You’ve paid your dues. Two years you spent in your glorified prison cell–I mean your dorm room–breathing the same air as someone you had nothing in common with, dealing with the extremely forced RA social gatherings in the common block. You don’t know how you survived–and you are not alone. Most college students far prefer off campus apartments to campus housing due to the increased living space and privacy. But before you run off and sign the first apt rent agreement shoved in front of your face, read these practical tips for finding an apartment compiled by those of us who have been there:
1. Ask around about the neighborhood.
This is something a lot of people forget about when looking for an apartment, but it’s an important first step particularly if you’re a woman. You don’t want to be stuck in a neighborhood with a high crime rate or a half hour from campus–not if you don’t want to fear for your life every time you walk to and from class. One way to figure out the good neighborhoods is to email the admissions office for your program and ask. Often they will have access to a list serve full of experienced students who know the good and bad spots and will put you in contact with someone willing to show you the ropes. If all else fails however, consult a map and learn at least two things: how far is your potential apartment from campus, and where are the fraternity houses with bad reputations.
2. Go for something in the average price range.
It can be tempting when looking for an apartment to get overly excited about a really low per-month rate. Often however these apartments are stand-out cheap for a reason. One place I looked at during my junior year had gaping holes in the walls. Another was cheap up front but didn’t include any utilities at all. It’s always a good policy to keep a savings and plan for the extra costs associated with looking for an apartment of your own. The major downside of off campus housing is that you must be your own advocate and not everything is included. Speaking of which…
3. Understand everything in your lease and do your own inspection.
Don’t phone in the last mile of the annoying marathon that is looking for an apartment. When you’ve found a place you like, make sure to read all the fine print in the lease and know exactly what you are and are not responsible for. If some appliances are included, ask which ones and do your own walk-in inspection before making your final signatures. While you’re at it, check all the rooms for signs of black mold, termites, or structural damage, and take pictures if you can. You might be able to use these as negotiating tactics for lower rent, or at the very least have things fixed before your move-in date.
Like anything worth doing, looking for an apartment can be both stressful and exciting. We promise though that it’s worth the trouble. Nothing beats waking up in a room devoid of your judgy roommate’s eyes one bunk over.