How to find an affordable rental in a safe neighborhood?

We are looking for an affordable (~$2,000/month) 2 bedroom apartment (pet friendly for medium dog) to rent in a safe neighborhood ... a place that has good insulation and if possible heating and air conditioning. Our current place is freezing and super hot in the summer and we are paying upwards of $300/month on PG&E for heating because it has horrible insulation and we are relying on an old gas furnace and electric heaters. We work in south berkeley and downtown oakland but would be open to a reasonable commute to find proper housing... and on the same topic would need to find a good daycare or preschool in the area for our 2 yr old.

Also in the longer term looking into buying a house in case you have any advice on this topic as well. Maybe this is too general and vague but wanted to get some feedback from people.

Any suggestions on neighborhoods to target in our rental searches or available listings we would be grateful for, thanks!

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I'm sorry to say that it is extremely rare to find a place with air conditioning on Oakland/Berkeley side of the tunnel in the East Bay. You can absolutely find a well heated rental and a newer construction will likely have new windows and insulation which will help with heating. Old construction with new double pane windows and insulation will be pretty good in terms of heat retention but old buildings are leaky even with good insulation, so you'll have a higher heating bill. *$200 - $250/ month in the winter was pretty normal unfortunately at our old rental house that was very well insulated and had all new windows (it was 3 br 2 bath and did have tons of windows and we had 2 babies running heaters, monitors, washers, dryers, and my partner worked at night, so using electricity longer than a normal household. we also liked to set the thermostat at 70 degree.). It was also north facing, so it didn't get a lot of sunlight. (great in summer but not so much in winter). Look for places with windows that open up and down (not side to side or in and out like casement windows) and electric outlets near the windows especially in the bedroom. This will allow for a window a/c unit that you can use on a handful of unbearably hot days and you can sleep comfortably. If the unit has windows that are mostly south / southwest facing, that will heat up the house really fast. Also make sure that you have layers of window coverings with a light blocking thermal window coverings which are good to keep the house cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Windows really do a number on heat loss/gain. At our first rental where it was really drafty, we taped up a plastic film over the windows in the winter and you could see the film ballooning in and out due to the draft. 

It's been a few years since I was a renter, but $2000 for 2 br in a safe neighborhood that allows a dog seems like a tall order in Oakland/Berkeley/Albany, I'm afraid. Even in El Cerrito and San Leandro, I think it's stretching it a bit but you may want to look in El Cerrito and north (Richmond, El Sobrante) or San Leandro and south (Hayward, Castro Valley) or Pleasant Hill and East and South East. Ones in the south and east will also likely have A/C. Alameda is also a good place to look. People often overlook Alameda but I think it's such a sweet place and I wish I had bought in Alameda instead of Oakland.  Also, a "safe" neighborhood in Oakland and Berkeley isn't crime free... Good luck!

I'd try Alameda. $2000 might be hard, but if you can go up by 10-15% you can probably find something (e.g., closer to $2200-$2300 - maybe you can get a basic 2 bd/1 ba if you search). The entire town is very safe, the public schools are great, and there are a number of very good day cares. Great parks! Easy access for your commute. We love it here. Houses here are expensive as everywhere else though ... weather here is moderate being close to the Bay so A/C is not as crucial as it might be even another mile or two inland. 

Sadly, you will not get a decent 2 bedroom for $2,000 a month with a reasonable commute. Even Hayward is higher than that. You're probably looking at Tracy ... My coworker has a one bedroom with very poor insulation in Alameda for $2400. So I think Alameda is out as well. Unfortunately, in this market, you won't get everything you want - size, location, price - so you'll have to decide what is most important to you. 

My husband and I (6 months pregnant) are moving back to Berkeley from Canada in March, and we're looking for rentals too. We paid $2k/mo for a one-bedroom in Berkeley between 2018-2020, and THAT felt like a steal, so we were expecting to pay at least $2500-2600 for a two-bedroom this go around. Wish it were different, but safety is a key issue for us too.

Will be watching this thread closely!