A Smart Girl's Guide to Apartment Hunting

It’s January, and that means it’s time to start house hunting for next year. Finding an apartment in San Luis Obispo is arguably one of the most stressful tasks you’ll tackle during your college years, and it’s easy to understand why. Even for the most seasoned veterans, it’s overwhelming to decide on an apartment and even more grueling to pick roommates that you won’t regret later. Here are some tips I have picked up along the way that will (hopefully) make your hunt for the perfect apartment a little less painful!    

What do you want?

Think long and hard about what you want out of your college experience. If you happen to hate studying at the library and tend to pull all-nighters, sharing a room with someone who always goes to sleep at 9:30 p.m. might not be for you. Before making a solid decision about where you’re living, have a realistic and open conversation with yourself about what you can afford each month and what your priorities are.

Who do you want to live with?

Whether you’re picking a large group of girls to live with or selecting one person to share a room, who you choose is crucial. The most common method of finding a roommate is to someone within your friend group — after you have considered the many advantages and drawbacks of doing so.

Ideally, this friend knows your quirks and has come to accept them (or, at the very least, tolerate them) and vice versa. It’s possible that you might feel suffocated by spending so much time with one person, but since the lines of communication have already been opened, you’ll be able to comfortably voice your expectations about your living situation.

There’s also the option of living with a complete stranger. Craigslist is the obvious resource for finding a roommate outside of your friend group, but word of mouth can be just as effective. Everything is strictly business from the beginning, so it’s a more “diplomatic” living situation.

It’s a complete gamble whether you like their personality, but at least if things do go awry, there’s very little expectation for you to break past the roommate boundary and become friends. It’s important to note that not every friend of yours will be a good roommate, and not every roommate will be a good friend.

Once you’ve found a potential roommate, ask them about what their ideal living situation looks like. Do they plan on staying in SLO for the summer? Do they want a room of their own or do they mind sharing? Do they want a furnished or unfurnished apartment? Do they have a car? Do they want to live near campus or further away? Keep in mind your own personal criteria when asking questions and also realize that compromises will have to be made in certain circumstances.

Where do you want to live?

Okay, so here is when it becomes a little tricky. Apartments in SLO are so varied in price, occupancy and location that it’s probably best to just dive right in when hunting for an apartment. It is never too early to start calling leasing offices and asking questions because then you’re able to get a better sense of the application process. Apartments fill up extremely quick along the intersections of California and Foothill Boulevard, as well as Grand Avenue, so I would suggest writing down possible apartment options to follow up with and create a comparative list including various pros and cons for each alternative.

Does the apartment complex have a laundry room? Are extra parking spots available and for how much? Are Internet and utilities included in rent? There are many decisions to consider, and I’d advise not hesitating in applying for an apartment, especially in the locations where half the student population is trying to live. Be persistent and timely when turning in your application, as well as patient. If your future roommates aren't making real decisions, take it upon yourself to galvanize the troops. Taking up residency in the library next fall quarter is not an option!

Also, keep in mind several things when making your selection. To create cheaper rent in an unfurnished apartment, double up with a roommate. You could cut your monthly housing payment in half from $650 to $325, for example, by trading-off the luxury of space for more money in your pocket at the beginning of every month. Save a little more money by bringing up your bedroom furnishings and other household appliances from back home. The price of furnishing an apartment starts to add up really quick, so borrowing unused pots and pans from home is a great solution. It's important to be aware that some apartments require leases to begin during the summer and even if you aren’t physically in SLO living in your apartment, you will still be required to pay rent. As informative as they can be, consider ditching apartment-finding websites and consider contacting leasing offices directly in person or over the phone. Phone numbers are usually listed on the apartment complex buildings. Make sure, when filling out forms for your housing application, that information is correct. Giving your potential leaser the wrong information will only delay your chances of guaranteeing a spot.

And last but not least, always have a back-up plan. Or two.


This post was contributed by Lauren Piraro.