We see no reason why your off campus accommodations can’t be delicious, too. This post is the second in a series of posts on off campus housing and, yes, gasp, moving beyond that university-owned bubble that is your college dorm.
Now that you’ve decided that housing off campus is right for you, we’re going to dispense some advice based on our own experience looking for the perfect off campus house as well as some advice we received from folks who are following @dormdelicious on Twitter, like Kristen from Rate My Student Rental, who wrote up some great info for us. So let’s get started. Before you even start thinking about housing, you must…
Learn Who Your Friends Are
Who are you going to live with? In order to know what you’re in the market for you need to know how big your group is. If you’re one, two, or three people you might be looking for an apartment. If your group consists of you and 10 to 15 of your closest friends you might be in the market for a house (or a subdivision). Keep in mind you will probably have less selection with larger groups, but might get a better deal and more space since you can rent an entire house.
Kristen from Rate My Student Rental offers this advice:
Living with a household of friends can make for some of the best memories of your college experience, but choose wisely. Talk to your (potential) roommates before moving in and hash out important details. Together, talk about everyone’s expectations of cleanliness, common chores, house rules, pet peeves and more. If you are by yourself looking for just an open room you should still talk with your potential roommates about those same topics.
Once you’ve got a group together you can start looking for a place. In the fall of Junior year, we (a group of 6) started looking for a house for Senior year, and some would argue we started too late. It’s important to…
There’s no time like the present to start looking for housing. Apartment and house rentals near college campuses are almost always in high demand, so you want to start looking at places and talking with landlords as soon as possible. The best housing can be found using these resources in order of effectiveness.
- Read student housing websites like Rate My Student Rental, which organize information about student rentals into an easy, social database
- Talk to upperclassmen, who might be graduating and leaving a great place behind
- Walk around near your school and looking for For Rent signs
- Look for ads in the school newspaper
- Look for bulletins posted around campus
- Look at the local paper
- Look on craigslist and other similar sites
Kristen gives us the following tips about picking a safe location:
If your rental is in a known student housing area or is marked with rental management signs take into consideration you may be a target for thieves who know students usually have some pretty cool toys (stereo’s, laptops, gaming systems…etc). Be aware of your surroundings and take measures to be less of a target. On the other hand, known student housing areas may be patrolled by campus safety or campus security. Talk to the campus safety director or officers to see which areas are patrolled and during what hours (hopefully 24/7). If they don’t patrol your neighborhood, ask them to start!
Once you’ve got some leads…
Take A Tour (…Or Two, Or Ten)
No doubt you will have to deal with some of the slimiest people you will ever meet when looking at college housing, though we admit that looking for housing in Providence (see The Departed) might have biased us a bit. Perhaps you’ll just be dealing with a bunch of sweet old ladies. Either way, landlords are a necessary evil and you must present yourself well when looking at apartments. That means no showing up drunk and no talking about the rager you will be throwing immediately upon setting your bags down in your new places. Be polite and professional, but don’t act naive. Do your homework and ask good questions, like…
- Are utilities included?
- What are the neighbors like?
- Where are the washer and dryer and how much do they cost to use?
- What is the process for getting our security deposits back at the end of the year?
- Can we drop anything off at the house before we move in officially?
When you’re on a tour, you should get a good idea about whether the house or apartment is somewhere you and your friends would want to live. Don’t expect immaculate conditions – this isn’t Beverly Hills. Unless it is, in which case you should look somewhere else. This is Tori Spelling’s hood, bitch! Once you find a place, you must…
Act Fast, Again!
Don’t think about this decision for too long, but do make sure you’ve done your homework. If you found a place you really like, get the landlord on the phone immediately and talk about the lease. Kristen says, “Talk to potential landlords about the lease and carefully read it over before signing. Check terms like when you can move in and out, when rent is due, and subletting terms. Understand the security deposit and what the landlord’s expectations are. Don’t be afraid to ask too many questions.”
Once you’re satisfied, lock it down! Landlords often show their properties to multiple students in a single day so you want to be the first to decide. When you’ve signed that contract you can sit back, relax, and start Googling “How To Build The Sweetest Bar Ever.”
In case you were curious, after many house tours, calls with landlords (including one with a very strange man who wanted proof of student status and social security numbers before he would even tell us where the house he had for rent was, and who we immediately proceeded to drunk dial nearly every weekend), we ended up finding a pretty sweet house with way too many rooms and an extraordinarily creepy basement. And if you follow our guide, you too could have a creepy basement of your very own. Happy hunting!
Got some advice of your own? Let us know in the comments!