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Many of central California’s white-collar professionals are settling in amongst the sandy beaches of beautiful, sunny Santa Cruz because of its breathtaking bluffs and mountainous skyline. With the U.S. Census showing only 7.8 percent of housing structures unoccupied, inventory is the single biggest problem facing this coastal California market today. 

Given such extreme shortages, it can be incredibly difficult to find a rental, much less the right one.

As a renter, though, you have certain advantages on your side, the most important being time.  Remember, even if you do not find your perfect rental at first (and we’re going to work hard to prevent that), it’s still a temporary lease that’s far more favorable than a life-long home mortgage. The beauty of renting is that it’s a short-term commitment of usually just a year and then you have the freedom to move on.

But let’s be honest – moving is NOT fun, so it is in your best interest to find a rental that works best for you.

We’re here to save you some of the headaches and help expedite the process with our insider tips and tools.


Know Your Options


A quick snapshot of Santa Cruz by Neighborhood Scout shows the following:

  • About 7 percent of residents are renters
  • Only 7 percent of properties are vacant

The report also showed that over half of all Santa Cruz properties are single-family homes, with apartment buildings/complexes giving close chase. The average rental has two to three bedrooms, with four bedrooms and more becoming increasingly rare and exceedingly expensive. Knowing what’s predominantly available will give you a heads up of what type of properties to expect.


Run the Numbers


The trendy city’s population is growing, making it a pricey place to live in. shows rentals ranging in price from $1,000 to $6,000 per month.

You must be reasonable in your home hunt budget-wise to avoid the rent burden trap where one in four residents spend over 70% of their income on rent and utilities.  There are other things to consider as well, such as the California housing legislature that could impact housing supply and alter your choices. 


Dive Deeper: How Much Could $2,000 Get Your For a Rental Home in Santa Cruz, CA?


Choose Your Neighborhood Wisely


When searching for a new home, it’s best to find an area that meets both your budget and lifestyle, as well as the type of neighbors you want to have.

There is one major trend prevalent in Santa Cruz rental properties — the farther from the beach and the university the home is, the more affordable its rent. 

The Boardwalk/Beach Hill is among the priciest, with a strong focus on vacation rentals. Downtown and Westside areas with their teeming nightlife and commercial district are popular with college student renters.

For most renters, Eastside is a well-loved favorite for its affordable neighborhoods and sleepy beach living.  Midtown’s relaxed community comes in second with its focus on locally owned shops, cafes, and Seabright Beach nightlife.


Read more about Santa Cruz neighborhoods.


Other popular nearby areas include Watsonville (home of the annual strawberry festival), Capitola (imagine a Mediterranean seaport), and Seacliff, a long-loved favorite for its European architecture and popular beaches.


Still having trouble deciding? Chat with one of our representatives today for a more detailed analysis of local neighborhoods 


Prepare Your Requirements

In a competitive market, be prepared to jump in when you find that the perfect rental makes all the difference. 


Credit Score

The average credit score to win the favor of most landlords is 620, so take measures to increase your credit score to ease your way through the screening process.


Initial Investments

Be sure to have your first and second month’s rent, as well as a full security deposit. Set up a fund to cover all moving expenses to avoid derailing your moving schedule. 



Prepare all basic screening documents. This will help fast-track your application process.  These documents include, but are not limited to, financial, employment, credit, and other verifiable records that help support background checks.


Work With a Professional Property Manager 


Looking for a rental home is a tedious process. As you need to move fast, it can cause you a lot of stress especially when you’re a busy person. . This means having to check out multiple choices all at once. The old way of doing a rental search on foot no longer cuts it. 

Your best option is a modern-day property management company with a tech system for seamless rental search and application process that is available in Santa Cruz, CA. The Poplar Homes system is user-friendly and allows you to do multiple searches, complete with a virtual tour wherever you are. When you find a home you like, Poplar Homes will guide you through the whole application process and assist you in any maintenance concerns on the property.


“Santa Cruz is near and dear to our hearts, given our headquarters is in San Jose. Following the direction of our existing customers and a trend of increased real estate investment in the Santa Cruz area, we’re looking forward to a swift roll-out of our leasing service in the region.”

Greg Toschi 

Co-Founder, CEO, Poplar Homes


If moving into Santa Cruz would be a dream come true to you, then with no time to waste, seek the guidance of a property manager. They will make this experience not just exciting, but very convenient as well.


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