Mathematical Sciences Research Institute

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Long Term Housing


Housing Assistance:

Assistance with finding housing is offered to MSRI’s program organizers, research professors, postdocs, and research members staying for a minimum of 30 consecutive days.  Please submit the online housing assistance request form; the link is provided in your invitation letter. The submission deadline is April 1

Short term housing vs. long term housing:

Most of MSRI’s scientific programs are held on a semester basis, although occasionally a program will be featured for a full academic year. When assisting visitors conduct a housing search for a minimum of one semester, we at MSRI refer to this category as long term housing, whereas in the open rental market most property owners and managers consider rental periods of less than 6 months to be short term rentals.

The short term rental housing market in Berkeley is quite limited and highly competitive. It would be impossible to find 80 new rentals each semester, therefore we try to keep a few dozen rentals revolving among MSRI visitors from year to year.  To this end we rely on maintaining good relations with a core group of property owners and managers. Please keep in mind that the housing located through our service is intended solely for the duration of your stay at MSRI (winter holidays and summers may be exceptions.

Types of rentals:

Rental listings come from a variety of sources and describe varied types of dwellings.  In addition to sabbatical homes and traditional apartments in multi-unit buildings that have been furnished with the university visitor in mind, many of the short term rentals are in-law units (a private or semi-private area at a single family home) and garden cottages (independent structure usually located at the rear of a single family property).  A room rental in a family home may be another option for a visitor who does not require complete privacy.

All of the furnished apartments provide at least the basic furniture and housewares, but visitors may need to bring or acquire personal items, e.g. sheets, blankets, pillows, and various kitchen items.  

Typical monthly rents for semester and academic year rentals are as follows:

  • rooms in private homes range from $850 - $1,250
  • studios (apartment with combined living room-bedroom), many of which are in-law units (independent unit at a private home) range from $1,200 - $1600+
  • one-bedroom apartments: $1,800 - $2,500+
  • two-bedroom apartments: $2,000 - $3,000+
  • Sabbatical houses are a major source of housing for visitors coming with families for the year or one semester. Smaller bungalow type homes, usually 2 bedrooms, range between $3,500 - $4,000+, while larger 3-4 bedroom homes range from $4,000 - $5,000+

Although rents may be slightly lower in neighboring communities, most are open rental market apartments, advertised only 30 days in advance of availability. There are usually many applicants for open market rentals, in Berkeley as well as the surrounding areas, and most owners prefer to meet the prospective tenant in person. Open rental market apartments usually are unfurnished and require a minimum 6 months lease.

Financial Planning; Payment schedule:

A deposit is usually required to hold a rental (often in the amount of one month's rent) payable by U.S. bank check, transfer of funds, or International Money Order (where available). It is customary for the payment of rent and/or the refundable security deposit to be due on arrival. Thereafter it is customary for the rent to be due in advance on a monthly basis. Please note that MSRI issues per diem and stipend checks only once per month, on the last day of each month. It is important to plan accordingly and arrive with funds sufficient to pay the rent and security deposit (and subsistence) in advance of receiving your first check from MSRI.

Length of leases and rental agreements:

Sabbatical homes are usually rented on a full semester (5 months) or an academic year (10 months) basis.

While some ‘short term’ rentals will rent for four months, others require a five month lease period. Usually payment for full months is required even if your arrival/departure schedule is shorter. Some owners will rent on a semester basis only if the unit will be occupied for the full academic year, therefore second-semester arrangements are sometimes formalized the preceding spring in conjunction with a first-semester lease.

There is a limited supply of furnished apartments that will rent on a shorter term basis, generally 1-3 months. Most of these are studios or one bedroom apartments. Prices are often higher than the ranges listed above. A two or three bedroom apartment or house that’s available for 1-3 months is a rare find indeed. Unfortunately, it has become nearly impossible to find housing in Berkeley for families visiting for less than a full semester. We recommend that visitors in this 1-3 month category try to locate housing using online resources where owners prefer to negotiate directly with the visitor.  Following is a list of suggested sites:

www.vrbo.com   (Vacation Rentals By Owner)






Select eby (east bay,) housing, temporary/sublets, vacation rentals
(Recommended neighborhoods include Berkeley, Berkeley North/Hills, Albany/El Cerrito, Oakland Rockridge/Claremont.)

Additional online resources for semester-long visitors:


Cal Rentals:

MSRI's postdocs and research scholars are eligible to purchase the rental housing listings from U.C. Berkeley's "Cal Rentals", Faculty & Staff Services. The correct category is named "Newcomer/Affiliate" under "Other Eligible Faculty/Staff Customer" on their website.  The cost is $25. You will need to verify eligibility by sending a copy of your MSRI invitation letter to Cal Rentals. Further details and sign up info at:


MSRI's program associates (graduate students) are eligible to purchase rental housing listings from U.C. Berkeley's "Cal Rentals" in the Student Services category called "Other Eligible Student Customer."  The cost is $20. You will need to verify eligibility by sending Cal Rentals a copy of your MSRI invitation letter.   Further details and sign up info at:


Disclaimer: This information is provided as a matter of service only. Users of the online sites on this list communicate, contract and do business with individuals, companies or firms at their own risk. The Regents, Directors, and employees of U.C. Berkeley and MSRI shall not be liable for any resulting events.