The ‘Burgh is a leftover steel town that feels like a city but operates like a hometown. The average joe’s tech knowledge (and fashion sense) is about ten to fifteen years behind major cities. If you’re coming here from a bustling metropolis, expect to deal with property management companies directly instead of apartment brokers—these are virtually unheard of in these parts.
Apartment hunting here truly is like hunting. Be prepared to commit both time and energy to pounding the pavement in the real world. Drive through the neighborhoods you’re interested in and keep your eyes peeled for the “For Rent” signs. This sounds like the most antiquated thing in the world—and it really might be—but Pittsburghian landlords aren’t exactly Silicon Valley elite. Cheap finds are rented out by people from a generation (or two) ago that don’t need or care to figure out more sophisticated methods: they’re happy waiting for you to call them. Also, be sure to check the classifieds in the Post-Gazette and Pennysaver (did we mention the old-timey technology?).
It’s always easier to find an apartment in the winter (as opposed to the summer or fall) but this is especially true in places that see snow dumps measured in feet—not inches. Pittsburgh is no exception to this rule. If the cold and snow aren’t enough to detour you, think about those all those hills (we’re getting there…)
Don’t underestimate heating costs as you’re scoping out your new digs. In Pittsburgh, the weather will be well under the freezing point for months, and if electric isn’t included in your utilities then keep on looking. 100 year old houses are both very common and very drafty and staying warm can bleed your wallet dry.
City of Bridges
Pittsburgh is small (only 56 square miles), but thinking in terms of mileage can be dangerous here. Distance in Pittsburgh is only sort of related to commute time (they’re like second cousins), what’s more important is geography (they’re blood brothers). As a general rule of thumb you’re looking at a long commute if:
You live on a hill. Hills equal winding roads that take forever to transverse and double your commute time in the snow.
You live on the other side of a hill. This means tunnels, and tunnels scare people, and scared people drive slowly and turn five minute commutes into hour commutes. Yes, really.
You’re across a river. There are 446 bridges in Pittsburgh, but only 10 connect to Downtown. Everyone headed between the city proper and its outlying areas gets bottlenecked at these spots making traffic essentially unavoidable if you live on the other side of a river (which is any direction other than east).
If you’re lured to the suburbs by the space and affordable housing make sure you plan the route to your daily destinations (work/school/grocery store) with as few of the above obstacles as possible.
- If you live north of the Allegheny and east of the Ohio rivers. Here you have a straight shot into the city via I-271.
- If you live in the southeast. The T, (subway/tram hybrid) takes you speedily & directly from Downtown to the up-and-coming Dormont area.
Our bike community is making a valiant effort to grow, but hills aren’t shrinking, public transit funding is being cut constantly and cyclists have nasty weather to contend with. It might not be the greenest suggestion in the world, but in Pittsburgh, you should probably drive. Ease your conscious and consider a hybrid.
Pittsburgh’s diversity of distinct neighborhoods rivals that of any major city. These are the bigguns (price scale $ - $$$$):
Where the Bros Are: Oakland & Shadyside are college kid territory because like, dude, that’s where Carnegie Melon and the University of Pittsburgh are. Here, thrifty students live in either Fight-Club-style slightly dilapidated mansions with too many roommates or small rundown apartments. You’ll also find some cheap eats and a sliver of high-end shopping on Walnut Street (what someone once hilariously referred to as, “the Rodeo drive of Pittsburgh”) in Shadyside. $$
Dahntahn: Or “downtown”, to us non-natives, is a handful of blocks crammed with skyscrapers and few housing options. Those that exist are refurbed lofts reserved for young professionals with accompanying budgets. The adjacent Strip District is a hybrid farmer’s market/street bazaar that’s packed with plenty of famous restaurants (Pamela’s Diner, Primanti Bros. and DeLuca’s) and local jewels (Wholey’s Fish Market, La Prima Coffee and the Pennsylvania Macaroni Company). $$$$
Hip-check: Lawrenceville & Bloomfield (aka “Little Italy”) blend together and are the heart of all things trendy in the ‘Burgh. The rowhouses of these two areas are filled with the majority of the city’s artists (READ: cheap rent) and are sprinkled with boutiques and restaurants. If you’re looking for nightlife of the non-skanky variety, this is your place. $$
Nuclear Family: Squirrel Hill, Regent Square, & Point Breeze are residential (almost suburban), complete with big yards, old houses, and parks. Highland Park (home to the Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium) has the same family friendly vibe as these other three ‘hoods but is located to the north & is slightly more expensive. $$$
Rough Stuff: Garfield/East Liberty have reputations as being crime ridden and dangerous. There’s a small epidemic of abandoned storefronts along Penn Ave (the main drag that’s home to a few solid blocks of galleries), but Google just opened an office (lounge? funcenter? resort? those offices are insane) in East Liberty’s new shopping complex Bakery Square, so you can expect that to be a yuppie Mecca any second now. $
Now, get some Steeler’s gear and throw a few choice Pittsburghese phrases into rotation like “yinzer” or “jag off” and you’re all set! Welcome to the Paris of the Appalachians.
-By Kera Zacuto
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION FROM RENT ADVISOR:
There are few urban sites more dynamic than entering Pittsburgh, the town of the "three rivers" at night through the Fort Pitt Tunnels and across the Allegheny River into the Golden Triangle (the confluence of the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers into the Ohio River). The sparkling lights across the many bridges, high rise buildings and paddle boats navigating the rivers make this town a unique spectacle after hours. Pittsburgh was founded in 1758 by the British and originally named for the Prime Minister, Sir William Pitt. It has retained the "H" at the end of its name making it one of the only "burg" towns in America to do so. After being the predominate city during the French and Indian War, Pittsburgh's neighborhoods have grown while retaining much of the original influences of the Irish, Italians, Germans, Polish and Ukranians. The local dialect known as "Pittsburghese" still remain with most its long time residents. Since the 1800's, Pittsburgh has developed with the help of some world's wealthiest families including the Mellons, Carnegies, Fricks, Westinghouse and Warhols. Pittsburgh has also been steep in sports tradition with two of the original football and baseball teams, the Pittsburgh Pirates and Pittsburgh Steelers (also known for last year's Stanley Cup winners, the Pittsburgh Penguins). Each of the teams has built new stadiums with PNC Park, Heinz Field and the new Civic Arena. Downtown has also recently added the Rivers Casino in the Golden Triangle.
Although Pittsburgh has experienced a 7% decline in population over the past decade, Pittsburgh continues to be recognized nationally as being one of America's "most livable cities" (it is the only city to be ranked in the top 20 every year for past 20 years). Pittsburgh receives accolades for being very affordable in housing (avg 3-4 bedroom house is $162,000 vs $264,000 for USA) and cost of living while being home to many large businesses (headquarters for 8 Fortune 500 companies), several of the world's top rated hospitals (Presbyterian, Allegheny General and Mcgee), top rated educational systems and many of the country's top universities including PITT, Carnegie Mellon and Duquesne. Pittsburgh has changed its image over the past 50 years from a steel based economy to that of healthcare, technology and financial. In the past couple years, it has been recognized nationally as the center for the natural gas and oil production for the Marcellus Shale. Pittsburgh has great and very affordable choices in single family homes and apartments throughtout this active town of approximately 311,000 residents. The city's population strength is mainly realized in its suburbs which add over another million+ people to the roles. This city of bridges, high rise buildings, incline cars climbing from the riverbanks to the mountain tops has a great lifestyle to offer all ages.
•Great sports town!
•Excellent real estate prices