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Moving to Berkeley, Cali --oh god where do we live?

LilnoobsLilnoobs Alpha Queue Registered User regular
edited August 2016 in Help / Advice Forum
Hey all, my wife and I are moving to Berkeley, California in little less than a month and could use some advice.

My wife already has a job at UC Berkeley, so we're looking for places off the BART, as close as we can to Berkeley. Unfortunately, rent costs an arm and a leg and we only have a leg to give, so we're trying to top out at $1600 / month. We've looked at some places via padmapper and Craig's List, but the other problem is that we currently live in Europe.

My wife is going ahead of me to Berkeley at the end of August, and can stay with a friend for a week. During that time, she's going to be looking at some places we found or that she finds while there. Of course, a week is quite a short time to get something to rent, so we may be forced to use some AirBnB for a bit. Thankfully (or not), I'll be staying with family in Chicago until I'm batsignaled to come over and bring all the luggage and settle in. So while she's trying to find a place during the time she's with a friend, I'll be scouring the 'net for places for her to look at and such.

Basically, we could use some direction in how or where to go about finding a place. We're fine with subletting or sharing houses because we think this is gong to be a 1 to 2 year thing, anyway. We really, really, really want to avoid getting a car. We don't mind living as far as San Franscisco as long as we are close to the public transit.

I would appreciate any advice you could give us! Cheers.


edit: Oh, also, we are currently checking Craig's List and Padmapper for available options. We thought about the UC family housing option, but since we're married and have no children, we're last on the priority list.

Lilnoobs on

Posts

  • Santa ClaustrophobiaSanta Claustrophobia Ho Ho Ho Disconnecting from Xbox LIVERegistered User regular
    Well, I didn't do a lot of apartment searching when I was there, but I was paying $1000 for a two bedroom in Walnut Creek which was, more-or-less, off the yellow line. I wouldn't necessarily recommend living in the valley past the mountains that separate the East Bay with the valley because of the '+10' rule. (Basically, whatever the temperature in San Francisco, add ten [Fahrenheit] on the East Bay side, and then another ten in the valley. It can get uncomfortably hot there during summers without air conditioning.)

    Unfortunately, lots of places along the north part of the orange line will be pretty expensive and places south of, say, the 580 can be kind of far from anywhere good. And anywhere along the BART lines in The City is probably going to be outside of your price range. Good news is MUNI is pretty decent to get to a station, bad news is it could involve several transfers depending on how much you want to save on rent.

    Most local bus services will have lines that run right to (or nearby) a station on either side of the bay, so perhaps that might extend your range a little. And I believe most non-Market Street stations include bike lockers if that's a thing, though I never really looked into it besides noticing them.

    And just to give you an idea of how long a trip on BART might take, go to the BART website and pick various start and end points. From Walnut Creek to Embarcadaro takes about thirty minutes (and the TransBay can be extremely loud and annoying on the ears with the change in air pressure [but the good news there is the entire tunnel section takes 'only' five minutes...]). And, sadly, BART is not cheap.

    There are plenty of other current and former Bay Area people who could probably give more specific info about other areas. It's a nice place, though. I miss it.

  • schussschuss Registered User regular
    1600 a month will be tough. Stay away from south Berkeley, there's a lot of crime. You'll likely have to move up the BART line a bit. I'd have her ping all the Berkeley staff to see if there's any options there, as well as look herself, as no one will even return your calls in the bay area, everything is done via in-person applications.

    firewaterwordInquisitor77dispatch.oLilnoobsHahnsoo1Skeith
  • dispatch.odispatch.o Registered User regular
    Berkeley is pretty cool. I lived all over the bay and ended out moving away because even my 1 bedroom out in Concord was close to 1600 after all the fees apartment complexes sneak on. So any managed community type places (Archstone, Riverstone, etc) are out. You'll have to get lucky on a Craigslist advertisement.

    Avoid Richmond almost entirely. Oakland won't be affordable unless you live somewhere you probably shouldn't, not that it's all rough or bad but you need to live there a little to know where the spots to avoid are. Unfortunately apartments built near a BART stop know they're worth a fortune so that's what they will charge. You may have to check out a location with an easy cycle/drive to a BART station. If you move in land beyond the Caldecott Tunnel you will be paying hundreds of dollars a month to PG&E in the summer.

