfortunately, if you're diving into the market by yourself, you probably can't plan ahead too far in advance: the Berkeley housing market has extremely fast turnover. As mentioned above, most listings are available immediately or at the start of the next month, and desirable apartments are usually gone within a few days. The flip-side of this is that new apartments are continually coming on to the market, so you shouldn't get discouraged if you miss out on a promising-looking place; another one will pop up soon enough.

One highly-recommended strategy is to visit Berkeley for a week around the beginning of July with the express purpose of obtaining a lease for August. You should prepare by skimming Craigslist postings before you head out to get a sense of what's available and what prices are like.

You should certainly talk to your mentor, other members of your incoming class, and other grad students if you have any questions. You might even be able to talk a current grad into checking a place out for you or letting you sleep on their couch while you visit. Feel free to also email current grads to see if anyone is giving up a lease you might be interested in, looking for new housemates, etc.

If you are unable to visit in person, you can definitely still find decent housing remotely. Especially since COVID, virtual tours are more common, or can be requested. In addition, if you have several housing choices you've seen on Craigslist/Cal Rentals that you are seriously considering, ask a BADgrad in town to help check it out for you in person.

Lastly, beware of scams– they exist! If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Don't put any deposit money on a place you've not seen in person or had someone else check out for you!


Here follows an incomplete list of Berkeley neighborhoods and some highly subjective/judgmental impressions of them.

  • North Berkeley - This is a nice place to live on the north side of campus. Close to Campbell and the rest of campus. Rents are very expensive. Quieter, more residential.
  • Berkeley Hills - Residential area on the northside of campus. Rents are a tiny bit cheaper than North Berkeley, but walking home could be a workout… Weirdly, many car break-ins and thefts occur here.
  • South Berkeley - Close to campus, so many students live here (especially undergrads). Rents are reasonably cheap, but it can be noisy due to parties and the like. Safety can be an issue. Very cheap rooms in this area are probably in crappy boarding houses.
  • West Berkeley - Biking to campus works well from here, since it's a reasonably flat trip. Rents are relatively cheap. Between Milvia and Sacramento is a fine neighborhood, Sacramento to San Pablo is an alright neighborhood, and west of San Pablo varies greatly.
  • Rockridge - Northwest Oakland, bordering Berkeley to the south along College Avenue. Nice looking commercial area nearby. Some real nice houses too, but getting expensive. Rent is much cheaper in the Piedmont Ave neighborhood than Rockridge (and much of Berkeley)– and easy to commute from (51A runs every 10-20 min, and connects you to the 51B to get to campus). 851 overnight bus runs directly from Berkeley hourly, so no worries about getting home while intoxicated. Lots of nice restaurants/shops nearby here too!
  • Albany / El Cerrito / Kensington - Neighboring suburban cities to the north. Quiet, and less expensive than North Berkeley. Commute can be significant, but if you're planning to bus or bike anyway the difference is only a few minutes each way.

University Housing

There are two University houses for graduate students, Jackson House and Manville Aparments. These are very close to campus and are an excellent option for incoming first-year students who do not have time to visit the area and actually look for places before moving in. The downside is extremely expensive rent and a location next to fraternities and College Avenue. Both of these locations also fill up quickly and may have long waiting lists to get in.

University Village is another popular option. Although probably most commonly advertised as for people with families, you don't need to have kids (nor even be married) to live there. (Eligibility is outlined here.) It is in Albany (3 miles away), but has a direct bus line (the 52) to UC Berkeley that has a stop right by Campbell Hall, so it is relatively convenient. Several grads pre-2020 lived here and seemed to generally like it. Also as of pre-2020, the rent for a 1- or 2- bedroom apartment is much lower than in Berkeley in general.

Types of housing available

The housing situations of grad students varies widely in the department, depending on personal preferences. Here are the most typical.

  • Sharing a big house with 5+ housemates. (Good option for people who like socializing. It is not necessarily cheaper than sharing a smaller house or apartment with fewer people though.)
  • Sharing a 2-3 bedroom apartment or house with housemates. (Probably the most common.)
  • Having their own 1 bedroom apartment with a partner/significant other. (Also common. University Village is also an option, see above.)
  • Having their own in-law studio. (Never heard of them before coming to Berkeley, but they are quite common in the area. They are mini-studios, generally ranging from 100 - 300 sq ft, separate or attached to a main house, presumably where you banish your in-laws to when they visit. They are a good option for people who want to live alone but don't want to pay the $1800+ for a real studio or $2000+ for a 1-bedroom apartment.)