Getting housing freshman year was easy. You filled out a survey about your sleep and study habits. Then your school paired you up with a random roommate and stuck you in a dorm room. Finding off-campus housing, though, can be as much of a pain as waking up for that 8am class.
Her Campus spoke with Kerry Heckman, Program Coordinator in the Office of Off Campus and Commuter Services at Syracuse University, to give you the best tips and tricks to finding (decent) housing – without an RA down the hall.
Make a list of what you’re looking for.
Heckman says step one in beginning the apartment hunt is figuring out what your wants and needs are for off-campus housing. Do you want to be able to bring your pet? Is accessible parking important to you? What about on-site laundry machines? Decide what are deal-breakers, and what you absolutely have to have. Then decide what things are negotiable: Would you rather live closer to campus but pay extra for utilities?
“If you know in advance that you want laundry in the building,” Heckman says, for example, “you know there are a whole group of apartments you can easily cut out of your search.” Knowing your priorities will speed up the entire process. Decide what is a want, and what is a need.
Here are some things that Heckman suggests not skimping on. Put these at the top of your “must-have” list:
- A well-maintained apartment – Look for a place that’s clean and well-kept. “It shouldn’t have pieces of wall missing,” Heckman says. “If you walk in and cringe, you probably shouldn’t live there.” Use your friends as a resource here, too. Ask around on Facebook, or in class, if anyone has lived in that apartment before. Did they have any issues with neighbors? Or safety?
- Good lighting – Both outside and inside the apartment or house. There should be a light outside the front door, or on the front porch for when you come home at night for safety reasons. If there are overgrown shrubs or trees covering any outdoor lighting, make sure those are removed before you move in.
- Good locks – Check every entrance to the house (front door, back door, basement door, etc.), for locks that work. You should have a key to each, if you decide to rent the place. You should also check bedroom doors. If you’re away for the weekend, it’s always a good idea to lock your bedroom door, as well as the entrance to the apartment.