    My commute was to drive to the Concord BART and ride it in to MacArthur BART where my employer ran a shuttle every 20 minutes. You could easily do the same commute more or less and probably get discounted tickets through the school.

    If I were to move to the area and I saw a place listed at below 1600 I'd immediately think it was a scam or in a really bad neighborhood.

    schussInquisitor77firewaterwordSkeith
  • schussschuss Registered User regular
    Took a quick look at PadMapper - best option if you want to get out and do things would probably be to target Adams Point or South Lake Merritt in Oakland. Both are decent places to live with good access to things and not that much crime. A bit further from BART stations, but pretty safe walks (just be careful very late at night). Don't go too far from Lake Merritt on the South side though, at least IMO.

  • Inquisitor77Inquisitor77 2 x Penny Arcade Fight Club Champion A fixed point in space and timeRegistered User regular
    Be prepared for sticker shock. That's probably the first thing I would say. Whatever expectations you have for what things would normally cost - double it. That's how much things cost around here.

    Also, San Francisco is likely the most expensive option, so I doubt you'll find anything there. Studios go for $2k right now (if not more). Basically, the farther you go from SF, the cheaper stuff generally tends to be (with some random pockets of affluence).

    You mentioned Padmapper, and that's probably your best tool in terms of finding places within your price range. The only way you're really going to know how a neighborhood looks is to visit it. I've lived in Oakland for years and things are changing so quickly I honestly have no idea what would be a good place to live - places that used to be "bad" have rapidly gentrified.

    If you are serious about subletting or sharing a place, then you will have a lot more options, especially if you keep your belongings to a minimum (i.e., whatever will fit in a single room). It's pretty normal nowadays for people to split the rent in a house, for example, even full-fledged "working professionals".

    Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.
    dispatch.o
  • LilnoobsLilnoobs Alpha Queue Registered User regular
    Some good stuff. Thanks!

    Some other points about our move:
    We are completely okay with biking, we currently live in Holland.
    The $1600 was just the rent price, not including utilities/fees.
    We've already resigned ourselves to a studio or studio-sized room. We've done it before and we think we can handle another year like that.

    Why avoid Richmond?
    The Concord/Walnut Creek area seems much more affordable and reasonable, but it seems she's dead-set against an hour+ commute to work everyday. I don't blame her.

  • Hahnsoo1Hahnsoo1 Make Ready. We Hunt.Registered User regular
    edited August 2016
    Unfortunately, right now is one of the worst times to find a place to live near campus, because all of the students are returning. The best time is around May/June because many students graduate or leave during that time. In general, the further you are away from San Francisco and Silicon Valley, the cheaper the rent will be.

    I recently moved from Berkeley to another place in Berkeley. I'm subletting a place for 1500 in a nice cat-friendly house. I feel fortunate that I fell into that situation, because I spent a long time looking for a new place to live that I could afford. Like you, I used Padmapper and Craigslist, and Padmapper was the one that eventually led me to my current living situation.

    There are SO many scams out there, sadly. If the person says they live in another area, but own the house in this area, alarm bells should go off... that's a huge red flag. Insist on seeing the place in person under supervision of the landlord/lady. If the place LOOKS sketchy, it probably is sketchy, so trust your instincts. I know that desperation sometimes can set in when you are house hunting, especially when you have a deadline, but don't let that skew you toward settling on a place that looks unsafe.

    I don't know... I feel like I can't really give good advice on house hunting in the Bay Area. I just want to wish you well and hope you find a good place.

