Career professionals in well-paying industries are still making their rent in Berkeley okay, but for students it’s a whole other ballgame, with rent often costing twice what you’d pay in the most expensive cities in Europe. Apartments are both expensive and hard to come by.
The best place to look is online, as ever. It’s a very tech-savvy area, and most rooms will be advertised online using Craigslist, Housing Anywhere and a hundred other accommodation services. If you’re going out for exchange or a short-term internship, the best option might be to find a single room in an apartment that’s already being rented by other students.
The Housing Anywhere Berkeley search will give you results for private rooms (and occasionally whole apartments) all over town. Be warned though, the cost of living in Berkeley is very high, and renting is a brutal example of that.
Cost aside, you need to act quickly to guarantee an apartment. Especially in August/September time, floods of students will be moving to Berkeley and apartments will disappear in a flash.
There’s no way to guarantee affordable Berkeley apartments which will be empty to coincide with your flights. However, the way to maximize your chances is to start looking earlier than everyone else. Anywhere from 1-3 months in advance could stand you in good stead. If you find a reputable company advertising a decent flat for a good price, you’ll want to snap it up, but be careful.
Scammers are rife in the area, taking advantage of students who are desperate to secure a Berkeley apartment before school starts. Never send payment unless you have both:
Seen the apartment (even a Skype tour can be sufficient).
Signed a legally-binding contract through an official agency.
If you manage to find a place in advance of landing that you actually like, it will make experience abroad all the more rewarding!
The good news for students is that there are opportunities open to you that aren’t available to working citizens. As a student at University of California Berkeley, there are housing options both on-campus and off-campus which may suit you. However, while these may offer a level of convenience, they are still not cheap - check out the rates and see if you’d rather go down this route.
In addition, we run a Facebook group which is dedicated to helping students find rooms and apartments in Berkeley and the Bay Area. If you’re interested in finding off-campus accommodation, check out the Housing Anywhere Berkeley Facebook group and see if any of its 20,000 members can help you out!
There aren’t cheap rooms in Berkeley, so that Google search isn’t likely to turn up much. University accommodation is probably the cheapest option, but a triple room on campus can still cost as much as $14k for the year. That’s around €12,000. Depending on the size and location, off-campus rents can be as low as €700 (for a shared room) or €1500+ for a private room in a shared apartment.