Choosing where to go to college is a huge decision. Choosing where you’re going to live while you get your education can feel like an even bigger decision. Do you want to live on-campus? What area of town is best? Can you afford everything you want?
If you are planning on living off-campus and need an apartment, you might not know where to begin.
Don’t be discouraged, follow the guidelines below to help make the process as easy and seamless as possible.
Starting the apartment search
If your college has an off-campus housing office, that might be a great starting point to kick off the apartment hunt. Many colleges have a list of reputable landlords or properties in the area that work well with students.
Some colleges even have school-sponsored off-campus housing. This is a great option as the properties are generally more affordable for students.
Websites such as realtor.com and apartments.com are also great places to search. These sites offer photos, floorplans, and prices, which saves time from having to drive from property to property.
Research the neighborhood
Many college campuses are located in big cities, so it’s important to make sure you’re choosing a safe area to live in. Visit the area at different times of the day. Some areas may seem great during the day, but at night, they take on a completely different feel.
Another important thing to take notice of is the noise level. You’re going to be spending a lot of time studying, so living off of a busy street or near a busy shopping center might not be the best place for you.
If you are reliant on public transportation, pay attention to which routes are near the complex and map out how long it’ll take to get to school. Or, if you’re taking public transportation, how long that might take. It’s also important to note how far away the bus stop or train station is – after all, regardless of rain, snow, or extreme heat, this is a walk you’ll be making multiple times a day.
Questions and Walkthrough
Make sure you are able to schedule a walkthrough of the property. This will give you the opportunity to make sure it’s the right fit for you. As you do so, you should ask some basic questions about the property:
- What is the total square footage of the property?
- Are any utilities covered by the landlord?
- What utilities are covered by the tenant?
- What are the estimated costs of utilities?
- Is there a refund policy for the security deposit?
- What are the hours for on-site maintenance and property managers?
- Where can secure mail be delivered and picked up?
- Are there quiet hours? Guest restrictions?
- What, if any, customizations can you make? (Paint, nails for hanging pictures, curtains, etc.)
- Is it a safe complex? Has there been any crime reported recently?
Does it fit in your budget?
Don’t lock yourself into a lease that you think is over your budget. School costs can get expensive, and even with a full-time job, rent is easily one of your biggest expenses.
It’s important to set a reasonable budget and stick to that when it comes to renting. You’re not going to be there forever, so don’t let yourself get sold into something that you can’t afford.
Be sure to factor renter’s insurance into your budget. Many apartment complexes, especially those who rent primarily to students, require renter’s insurance before moving in.
Make sure to read the lease
Once you’ve chosen an apartment, you’ll need to sign a lease. If this is your first time signing one of these documents, here are some things to look for:
- Lease Term: standard lease terms are generally 12 months. You might see some that last 6 months and some that last over 12 months, make sure you understand that this duration is the time you are committing to staying at that location.
- Security Deposits: Each state has its own laws on how security deposits work and what amount should be returned and by what time. You should understand what some of those ranges are and see the security deposit terms clearly spelled out in your lease before you sign it. If you don’t see it, then you should make sure you ask about it and have it included in the document.
- Rent due date: Your lease should tell you when the rent is due and what kind of grace period the landlord gives for late payments. The late fee, if you go over the grace period, should also be included in the terms of the lease. Avoid the late fees, make sure you pay on time every month.
- Parking: If you have your own car, then your landlord should tell you the parking arrangements and your designated spot if the property has their own lot. If there are any costs to parking on the property, that should also be specified in the lease.
Be wary of anything that seems out of the ordinary, most landlords will be happy to show you the property, conduct a walkthrough, and answer your questions – if they’re not willing to answer your questions or show you around, you should walk away.
If you don’t feel comfortable signing something or something feels off, don’t be scared to walk away. Trust your gut. There will be plenty of other options, and you want to make sure you’re happy, comfortable, and safe.