So you’re tired of living on campus in that old dorm with leaky showers and faucets? I hear you. But even though off-campus housing
may seem like an appealing option that is lush with independence and more than two inches of personal space, it’s easy to overlook major issues that can bite your wallet hard. So, before you run off to live outside of the university, check out these tips to make the most of your search.
Hunt for Housing
Finding the right place to live isn’t an overnight job. Remember, a lease is a legally binding contract that usually extends for at least 12 months. That means you can’t just switch apartments if you don’t like where you’re living or get into a tiff with your roommate, so patiently explore all your options before settling for the best rent. Fortunately, most colleges have offices that are dedicated to helping students find off-campus housing. These offices can provide you with information about housing and roommate listings. You can also visit the web to search real estate listings online.
Figure Out Your Finances
Before you sign any contracts, be sure to calculate if you can afford a place in that dazzling new apartment complex you’ve been eyeing. Your landlord will expect timely payments, so be sure to have a plan for keeping up with each month’s rent. Commuting and parking on campus are additional expenses to consider, and you’ll have to pay for your own internet and utilities in most apartments and condos.
Learn Before You Lease
Here’s the big one: Don’t sign a lease without reading and fully understanding every part of the contract. Too often, students who are renting their first apartment or condo overlook critical terms of their agreement. For instance, if you and your landlord verbally agreed that he would cover your utility bills for the first three months but that clause is missing in your contract, he legally isn’t obligated to do it. Also learn about your landlord’s policies for renewing and terminating a contract and be sure to ask about exact terms on any necessary repairs. In other words, who pays for that broken refrigerator or microwave – you or your landlord? Assume nothing is a given, and protect yourself by reading your lease carefully. Because, if you don’t have it in writing, you might not have it at all.