Congratulations on completing your freshman year of college! Proximity to dining halls and class rooms are great perks to on-campus living, but you don’t intend to live there for all four years, do you? Unless you plan on becoming an RA, having to share those communal dorm bathrooms was probably a giant motivator for you to live off-campus.
Finding off-campus housing can be intimidating at first, but this blog post will guide you through the process!
Know Your Priorities
Before even looking at housing listings, take the time to write down the top three things you want from your new place. Is proximity to campus important to you? Do you want to stay within a certain budget when it comes to rent? Maybe you want to live somewhere with a nice, modern interior. Do you want to live in an apartment or a house?
Whatever your priorities are, be sure to know that you may not always get everything that’s on your wish list. This is especially true for college students who are constrained by a budget. Don’t be too upset if you can’t find the perfect place to live. You are still in college, after all – you won’t live in this place forever!
Talk with Friends
Now that your priorities are set in place, it’s time to start looking for off-campus housing. Before even searching online for listings, ask your friends to see where they plan to live. Your search will be much easier if you ask the people you know first. Extra points if you have upperclassmen friends that are tried and true veterans of off-campus living! Ask them about what they like and dislike about where they live and the condition of the apartment complex or neighborhood.
Also, this is the stage where you need to get your roommate situation ready. Make sure that your priorities align if you plan on rooming with friends.
View Local Listings
Many colleges have a Facebook group or online listing devoted to matching college students with a place to live off-campus. Many college students are studying abroad during the fall or spring, so they are trying to find someone to sublease their place to. Subleases are an option you can consider, but often times these are not long-term housing. If you don’t want to move every semester, try to find a place where you can sign your own lease.
Avoid using Craigslist to find off-campus housing for obvious reasons. Local online listings and websites like Zillow are more trustworthy when it comes to finding somewhere to live.
Pay Attention to Reviews
Reading online reviews of apartment complexes is a good way to get a first impression of the place. Look out for reviews that talk about the condition of the rooms and how good the landlord is. Sometimes, what should have been a good living experience is often ruined by a bad landlord.
Keep in mind, that these reviews may not truly reflect every person’s experience with living in that apartment complex. It’s often a few people who had really bad experiences posting negative reviews for apartments.
When you find a set of apartments or houses that you might want to live in, it’s time to set up a tour! Call the landlord or renter to set up a 15-minute tour of the place.
During the tour, get a good look around the place and picture yourself living there. Would your furniture fit? Is this bedroom big enough? Also, be observant of the neighborhood or apartment complex. Does it look like an acceptable place to live or is it a bit sketchy? When looking for off-campus housing, it’s okay to be a little picky.
Ask the Right Questions
During your tour, asking the landlord the right questions will benefit you in the long run. Here are some good questions to ask:
- Will I have to pay for electricity, water, and heating separately or is it included in the rent?
- How many roommates can I live with in this place?
- Am I able to sublet my room if I need to?
- How are packages delivered?
- How much is the security deposit?
- What are the noise policies late at night?
- What kind of security does this apartment complex have in place?
Signing the Lease
Once you found the perfect place to live, it’s now time for the most important part: signing the lease! Although there’s a lot of words, it is crucial that your read through the contract to know what you’re signing up for. Policies about paying rent, terminating the lease early, and subletting are all important things to look out for.
When you sign the lease, most landlords require a security deposit, a fee that they hold onto in case they have to fix something that you broke in the apartment. If your apartment or house looks just as it did when you first moved in, then you get that deposit back. Be prepared to write a check for the security deposit if you need to.
Also, have your roommates there with you when it comes time to sign the lease. All of your signatures will need to be on there!