Pitt’s Guide to Finding Off-Campus Housing

While dorm life in college is an experience none of us will ever forget, for many of us there comes a time when we would like to escape the insanity of residence halls and move off-campus. Then there are those of us who were cursed with a horrible lottery number in the 10,000’s and have virtually no chance of getting any decent on-campus housing options. Whatever your reason, moving off-campus can seem like a daunting task and many students really have no idea where to start this process. Using many of my own experiences and the experiences of my friends, I have compiled a comprehensive guide to finding off-campus housing at Pitt. 

How many in your party?

Before you even start looking for off-campus housing, there are some important things you need to figure out. The first is how many people you want to live with. This is something you want to figure out as soon as possible because the number of people you want to live with will dictate where you end up living. While apartment and house sizes may vary, I would say the maximum number for an apartment would be no more than four people total. Two and three bedroom apartments are pretty easy to come by. If you’re looking to have a group of five people or more, you may want to consider living in a house, since they are larger than an apartment and tend to have more rooms. Of course, the numbers can vary a bit if people are willing to share a room.

Roomies

Just like living in the dorms, it is just as important to pick the right people to live with as it is to pick the right place to live. Depending on your dorm experience, there may be some extra things to consider. For instance, if you’ve spent your dorm life living with only one other person, and now you’re thinking of having a group of four or five, you are going to want to make sure that all of these people will get along. Everyone has their own unique personality and you learn a lot more about a person once you start living with him or her. So it’s in your best interest to put people together who already get along well. It’s not a good idea to try to put two of your friends together who really wouldn’t get along. As much as you may love them both, they simply aren’t going to work out their differences.

Another thing that complicates matters is money. Pick roomies who are responsible with money. Everyone is going to have to pay his or her share of rent, and landlords expect the rent on time. Also, people who tend to mooch food are also not the best roommate material. Choose roomies who are willing to split the cost of food or will only eat the food they buy. Now you may have to play matchmaker during this process to find the best people, but it will make off-campus life much more fun. 

Location. Location. Location.

Whether you’re living in North Oakland or South Oakland, you’re going to have to contend with the fact that you’re living farther away from campus. From what I’ve gathered about North Oakland, many of the properties are pretty far away from campus and up the hill. If you choose to live there, you might end up having to rely on the Pitt Shuttles. Usually shuttles to upper campus or North Oakland come around fairly regularly; but we all know how unreliable the shuttles can be at times. So that will play a factor in your decision making. For the most part, properties in South Oakland are only about a 15 minute walk from campus, depending on how fast you walk. There are also Pitt Shuttles that go through South Oakland, but they aren’t as frequent as the ones that go through North Oakland. If you decide to look for housing across the Boulevard of the Allies, realize that this will probably increase your walk by at least five minutes. Though if distance from campus really isn’t a huge factor for you, it is pretty good exercise walking to and from campus. Also, I have been told that places across “the boulevard” can be nicer than places in South Oakland and/or less expensive. So it’s worth checking out if you’re willing to live a bit farther away from campus. 

Finding a place

There are two ways you can start the apartment hunt. The first one is to ask your friends who live off-campus for advice on which landlord or company they are working with. Obviously your friends will be able to show you their apartment and give you a general idea of whether or not they have a good landlord. If you like what you see, they can give you the number for the landlord and you can move on to the next step. If you don’t know anyone who lives off-campus, you can still do what I did: look in the student newspaper. The Pitt News classified section has ads every day for apartments and houses of virtually every size you can imagine. With one newspaper, I was able to get the numbers for four different landlords and property companies. Now the ad won’t tell you which landlord or property company is taking out the ad, but fear not! I have come up with a list of good landlords and ones you should avoid with the help of a few of my friends and the members of Her Campus Pitt. Of course, not all landlords that operate in the Oakland area are on this list, so don’t limit yourself to just what I have below. Call a bunch of different landlords and companies. The more you call, the better chance you will have to find a good place.

Decent Landlords:

Herbert Halsband Properties (412)-661-6622

John C.R Kelly (412) 683-7300

Bates Hill (412) 361-4643

 

Landlords to avoid:

Lobos Management (412) 441-1400

Checking out the crib

When you call the potential landlord, you will make an appointment to visit a property that meets your room specifications. If possible, try to schedule all of your visits for the same week. This will make it easier for you to remember each place. Also, try to get everyone in the group to go on the visit. It’s important that everyone likes the place you ultimately end up choosing. While visiting, take lots of pictures of the apartment/house itself as well as the surrounding area. This will help when you compare each place later on. Finally, make sure at least one person brings a checkbook and has enough money to put down a deposit. Often times, you won’t be the only the only one looking at a particular property and the best places go fast. If you find a place you really love, put a deposit down on it! If you don’t, someone else will and you may have to settle for something you don’t like as much.

Overall, my biggest recommendation is to keep an open mind. No, your college apartment won’t be as nice as your parents’ house, but there are some pretty nice places off-campus. Even if the current tenants live in a pig sty, the apartment or house may still have a lot of potential. In most apartments or houses, you have to purchase your own furniture. That gives you a lot of control over how your place will look. With a little imagination and some halfway decent furniture, you can make your house/apartment look really nice. Below are some pictures of my own apartment in South Oakland to show you what your future off-campus dwelling could look like.  

After you’ve found a place you like and you’ve put down a deposit, you’re pretty much done. From here, your landlord will walk you through the lease. Congratulations! You’re now on your way to a new level of independence by living off-campus!

 

 

Photo Sources: The Author, Claire Deahl, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5