Tired of living in dorms? An off-campus apartment can provide you with all the privacy and independence that you so desperately crave. Check out this article for several tips on how to find a decent place to live that fits both your budget and your needs.
Moving off-campus is a huge change in any student’s life. When you sign the lease for your first apartment you are taking a big step toward adulthood, oftentimes along with two or three friends to help pay rent. The advantages are obvious – more space, fewer distractions, more privacy. Be aware though, with more freedom comes more responsibility. Be prepared and ready yourself to take on this new and more responsible living situation.
According to a study, 25 percent of students live off-campus in nonfamily households. If you are looking to join the 25 percent, we have gathered a few tips that will come in handy.
Plan Your Budget
You are going to have to pay rent; there is no way around that fact. If you don’t have stellar finances or a part-time job as a source of steady income, stay in the dorms for at least another year so you can save money for that eventual move off campus. Focus on living more frugally during this time. For instance, schools often overcharge for meal plans, so cooking your own meals will save you some serious cash. Not paying rent equals getting evicted, and landlords are not known for being the most easygoing people in the world.
Make sure you will have enough money to cover your living costs. Moving off-campus means giving up your meal plan and cooking for yourself. Consider transportation and entertainment costs as well. If utilities are not included in your lease then you need to consider the cost of paying those pesky gas and electric bills.
Ideally, you should operate based on a budget. This practice will help you live well within our means. More on how budgets work here.
Find Decent Roommates
If you are not particularly well off, chances are you will share the apartment with a few other people to help manage the rent cost. You and your roommates will be spending a lot of time together, so consider living with some of your friends. They don’t have to be your best friends, but life is considerably easier when you live with responsible people who you enjoy being around. You may end up living with someone you don’t know or taking on a sublet halfway through the year. Don’t worry, this is an opportunity for you to meet new people, make new friends and break out of your comfort zone.
Once you have found your future roommate or roommates, set some boundaries from the very beginning. The idea of a chore wheel or roommate agreement may not sound glamorous, but having a set of rules to facilitate cohabitation will save you plenty of headaches down the road.
Inspect the Place Thoroughly
You will visit several places that fit your budget and general requirements while apartment hunting. Besides asking about Internet access and nearby bars, verify that the place is safe and in good enough condition to house you for the term of your lease.
For instance, inspectors recently issued more than 1,000 tickets to owners of several Boston apartments rented out to students. These properties were found in violation of safety and sanitary guidelines. Mouse droppings, signs of insect activity, mold – all these are signs you should look elsewhere. Verify that all appliances work and that there are no major damages to walls, floors or anywhere else. Landlords who deal with college students are often looking to cut costs because most students are naïve and don’t know how to deal with landlords. Don’t be taken advantage of. Develop a good relationship with your landlord and real estate agency and make sure that the apartment you will be living in is something that your mother would approve of. Here’s a checklist that will come in handy during your home inspections.
Check Out the Surroundings
Explore the neighborhood a bit before signing the lease. Remember, there are other important locations in town besides the bar. Find out about nearby gyms, Laundromats, restaurants and grocery stores. It is a good idea to examine your neighborhood at both night and day. Notice if there are any suspicious groups lurking around. You wouldn’t want to get into any trouble on your way home in the middle of the night.
Talk with some of your future neighbors. Ask about the landlord, the house rules, and the noise level. Not only will you gain valuable insight on the building, you will also make a nice first impression. If you leave a good impression on your neighbors, asking to borrow a ladder, a plunger or a cup of sugar will be much easier down the line.
Save Money on Furnishing
Once you have moved in, you will need to furnish the place. If your funds are limited, do it gradually. A comfy bed and spacious closet can be enough in the beginning. Don’t say no to hand-me-downs from relatives. No matter how old or run-down a piece of furniture may look, it can probably be restored at a lower price than buying a new one. On the other hand, avoid furniture that smells moldy or has been left outside for too long. You don’t want to track any bugs or mold into your new apartment. Hit thrift stores in search of the perfect cheap desk chair, nightstand, or area rug to bring some color and personality to your place. Additional tips can be found here.
Bonus advice: students moving out of their old apartments at the end of the academic year often give away lots of free furniture. Generally speaking, the best time to prowl for free furniture in college towns is right before and after spring finals. September 1st is also usually a good time to find free furniture, as many leases expire around then. Be vigilant and keep an eye out for furniture sitting out on the curb next to the trash.
Moving off-campus is a big deal. In fact, it can be a wonderful opportunity to better prepare for the real world. It will give you hands on experience in managing a budget, cleaning and cooking, all of which are valuable life skills. The sooner you develop these skills, the better. Follow our tips and you will have a smooth, painless transition into off-campus life.