Where do most graduate students live?
Most graduate students live off-campus in rental apartments, duplexes, or even single-family homes. Many of the neighborhoods near campus offer a mix of housing types, so whether you're planning to live alone, with a roommate, or have a family, you should be able to find a place nearby. Each neighborhood has its own unique character and charm, but they all offer access to basic needs like grocery stores, banks, and pharmacies. They are also accessible to campus by walking, biking, Carnegie Mellon shuttle, or public transportation.
The most popular neighborhoods for graduate students include:
- Oakland, Shadyside, and Squirrel Hill: Most students choose to live in these three areas because they are closest to campus. Oakland has perhaps the cheapest rent but is considered less safe and less quiet, and has a higher undergraduate student population, than the other neighborhoods. Shadyside is favored because it is close and on the CMU free shuttle route, but the rental rates are higher and parking is limited. Squirrel Hill has decent rental rates and has ready access to public transportation. Some Squirrel Hill residences are on the CMU Escort route.
- Bloomfield, Greenfield: These neighborhoods are farther away from campus but also within walking distance to campus and on city bus routes.
- Friendship, Point Breeze, Highland Park, Lawrenceville: These are even farther away from the university than those above but still within commuting distance and on city bus lines.
- North Side, South Hills, Aspinwall: These areas are across the rivers (gasp!) but still within commuting distance. Public transportation is available, though commuting time is signifcantly longer than other areas.
Check the Pittsburgh neighborhood map [pdf] to see how close your neighborhood is to the university. Google Maps can show you the exact distance between your address and the campus. For a full list of Pittburgh neighborhoods, visit Wikipedia.
What types of off-campus housing are available?
As you think about where to live, also consider what type of housing you need. Although you cannot — and should not — rent housing before you visit the actual location, informing yourself before you arrive and arriving early will make the housing search a much smoother and less anxious experience.
- Room in Private Home: One room with a shared bathroom and a shared kitchen located in a private home or a large house with many such rooms. These rooms are usually furnished. These are generally desirable for graduate students who may only be in Pittsburgh for 1-2 years or who are moving here from overseas.
- Efficiencies/Studios: A small one or two room combination of living room, kitchenette, and bathroom. The price range for studios is, on average, $450 - $800 a month.
- 1, 2, 3+ Bedroom Apartments: An apartment including one or more bedrooms, a living-dining area, a kitchen, and a bathroom. The price range for one-bedroom apartments is approximately $575 - $1000; for two-bedroom apartments, the price range is about $700 - $1200.
- Houses: A one- or two-family style home in which a group of students share kitchen and bathroom facilities. In addition to full houses, the area near the University has many town houses, which are built in rows sharing common walls between each dwelling. Some houses include a car garage, a basement and/or a yard.
Is on-campus housing available for graduate students?
Housing Services maintains a limited number of on-campus apartments for graduate students. For 2015-16, on-campus graduate student housing is currently full. However, students interested in on-campus housing can still fill out an application and be added to the waitlist.
For more information or to apply for on-campus housing, visit the Housing Services website.
How much does it cost to rent in Pittsburgh?
Luckily, rental prices in Pittsburgh are relatively affordable. In fact, Pittsburgh consistently ranks among the most affordable cities in the U.S. Compared to major metropolitan areas like New York or San Francisco, Pittsburgh is a steal.
Rental costs depend on location, size, condition, and whether utilities (gas, water, and electric) are included or whether you have a roommate. On average, utilities cost $200-$300/month. Before you sign a lease, ask your landlord which utilities you'll be responsible for and factor those costs into your budget [pdf].
Median Rental Prices by Neighborhood
Can I rent with a pet?
Some landlords or rental companies allow pets, others do not. Those that do sometimes only allow certain types of pets (for example, cats but not dogs) or place size or breed restrictions on the types of animals allowed. Also, some landlords may charge an additional monthly pet fee or pet deposit. Ask your landlord if pets are ok before you sign a lease and make sure that the pet policy and any charges are stated in the lease.
How do I find off-campus housing?
Craigslist and the university's Off-Campus Housing listing site are great places to start your search. You should also ask graduate students in your department for neighborhood or landlord recommendations. Another option is to simply walk or drive around neighborhoods close to campus; often you will see housing with a For Rent sign in the window that might not be advertised online.
If possible, schedule viewings for 4-5 rentals per day to give you a sense of what's available. You should plan about one hour to view an apartment, ask the landlord any questions, and give yourself enough time to get to the next viewing. Rental companies that operate more than one building may be able to show you multiple apartments in a single appointment.
Be prepared when you view an apartment. In addition to asking about utilities, parking, or transportation, you should take pictures of each unit. Use the Housing Search Checklist [pdf] to track your housing search and write any notes that will help you make a decision later.
OK. I found a place to live. What do I need to know before I sign the lease?
A residential lease is a legal agreement between a property owner and a renter (or "tenant"). The lease allows the renter to live in the property for a length of time specified in the lease. It is important to make sure that all the items listed below are included in the lease agreement so that all parties are aware of where their responsiblities lie. The landlord may require a co-signer, or someone who will assume financial responsiblity for rent or damages if you fail to meet your obligations, on the lease.
At a minimum, the terms written in the lease should include:
- Name and address of the landlord
- Name and address of the tenant
- Length and exact dates of the rental period (for example, month-to-month or one full year)
- Rent amount and payment terms (for example, due dates or type of payment accepted)
- Grace period and penalty for late rent payments
- Security deposit amount (an additional payment to the landlord to cover any damages, unpaid rent, or late fees)
- Lease renewal terms
- Notice required to end the lease
- Person responsible for paying utility bills
- Who is responsible for property repairs
For more information on lease terms and conditions, consult the Carnegie Mellon Off-Campus Housing Service's Lease Agreements & Terms [pdf] and the Neighborhood Legal Services Association's Tenant's Guide to Renting [pdf].