Back to the Bay: Advice for First-Time Renters

Sarah Rodriquez

As a college student and first-time renter, the process of apartment searching is equally intimidating, exciting, and at times straight-up chaotic. Here are a few tips that could help.
By Sarah Rodriquez, COPY EDITOR

With the fall 2021 semester just two months away, students from around the country and the San Francisco Bay Area are migrating back to their universities as in-person classes slowly resume.
Whether you’ve scoured or you know the ins and outs of, the process of renting can be daunting. If you’ve decided to leave your dorm days behind, here are a few tips to ease into the process as a first-time renter.
Here’s what to expect in this read:

The basics:

  • Location
  • Touring
  • Rent

Factors to consider:

  • Cost to furnish
  • Parking
  • Price of utilities
  • Credit?
  • Washer/Dryer situation

First things first, the apartment search. Nowadays with sites like and, searching for a reasonable apartment is a bit easier. ApartmentGuide, a site dedicated to all things renting-related, says “Where you live matters almost as much as the layout of your apartment.”


The apartment’s location essentially determines the length of your commute to school, work, and all the stores or shops you frequently visit. The location also includes the apartment’s surroundings and neighborhood. In the Bay Area, depending on the neighborhood, it’s not uncommon to experience car break-ins or in some cases, car theft.
Last year, for the state of California, the highest rate of property crime occurred in the San Francisco Bay Area, with over 3,045 property incidents per 100,000 residents. It’s important to check neighborhood reviews and crime rates in the area before locking yourself into a lease. said, “A good old-fashioned walking tour of the apartment can help you experience the neighborhood first-hand.” As the next and possibly one of the most exciting steps, touring the apartment is crucial to get a sense of the layout, amenities, and overall upkeep of the complex.
Touring can be a make-or-break moment so make sure to ask all the important and uncomfortable questions you may have: Are utilities included? If I break something, is there maintenance on-site? What’s the weight restriction for a chubby cat? (all legitimate questions). It also helps to physically see the apartment’s space and determine whether furniture like beds, desks, TVs, and dining tables will all fit comfortably.
Once you’ve found “the one,” the next question is affordability. Make sure rent is within budget and reasonable enough that you can still afford to eat throughout the month. California State University, East Bay offers CalFresh, a nutrition program that if eligible, offers students a monthly allowance for groceries.
In the case that rent isn’t affordable, consider splitting the cost by rooming with friends or fellow peers. Choose wisely, ensure that each tenant is not only financially responsible but also relatively clean in terms of their living environment.
If you’re currently on the market, CSUEB’s Off-Campus Housing Marketplace allows students access to local apartment listings, rooms for rent, and even potential roommates, all on one site.
Lastly, brace yourself for the move-in expenses. Expect additional up-front costs such as application fees, security deposits (usually first and last month’s rent), rental insurance, and any other expenses required to furnish the empty apartment.
A few more factors to take into consideration:
As a college student and first-time renter myself, there are small but crucial factors that can easily slip one’s mind. Factors such as quiet hours, no parking, and bad cell phone service, might not be a priority when touring the apartment but could hinder your living situation later on.
Looking for an apartment should be exciting, but it’s easy to get caught up in the aesthetics of the place so keep these in mind:

Cost to furnish: Calculate what essential items you may need such as a smaller bed if you are sharing rooms, dresser, desk, kitchen appliances, and utensils, couch, TV/TV stand, dining table, and chairs, etc.

Understand the parking situation: An apartment complex usually offers 1-2 assigned parking spaces for tenants, so if you have more than one roommate you may need to work out a parking schedule.

Price of Utilities: If utilities aren’t included in rent, it’s important to factor them into the cost of rent. A good rule of thumb is- the more roommates there are, the higher the cost of utilities since the cost is based on your apartment’s usage.

Credit is key: Having good credit can give you that extra edge when filling out applications. Credit isn’t your thing? No problem, renter sites recommend that new renters with no credit have a guarantor there with them. “This person will undergo a credit check since they’re the ones guaranteeing that rent will be paid on time,” says

Washer and dryer: At some point, you’ll have to do laundry. It’s easy to forget this when touring but consider the apartment’s laundry room if there aren’t in-unit washers and dryers. Check to see whether or not you have to pay for each laundry load and look out for excessive “out of order” signs, both can become a long-term problem.