It may seem a little crazy to start thinking about where you’re going to be living six months from now, but it is definitely time to start weighing your options and looking into signing leases. Whether this is your first time apartment hunting or you’re looking to change living situations, there are lots of things that you should keep in mind. Signing a lease is a huge commitment. A year-long commitment (usually)! That’s definitely longer than most college relationships. It’s time for you to start your research and really decide what you want out of your new home. Here are some of the things that you should definitely consider.
1. How much can you really afford? The monthly rent may look like a reasonable figure, but keep in mind that you’ll likely be responsible for paying for utilities and cable/internet as well. These bills can easily tack on an additional $100 dollars or more a month. Then there’s food, school supplies, clothes, oil changes, and so on. Make sure you’re not stretching yourself too thin on rent alone. That being said:
2. You get what you pay for. The difference between a very low rent and a higher rent can mean a difference in quality of living. You may be getting a really stellar deal price-wise, but that may mean less square footage, older appliances, or a less safe neighborhood. Decide what qualities are most important to you, personally, and what a realistic price for those features would be. What will it take to make you feel happy and comfortable?
3. Having roommates can mean joint liability. Many apartment complexes hold roommates jointly accountable for rent payments, damages, and so on. If this is the case, you can’t just hand your landlord your half of the rent each month and expect to have your butt covered. The whole thing has to be paid at once, and you’ll have to decide who will be responsible for that. And if your roommate decides to move out, you will then be accountable for the whole rent. This may seem okay at first; you trust your roommate! But extenuating circumstances may make this living arrangement tricky. Just be wary.
4. You can find apartments that aren’t student living! Student Housing Solutions offers many options for students looking to sign a lease. This can be very helpful, but isn’t necessarily your only option. I’ve found that student housing tends to be more expensive than other neighborhoods. It may be intimidating, but you can do research on your own! Take to the internet, and search for apartments in Tally. You could even just drive around, stop at apartment complexes and neighborhoods, and inquire about places that catch your eye. Keep your options open!
5. What’s the place like at night? It wouldn’t be a horrible idea to check out your prospective apartment at night. You’ll be sleeping there every night for a year, perhaps alone. Is it well lit? Is there suspicious activity? It’s nice to know what the neighborhood is like when the sun goes down. This may sound silly, but trust me, it’s important that you feel safe in your home.
6. Does the complex allow pets? If so, what is the fee? I can’t stress enough how important this is. If your prospective complex does not allow pets, DO NOT HAVE A PET. You may think you can hide a cat or a bunny, but it is very likely that management will find out and you will be fined or possibly evicted! (Think about random maintenance inspections, repairs, and so on.). There is no reason to put yourself and a pet in this situation.
If the apartment does allow animals, ask about breed restrictions and pet fees. Some places only accept non-aggressive pet breeds. Pretty much all apartments will charge a pet fee. Ask about this! Sometimes it’s a flat fee of $200, others it’s $20 a month. Watch out for complexes that will try to charge you both of these fees!
7. Visitor’s parking can be a nightmare. We all know that sinking feeling when you realize you got towed and now have to waste $88 to bail out your car. Make sure that a complex has sufficient visitor’s parking. If you don’t plan on throwing any parties, or having friends or a significant other over, then it’s no biggie. But if you do, definitely take this into consideration.
8. Take a tour of the place in-person. Reading about an apartment online can only get you so far. You need to call and schedule a tour to really know if you can see yourself living there. Maybe the shower head is too low, there are no windows anywhere or the kitchen drawers stick. These are all things that you won’t know until you check out the apartment in-person.
9. Look up reviews to get the truth from former tenants. Now, you have to take online reviews with a grain of salt, but if you look up your prospective home, and there are 50 awful reviews, you might want to think twice about living there. A place may look wonderful, but there might be issues like mold or awful maintenance service that only a former tenant will warn you about. Make sure that the reviews are recent! A lot can change in a year or two with new management!
10. Don’t be afraid to ask management questions! No, you aren’t being annoying. It’s their job to inform you as to what you’re getting yourself into. And even if you are, who cares? You need to feel fully confident in where you’ll be living for the next year!
Happy apartment hunting, Collegiettes! Good luck!