The key to finding a great place off campus is to scour the area as much as possible. There are so many options that it is likely you’ll be able to find the perfect place. At the same time, it's also not difficult to find places that are way too expensive or have slumlord property managers. When moving off-campus, Pitt students primarily move to North and South Oakland. Students joke about South Oakland being "the dirty South" because it's a little more run-down than the rest of Oakland, and it's louder and less safe. But the houses and apartments there tend to be more affordable and closer to campus, and therefore more attractive to the college crowd. North Oakland has nicer places in a better area, but you're not always getting what you pay for. As you move farther away from campus, options increase and prices vary. Shadyside, near North Oakland, is considered the best area to live and rent prices reflect this with rates sometimes doubling those in South Oakland. Squirrel Hill can be the best of both worlds, with nice apartments and reasonable rent, but it is a bit far either being about a half hour walk or a ten-minute bus ride.
The best advice is to start looking early. If you haven't found a place by March, good luck. The best places, especially in South Oakland, get snatched up quickly. Your options are also going to increase by a lot if you have roommates. Some of the best areas are mainly house rentals, which are entirely affordable if you have three or four other people that you can share the rent. For better apartments, even having one or two roommates will lower your rent significantly. Read everything before you sign any leases and, most importantly, get to know the area where you're looking to rent. Pittsburgh neighborhoods have a lot to offer, but it's best to know what you're getting into ahead of time.