Student housing 101: How to always have a backup plan

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The frenzy of finding a place to live for the upcoming school year has begun. While it’s only February, finding solid housing in Berkeley requires some planning, which, of course, usually requires having ample time set aside to plan. However, not everyone plans so far in advance, and I am one of those people.

Fortunately, I have lucked out in the past and found some sweet deals. More than lucking out, however, I was resourceful. And more than being resourceful, I did not stress super hard about the housing search, nor did I attempt to secure housing several months in advance. Why no big-time stress? Well, it’s because I don’t put all my eggs in one basket. I don’t develop one plan six months before I know what I’m doing. I keep my options open and I always have a backup plan when it comes to housing.

The number one mistake and stress inducer during your housing search is relying or depending on one option. When I say one option, I mean one group of people or a person you want to live with, a single idea of the type of place you want or thinking about housing with a binary mindset, i.e., “It’s either this way or that way.” You always have more options, and you almost always have more economical choices within those options. What may be lacking in an often hectic search for housing is a savvy, resourceful and calm mentality.

Be savvy?

To be savvy is to think practically and strategically. In a housing search, make sure to look out for yourself. And while that may seem a little selfish, at the end of the day, looking out for yourself so that you can have a place to rest at night is really important for your health.

Limiting yourself to one set plan for housing limits what may end up being the most sensible plan for you. While you may really want to get a great two-bedroom apartment with your best friend, the chances of getting that may be slim. You cannot and should not fully depend on that fantasy, especially if you’re concerned with financial stability like many of us students are. If finding a place with your best friend is your ultimate Plan A, that’s great and something you can work toward, so feel free to keep it as your Plan A. However, to be savvy in a housing search is to open yourself to the abundant options you have and devise backup plans for any housing fantasy you may have concocted in your head. Get serious about developing a Plan B, C and D. That way, you will have created a safety net for yourself.

Be resourceful

Being resourceful may mean that you are constantly networking with people or your communities so that you can learn about deals. It may also mean that you have to brush up on negotiation and marketing skills so that you can strike up a deal of your own. For instance, ever think about offering yourself as an assistant property manager and asking for a housing stipend in return? Furthermore, being resourceful may mean spending a weekend doing some avant-garde housing research. Here’s where you can get creative. Of course, you don’t want to find yourself in a wack situation, but to be resourceful is to compromise and to, of course, tap into your resources!

Be calm

Looking for housing in a place like Berkeley can be incredibly stressful. Many of us feel a great urgency to secure housing as soon as possible. In light of this, stay calm. Freaking out about finding a place probably won’t help. Furthermore, we have no idea what the future holds. Relax and remember to be savvy and resourceful. Detaching yourself from a housing fantasy may also be helpful in staying calm. Of course, keep a set of housing standards for yourself, but make sure to open yourself to compromise and surprise. What you may have never considered may end up being the best fit for you.

Always remember you have more than one option — all you have to do is unveil those options. And to unveil them gives you security and a safety net if Plan A falls through. So, find and use your options to develop a backup plan for housing!

Contact Gina Wright [email protected].