Planning Your Search
The Penn community’s off-campus housing search starts with Off-Campus Services. Our staff will work with you on all aspects of your housing search whether you are new to Philadelphia or looking to move into an apartment for the first time. There are several factors that steer the success of the off-campus housing search.

Read the tips below carefully. Once you are ready to begin your search, visit our online housing search database.

Click on arrows below for full details.

  • Timeline
    • Undergraduates:
      • In November or December. A large number of rooming houses and large apartments in West Philadelphia become available.
      • Studios, one- and two-bedroom apartments become available from mid-January through April.
      • Undergraduate student leases typically begin on June 1st, you may need to consider subletting your property for the summer.
      Graduates:
      • The graduate student timeline differs slightly due to the fact that graduate academic programs start in the fall (some start in mid-summer).
      • Most properties with a lease start date in the fall are normally posted around 60-90 days in advance, but new graduate students start gathering off-campus housing information as early as mid-spring semester.
      • Graduate students can most likely be found living in either West Philadelphia or Center City, depending on their budget and housing preferences.
  • Budgeting
    • Rent is not your only expense when you decide to live off-campus. Utilities such as gas, water, sewage, internet, electricity and cable are typically not included in your monthly rent. Since most apartments have a full-sized kitchen you may want to cook on a regular basis rather than eating on campus. Costs associated with grocery shopping need to be factored into your monthly budget, as do entertainment expenses, books, supplies and health insurance. Financial planning and budgeting is essential.
    • A few tips that may guide your budget are:
      • What geographic area do you want to live in?
      • What size apartment do you need?
      • What amenities must you have?
      • What is the maximum rent you can afford?
      • Does this include utilities?
      • Will you share an apartment or live alone?
      Make sure you carefully evaluate your answers and reassess how realistic your expectations are with regard for your budget constraints. Be careful to include “hidden costs” such as security deposits, moving expenses, utility deposits, initial repair and decoration costs.
  • Living with Roommates
    • Making the roommate relationship work for everyone in the house requires planning, commitment and involvement. Before moving in together, have honest and open conversations with your roommates. Discuss your expectations of your proposed living situation and lifestyle choices so that there are no hidden surprises after you move in. Most roommate conflicts are manageable if communication is kept open, financial responsibilities are met and the established house rules are used as a guide. It can sometimes be helpful to create a roommate contract with your expectations of each other as roommates.
    • Some suggestions for things roommates should consider before deciding to live together:
      • Defining use of personal items and shared space
      • Payment of bills and utilities: how will costs be shared and who is responsible paying the bills by their due date?
      • Household chores and overall cleanliness
      • Lifestyle choices such as smoking or drinking
      • Overnight guests including boyfriends, girlfriends, partners or family members
      • Understanding that all roommates who sign a lease together are jointly and severally responsible
      Make sure you carefully evaluate your answers and reassess how realistic your expectations are with regard for your budget constraints. Be careful to include “hidden costs” such as security deposits, moving expenses, utility deposits, initial repair and decoration costs.
Not sure about how to jumpstart your apartment search? Peter Gemmellaro, Manager of Off-Campus and Customer Services, has some advice on how to find your home away from home while becoming a savvy and informed renter.