New graduate students, visiting scholars and exchange students who do not live on campus, will need to search for off-campus housing independently since there are no long-term on-campus housing options available. The search for off-campus housing is perhaps the biggest source of anxiety for new international students and scholars. Most current students recommend arriving several weeks before classes start so you have ample time to get settled before you become involved in academic life. A challenge for one-semester exchange students is that it can be difficult to find a landlord who will rent for one semester only; most leases are for a full year. August and early September mark the start of the academic year at 10 local colleges and universities in Pittsburgh; new leases are at a premium at this time.
Housing is reasonably priced in comparison with major US cities. Most rental leases start on the first of each month with the most common start dates being the first of June, July, August, and September. If you already have a Carnegie Mellon e-mail address, you can access the Community Housing webpage for more detailed information on housing and related issues and to search Carnegie Mellon’s database of local apartment listings.
You can also contact Community Housing by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 1-412-268-2139. The Community Housing Office web site contains current apartment listings, detailed maps of Pittsburgh neighborhoods, and information about the Roommate Matching program among other topics. Also available in the Community Housing Office is a notebook listing comments and complaints from students about local landlords and apartment units.
Renter’s insurance is relatively inexpensive and be purchased after arrival. It is highly recommended because the landlord’s property insurance policy that covers the physical dwelling will not cover your possessions inside of the building. Renter's insurance will cover your personal property, such as furniture or electronic equipment should there be damage from fire, theft, etc.
Neighborhoods in Pittsburgh
The following neighborhoods are located within a two-mile radius of Carnegie Mellon University. They are grouped and listed according to their proximity and convenience to the CMU Campus. Community Housing has more information about each of these neighborhoods. Also, consider purchasing the Pittsburgh Street Finder, a street guide to Pittsburgh and the surrounding areas available from Amazon.com.
- Oakland, Shadyside, and Squirrel Hill: Most CMU 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 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 residences are on the CMU Escort route.
- Bloomfield, Greenfield: These neighborhoods are farther away from campus but also within walking distance to CMU and on city bus routes.
- Friendship, Point Breeze, Highland Park: These are even farther away from CMU than those above but still within commuting distance and on city bus lines.
Different Types of Rental Housing
Rental costs depend on location, size, condition and whether utilities (gas, water, and electric) are included. 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.
- 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.
Resources to Use for Listing of Rental Housing Units
The Carnegie Mellon Community Housing Office has its own housing listings on the web site. Other helpful sources are the classified sections of the local newspapers such as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette or Tribune Review. The Sunday edition of the newspaper has the most comprehensive listings. Many students also use craigslist or CMU electronic bulletin boards such as cmu.misc.market.apartments. To access CMU bulletin boards, you will need a CMU email account. You will receive email account information from your department as soon as it becomes available. Electronic bulletin boards are also a great place to find furniture and other necessary household items. Community Housing has complete instructions on how to subscribe to b-boards.
Utilities and Paying Bills
Bills in the US are commonly paid by personal checks available through your US bank. In most cases, you may set up automatic bill payment which enables you to pay bills electronically, directly from your bank account.
Some apartments may include utilities like gas, electric and water. However, in most cases you will have to contact the utility companies directly to set up and pay for service for your apartment. When looking for an apartment, be sure to include the cost of utilities in your monthly rent estimate. It is strongly recommended that you request an estimate of the previous tenant’s utility bills by calling the utility company directly. Note that heating bills can be very high in the winter (over $100 depending upon the type of heat and size of apartment). Listed below are some major utility providers:
Note: Some students are told that they need a US Social Security Number (SSN) before they are able to establish telephone or other utility services. This information is incorrect. Students who do not have an SSN may have to complete an application and submit copies of documents (such as a passport and a student ID) and may have to pay a deposit. If the employee you are speaking with seems unaware of the procedure for starting service without an SSN, politely ask to speak with a manager or call back and talk to another employee.
Last Updated On: April, 4, 2014