    Hahnsoo1 on
    Di87pOF.jpg
    PSN: Hahnsoo | MHGU: Hahnsoo, Switch FC: SW-0085-2679-5212
  • witch_iewitch_ie Registered User regular
    We rented in the Bay Area recently. Two years ago, we had to find a new place to live as our land lady decided to sell her house. Here are a few tips on securing a good value place:
    • Get your application materials ready now. Print out your credit reports, have your employment and salary information ready to go. Good places go fast, so you need to come prepared and be ready to pay any application fees on the spot.
    • Check craigslist and similar listings twice a day when you are ready to move on a place. We found both of our awesome rentals and pursued them immediately. You want to be the first applicant.
    • If a listing looks good, but doesn't have pictures, check out street view and use Zillow to see the interior of similar places in the area. You may have to make a decision with limited information. Our last rental was amazing, but they never posted pictures even though their ad said they were going to later in the week.
    • Don't wait for open houses. They will be gone by the time you get there. Once you find a probable property, contact them immediately. E-mail has yielded us the best results. Don't ask a lot of questions, just indicate you are very interested and see about setting up a time to see the place. Once you get your foot in the door, then you can ask questions if need be.
    • Try to find places that are being rented by a single owner and not run by a professional management company. Those will be on the lower end of the price spectrum. In some cases, this may mean less support on maintenance items (although we've had management companies that have been terrible too).

    schussInquisitor77Feral
  • schussschuss Registered User regular
    witch_ie wrote: »
    We rented in the Bay Area recently. Two years ago, we had to find a new place to live as our land lady decided to sell her house. Here are a few tips on securing a good value place:
    • Get your application materials ready now. Print out your credit reports, have your employment and salary information ready to go. Good places go fast, so you need to come prepared and be ready to pay any application fees on the spot.
    • Check craigslist and similar listings twice a day when you are ready to move on a place. We found both of our awesome rentals and pursued them immediately. You want to be the first applicant.
    • If a listing looks good, but doesn't have pictures, check out street view and use Zillow to see the interior of similar places in the area. You may have to make a decision with limited information. Our last rental was amazing, but they never posted pictures even though their ad said they were going to later in the week.
    • Don't wait for open houses. They will be gone by the time you get there. Once you find a probable property, contact them immediately. E-mail has yielded us the best results. Don't ask a lot of questions, just indicate you are very interested and see about setting up a time to see the place. Once you get your foot in the door, then you can ask questions if need be.
    • Try to find places that are being rented by a single owner and not run by a professional management company. Those will be on the lower end of the price spectrum. In some cases, this may mean less support on maintenance items (although we've had management companies that have been terrible too).

    Oh yeah. Getting housing in the bay area was harder than getting a job or any of my promotions. Got really nice places both times, but lots of harrowing times on both.
    Also - make sure you have first+last+another months rent available for immediate payment via cashiers check or (at worst) cash for money orders. Many landlords will approve you and expect you to deposit within 48 hours or you lose it. As this will likely be near $5k for you, it may require some prep to make sure it doesn't cause any bank flags that prevent you from getting the money.

    Inquisitor77Feral
  • Inquisitor77Inquisitor77 2 x Penny Arcade Fight Club Champion A fixed point in space and timeRegistered User regular
    Lilnoobs wrote: »
    Some good stuff. Thanks!

    Some other points about our move:
    We are completely okay with biking, we currently live in Holland.
    The $1600 was just the rent price, not including utilities/fees.
    We've already resigned ourselves to a studio or studio-sized room. We've done it before and we think we can handle another year like that.

    Why avoid Richmond?
    The Concord/Walnut Creek area seems much more affordable and reasonable, but it seems she's dead-set against an hour+ commute to work everyday. I don't blame her.

    Richmond is a poor area with a very high rate of crime. It's unfortunate because there are parts of it which are nice and getting better, but in general if you do live there you will feel "stuck" at home and will tend to drive outside of Richmond to do much of anything (I know this because I have a friend who owns an apartment there that she ended up renting out after trying to live there for a year). But again, things are changing very quickly, so YMMV. There's no replacement for actually seeing a place and its neighborhood firsthand.

    If you have found a place you really like and, per the above advice, move quickly in terms of applications and the like, I would strongly recommend visiting that location at night. I know people who have moved in from out of town and see a place that seems to be exactly what they want during the day, but then at night it seems to change tenor completely, whether that is because there is more nightlife than they want to deal with or worse.

    Also, if you are serious about not having a car, you very much need to research how you will get around without one. The Bay Area basically expects that you will have a car to get around. Good public transit options are rare outside of people who commute daily into San Francisco. Since you aren't one of those people, you will likely find very limited options with very limited hours. Do not expect that you will be able to get around with a bike "just because". You may find that it is too difficult or unsafe to do so.

    Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.
    dispatch.o
  • dispatch.odispatch.o Registered User regular
    edited August 2016
    It will be impossible to get a bike on a BART train during rush hour. They're allowed but not when trains are packed.

    Guy I worked with got robbed at gunpoint twice in a year walking to the hospital we worked at in Oakland around 5am. Really need to know the areas well enough to determine if you're ok with them.

    Best bet IMHO is to get a place in Pleasant Hill near the BART and live there for a year, suffer the commute and be able to look around and get to know the areas.

    Edit: I lived on Cherry Lane in Walnut Creek for a while. It's walking distance to Pleasant Hill BART and wasn't too bad on price. There were other apartments down that street too and a short walk away was a shopping center for groceries.
    Orogogus wrote: »
    dispatch.o wrote: »
    Guy I worked with got armed at gunpoint

    The Second Amendment crowd is out of control.

    Was going to say victim of armed robbery, got distracted. You win.

    dispatch.o on
  • OrogogusOrogogus San DiegoRegistered User regular
    dispatch.o wrote: »
    Guy I worked with got armed at gunpoint

    The Second Amendment crowd is out of control.

    dispatch.oElvenshae
  • LilnoobsLilnoobs Alpha Queue Registered User regular
    Thanks for the help. Bookmarking this page for reference later, and I'll update how it goes!

  • mtsmts Registered User regular
    Yea you might need to look further inland like Emeryville or maybe towards Vacaville. Deal with it for a year then look again in may

    camo_sig.png
  • SkeithSkeith Registered User regular
    Emeryville is right across the bay from SF and right next to I80, so it's going to be pricey.

    mts wrote: »
    heres how i see it being a total win situation for you
    1. stay with your wife while she dog sits. this wins husband points since she knows its out of your comfort zone
    2. have sex all over her friends house so that the next time you see her friend look at you condescendingly, you can wink back knowing you did the freaky deaky where she eats her cheerios.
    dispatch.o
  • schussschuss Registered User regular
    Skeith wrote: »
    Emeryville is right across the bay from SF and right next to I80, so it's going to be pricey.

    It's half-full of crime, so not terribly. It's mostly industrial and big box stores though.

  • mtsmts Registered User regular
    the point being a commute in is going to likely be required for the first year

    camo_sig.png
    dispatch.o
  • LilnoobsLilnoobs Alpha Queue Registered User regular
    Thanks for the help everyone! We ended up with a 1 bedroom for $1700 half mile from Ashby Bart station. Kicker was we even decided to bring my wife's cat along and the place allowed that as well.

    chromdomFeralkaliyama
  • dispatch.odispatch.o Registered User regular
    Lilnoobs wrote: »
    Thanks for the help everyone! We ended up with a 1 bedroom for $1700 half mile from Ashby Bart station. Kicker was we even decided to bring my wife's cat along and the place allowed that as well.

    Pretty cool area. I used to work at the hospital a couple blocks away. Just be pretty cautious in the night/early morning walking around. Otherwise there's plenty of foot traffic and it's busy enough that it's pretty safe. Go check out the horse track on a Sunday. Used to be dollar dogs and beers. It's worth it for the view into the waterway alone. (Golden Gate Fields)

    Betting a few bucks on a horse or something isn't necessary, but as long as you don't have a gambling problem it can be fun to waste 10$ over a couple hours in the afternoon this time of year and watch some awesome horses.

    schuss
  • Hahnsoo1Hahnsoo1 Make Ready. We Hunt.Registered User regular
    Lilnoobs wrote: »
    Thanks for the help everyone! We ended up with a 1 bedroom for $1700 half mile from Ashby Bart station. Kicker was we even decided to bring my wife's cat along and the place allowed that as well.
    Sweet. You're probably within walking distance of Berkeley Bowl, a great local supermarket that is in a building that used to be a bowling alley (thus the name). You should check it out when you get here. I'm glad that you found a place. Hopefully it's a legit place and not a scam... erm...

    Di87pOF.jpg
    PSN: Hahnsoo | MHGU: Hahnsoo, Switch FC: SW-0085-2679-5212
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