How to find a rental for a postdoc family


We'll be relocating to the east bay this summer from Wisconsin. My husband received a fellowship for a Postdoc at CAL. I am having a really hard time finding housing since we have 2 young children. I know the market is insane there and that we will probably need to sublet and go to open houses, but does anyone have any suggestions on how to navigate finding a rental for a family. When I inquire about apartments everyone says it's "too small" for a family which I know is a way of discriminating. We are completely fine having a very small apartment space and coming from the midwest economy will not be able to afford too much. Any advice would be greatly appreciated, thank you!

Parent Replies

New responses are no longer being accepted.

Contact a real estate agent to find you a house to rent, look on Craig's list for rentals, look in the local newspapers online, contact the UC housing office.

HI, I am a postdoc at CAL and we were in a similar position before we moved from Miami with our baby and a slew of pets. I did not bother with craigslist posts for typical rentals and ended up finding a short term rental on that worked for us, and then we found another place once we lived here. There were also a few airbnb placed I thought about. If those are too expensive though, look into the University Village. It is off campus housing for students and postdocs who are married and/or have kids. It is priced below market as far as I can tell, and located in Albany. There is a bus to campus from there. Priority is given to students, but I know several postdocs who live or lived there. Good luck!

I am a postdoc at Berkeley and have two young children myself. Have you checked out the family housing at Berkeley? Postdocs are eligible. The prices for apartments are way under market value and include utilities. I looked into it but didn't move forward with an application because we had a dog and cat at the time. However, I heard from someone at my daycare that there are a lot of animals there. I'm not sure what to make of that but maybe the residents got emotional support designation.

We moved here for a postdoc @ Cal two years ago with one child (looking for a 2BR). We didn't have any trouble with people discriminating - we just found a 2BR that worked for us (750 sf) and put down the money. No need to mention that you have kids when you're looking - just say looking for a 2BR. 700-800 sf is probably typical for a 2BR, and our rent when we started was $2,600/year, though starting rents now are probably closer to $2,800 or $2,900/year for the same size. Check out Zillow ( or Craigslist ( I would recommend visiting for a week, going to a number of open rentals, and then putting down a deposit on the spot - owners like to see people turn up before they rent to them.

If people are telling you the housing is too small for families, that can absolutely be discrimination. You can file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, at

Cal has university apartments at University Village: Is your husband eligible to move there? It's a pretty affordable option. We toured but they don't allow pets (besides emotional support animals).

We have 3 children and found our rental on sabbatical homes. It helps to rent from another family.

We have one young child and usually go to craigslist if we are looking for an apartment. A small 2 bedroom apartment in Berkeley (not super close to UCB and downtown) is mostly in the range of 2.5 - 3k a month. Albany and El Cerrito may be cheaper. You can also try to apply for the UC housing, if eligible, but the waitlist is very long.

We ended up using a realtor to find a rental when we moved from Texas last Summer. I think we have him a % of the overall contract, I'm thinking 1% (can't remember exactly) but it was well worth it because not only did he find us a place that met our needs but also be negotiated down $200 per month.


There are quite a few resources available to post-docs on campus and their families. A good place to start is the Visiting Scholars and Postdoc association (VSPA). On that site there is a link for local resources (  This is where people post listings specific for the University. You can also get on the lottery for the Family housing units. 

Best of luck!


Have you checked into married student housing/University Village through the university?  You'll be in small quarters with lots of other student and post-doc families, but that means you'll quickly get to know a bunch of people and their kids.  I'm guessing lots of families will be moving at the end of spring semester

Stop telling them you have a kid. I'm dead serious. I know you're from the midwest, but you have to just ... leave some information out. I feel for you. 

We found to be helpful as there is less competition and you usually deal directly with the homeowners. Good luck!

When we were looking for rentals 7 years ago I felt like, as a family, we were given preference over whoever else was looking.
Maybe things have changed, or maybe you should reassure them you are really ok with renting a small space.
Also try university village, which is family housing run by UC.
My guess is that a small house a little further from campus may be cheaper than apartments close to campus that cater to students.

If your spouse is a post doc at Cal, then if there is a vacant unit, University Village in Albany is available for family housing for post docs. I have known several moms who either had a post doc or a spouse with a post doc and lived there.  There is a list that is specifically circulated for people connected with Cal who are offering rentals.

I would definitely start with these options first. But it is good you start now, as the students moving should open things up a bit. 

Good luck!


We may have a rental for your family. It depends how much you can afford and for how long. We actually have a 3 bedroom house in a beautiful area of N. Oakland. We may have it rented to some friends, but if not, I thought I would contact you as I know it can be so difficult.  You can email me at nrwconsulting [at] if you haven't found anything.  

The law is 2+1 so for every bedroom you can have 2 people plus 1.  A one bedroom apartment can have 3 people. A 2 bedroom apartment can have 5 people.  They can NOT discriminate against children in standard housing. The laws are actually quite strict.  I had someone try to tell me that I couldn't rent a one bedroom with my partner because it was too small and I politely but firmly explained there are strict laws that guide that and it's not a matter of random opinion and they immediately realized they were in the wrong back peddled. Of course it may not be the way your want to begin your rental relationship but honestly don't put up with that kind of illegal behavior, it's just offensive. 

Other than that, I wish I could help with your situation but I don't have any tips except to be firm and know when the law is on your side.


It will be hard to find something long distance.  There are so many people looking during this time of year that people calling and wanting to rent something sight unseen fall to the very bottom of the consideration list, and are often not taken seriously.  Things will improve if you are here and able to look in person.  It will also be hard to rent a 1BR with 2 kids - is that what you're trying to do?  As another poster pointed out, the law is 2 people per bedroom + one, but most landlords try to have the minimum rather than the maximum for occupancy, for wear and tear issues.  I'm not sure what your price range is or how old your kids are, but I'd suggest scooting into El Cerrito or Richmond North & East, which will give you more space for your money.  The university/graduate housing options are great, too.  Good luck!

You can try posting a message on