Planning Your Search1

The Penn community’s off-campus housing search starts with Off-Campus Services. There are several factors to think about as you begin your off-campus housing search. We have outlined some of the most important factors, with additional information on each topic. Please review each section.  If you have further questions, please contact our office.

Of course, visiting your prospective new home before renting is everyone's first choice. However, at times, that is not possible. Ask your prospective landlord for a Skype tour. This type of tour will allow you to see some aspects of your new home, not readily  seen in photos.

Read the tips below carefully. Once you are ready to begin your search, visit our partner site for rental listings Penn Off-Campus Search

Graduate Students:
  • 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.
  • Some landlords will offer flexible lease dates, but you need to check with your landlord before signing your lease
Undergraduate Students:
  • In November or December, landlords begin to advertise for the following year. Private houses with multiple bedrooms are typically the first type of off-campus housing to rent. Many times, these larger homes are passed along from one student group to another.
  • The majority of students begin their search in March.
  • Lease dates vary from landlord to landlord. Leases can begin from June through August
  • Consider how far you are willing to commute when choosing your new home.
  • Take time into consideration. How much time do you want to devote to travelling to campus
  • Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs have many different neighborhoods you may choose
  • Neighborhoods such as University City and Center are areas where walking or biking to campus is an easy commute.
  • Penn Transit has buses shuttles accessible to students, faculty and staff.  Visit Penn Transit for a comprehensive list of services Penn Transit
  • There is a large public transportation system in place in Philadelphia and the surrounding areas. Trains, buses, and trolleys are an easy way to commute to campus.
    Visit Septa for a list of services offered
  • Before deciding where to live, calculate the time it will take you to commute between your home and campus


  • What geographic area do you want to live in? Some neighborhoods are more expensive than others
  • What size apartment do you need?
  • Are you looking to live alone or with other
  • What is included with the rental rate? Some apartments will include some utilities, while other apartment communities do not include anything else in the rental rate
  • What is the maximum rent you can afford? Remember it's not just your rent. Think about food, transportation, heating and air-conditioning costs, cable, internet.
  • Graduate students need to also think about health care costs

Review our Apartment Search Checklist