Choosing to move off campus is a big decision that comes with a lot of responsibility, as well as a variety of benefits. Although on-campus dorms provide convenience, off-campus housing is often less expensive. It also gives you access to larger living spaces, the freedom to set your own rules, and the ability to gain more life experience. However, not all off-campus options are ideal.
We asked Kyle Bach, CEO of the Annex Group, LLC, about the major challenges that students face when they’re looking for off-campus housing. Bach notes, “One of the biggest challenges is that traditional off-campus housing requires students to find their own roommates [and] to ultimately sign under one master lease, which inflates rental rates due to various clauses. Additionally, the housing’s proximity to campus can play a role in impacting the student’s college experience.”
From finding a roommate to navigating your lease, the challenges are real. Knowing what to look for in off-campus student housing makes all the difference, especially if you’re a first-time renter. Prepare to make the switch from living on campus to expanding your horizons by considering these seven factors while searching for the ideal off-campus rental.
Pick Your Roommate(s)
Before getting started with your off-campus student housing search, you need to decide if you’re going to live solo, have a roommate, or share your space with multiple people to cut down on costs. If you’re going in with others, then you all need to be 100 percent committed to finding a place and sharing the costs.
Having your bestie as your roommate is great, but it’s not your only option. You can also use social media to find someone who might be outside of your social circle. Just make sure everyone is on the same page by asking each other key questions about lifestyle preferences, including:
- Work schedules
- Drinking and smoking habits
- How often you like to entertain
- How you’ll share spaces and household items
- Credit ratings and financial standing
- Health concerns
Figure Out Your Budget
In most cases, off-campus housing comes out of your — or your parents’ — pockets. Understanding what you can afford to pay is essential before you start dreaming of that perfect apartment. Ideally, you don’t want more than 30 percent of your monthly income going toward your rent. Other notable fees to look out for include the following:
- Security deposits: Many apartments charge a security deposit, which could be as much as a month’s rent on top of your other moving expenses, to cover possible damage you might inflict while living there.
- Utilities: Some apartments include all or some of your utilities, but some don’t. Utilities include heating, cooling, electricity, gas, water, internet, and trash services. Make sure you factor these into your monthly costs.
- Pet fees: Are you bringing your pet with you? Expect to pay an additional deposit or an extra monthly fee, depending on the policies of the apartment management company.
Start Your Search ASAP
You know that saying, “The early bird gets the worm”? If you wait until right before school starts, you’ll have a harder time finding the perfect place to call home. The rental market can be very competitive. The earlier you start your search, the better.
Know Your Options
What’s the rental market like in your area? In many college towns, you’re limited to campus dorms or off-campus apartments. In some areas, you might have off-campus options affiliated with your school. Alternatively, you could have access to student-oriented housing options, making your search a bit different. For example, Bach’s company, The Annex Group, specializes in providing an alternative housing option with individual leases per bedroom, allowing student residents to only hold responsibility for their individual lease instead of a master lease shared by all the roommates.
Consider the Commute
No matter what your housing options are, you need to seriously consider your commute when choosing your spot. Will you still be able to walk to class or the library? Is there convenient transportation, or will you need to drive? If you’ll have a car, where will you park on and off campus, and what are the costs? Keep in mind that you might take night classes, or you might have to go to class in nasty weather.
Before signing on the dotted line, make sure you check out your new digs to make sure you’ll feel safe while you live there. How do people get in and out of the building? When’s the last time the locks were changed? What’s the neighborhood like? These are all important questions to research and talk to your prospective landlord about before you fall in love with your new home.
Ask About Amenities
Independence and living in the world outside of your college bubble are two of the perks of choosing off-campus student housing. Access to some cool amenities is another. Research whether the building has a fitness center and laundry facilities, which add convenience for busy college students.
Bach suggests going one step further. He says, “Students should be searching for education-focused amenities that will coincide with their studies and benefit their overall college experience. Therefore, things like a strong internet connectivity, a close proximity to campus, and separate bed-and-bath space should be among the main features students seek when searching for off-campus housing.”
Ready to move into your amazing first apartment? Furnish it in style without sacrificing convenience with CORT Furniture Rental, a go-to resource for student furnishings. CORT can deliver and set up your whole apartment when you move in, and pick up everything when you’re ready to move on, all for an affordable monthly price.