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9 Tips When Looking for an Off-Campus Residence

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Geneseo chapter.

So, you’ve finally decided to move off-campus. Where do you begin? It’s exciting and nerve-wracking, but there’s so much you don’t know.

There are many things to consider before you move off-campus, so you want to make sure you’re considering every aspect of living in your own place.

Consult your school

Before you start your search, make sure you’re eligible to move off-campus from your school. Geneseo requires students to live on-campus for two years per their residency requirement through the school. There is a process to obtain a release from the contract within the information, but I don’t fully understand it. Students are also creating petitions to get the residency requirement waived, so this might still change.                                      

No matter what happens with the requirement, it could still help to see what resources your school might have to help you. Geneseo offers a list of things to consider, a step-by-step process of finding a place and great links for websites students can find residency. While these are amazing resources, consulting students who have gone through the process is where you can find the best advice, which is why I’ve decided to write this.

Find your roommates/housemates

While you’ve been living in a dorm for the first two years of residency, things are still different because there has been an RA that you could go to if you needed to solve a problem. Make sure the people you want to live with are people you can agree with, solve basic problems with, and feel comfortable sharing spaces and discussing boundaries with. You don’t need to have a cleaning schedule planned before you move into the house, but make sure you’re all in agreement on basic rules that could be an issue for all of you, such as overnight guests or parties.

Knowing exactly how many bedrooms you need to look for is also helpful when starting the process. If you don’t know if you’re five or six people, you could lose out on places if you don’t know for sure how many beds you need.

Start looking *earlier*

As soon as you have your group of housemates, start looking for a place! Geneseo students typically sign their lease in September, October or November if you want to live in a house or solo apartment. It’s possible to find places in the following months (usually in one of the apartment complexes), but you should know what you’d prefer to look for.

Consider your budget

Every person may have a different budget for what could work for them. All students should talk with their parents or guardians and be aware of their maximum budget. While it may be difficult to talk to your friends about money, it’s important to make sure you’re considerate of others’ budgets when looking early on. I’ve known people who signed leases on expensive places that they couldn’t afford but had to bear it because they couldn’t break their lease.

It’s also important to consider that some places require you to pay utilities—such as electric, Wi-Fi or water—and put your name on them while others don’t. In addition, a security deposit will be required when you sign your lease, so make sure you have access to several hundred dollars, which is around the standard amount that most landlords ask for.

Lastly, make sure that you also work things out with your landlord if you use financial aid or loans to pay for your rent. Geneseo’s reimbursement or loan disbursements often come later than most due dates for rent. Most landlords should be considerate if you have to make a deferred payment. This is something you may not know right away, but make sure you’re in contact with your landlord in case things change.

Think about location

Most areas of Geneseo are pretty safe if you’re thinking about living off-campus. There are mainly families and other college students around, so you don’t have to worry about any dangerous blocks.

You do want to consider the location for transportation reasons, though. If you want to drive to campus every day, you can probably move to a house a bit further from the town and buy a commuter pass. Check and see if the Geneseo buses run around the neighborhood you’re looking at. If you don’t have a car, make sure you feel comfortable walking whatever distance it is in whatever weather—rain, snow or shine. Also, make sure you know whether you’re comfortable living near houses that may party more than others.

Talk to upperclassmen

There are many places in Geneseo, and that means many landlords. Most own several if not dozens of properties in the area. If you can, talk to upperclassmen who have lived off-campus. Your friends may be able to put you in contact with landlords to see places.

Upperclassmen usually have stories about most of the landlords in the area. You don’t want to sign with a landlord who has screwed students out of security deposits, snuck things in contracts or force you to pay utilities not included in your lease. If you can, look landlords up on the Internet, too.

View the place

Once you have found a place you want to see, set up a time to walk through it with the landlord. I would never sign a lease for a place I haven’t seen. You can probably sign a lease on an apartment complex if you’ve seen a sample because they all have the same dimensions but slightly different layouts; however, signing on a house or apartment above Main Street is very different.

As you’re viewing a place, it’s important to remember that some college houses may not be the cleanest, and many could be older homes. This means you may have to think about safety inside the house. Do you see holes in the wall or the floor? Is there the possibility of lead paint? Will the landlord be fixing any of these problems? Consider all of that before you sign the lease.

Walking through the place also gives you the opportunity to talk to your landlord about finances, utilities, furnishings and whatever concerns you have. If you think the residence is a viable option, ask if you can have a few days to look over the lease before you sign anything.

Ideally, you should look at a few places so that you have options; however, many landlords want to seal the deal. They can probably give you a few days to consider signing the lease, but they won’t hold a place for you indefinitely.

Talk to your parents/trusted adult

While you’ve already had the talk to your parents or guardians about your budget at this point, it’s important to discuss things before you commit to anything. Try and have your parents or a trusted adult check the lease. It’s a legal document, and you could get in trouble if you break any clause on the lease. Many young adults haven’t had these experiences yet, so it’s better to talk to someone who has. All my roommates had our parents check the lease over—that’s over eight eyes on the lease—before we signed it just to be extra safe.

After signing the lease/moving in

These are a few extra things that you don’t have to think about right away, but they should be considered before you officially move into your new place. I’d definitely talk about these things with your roommates over the summer before move-in day. Consider your food budget and if you’re all going to share food. Think about whether you want to purchase a meal plan. Bring up that cleaning schedule I mentioned earlier and other house rules. Figure out who brings what furniture (if the place doesn’t provide it) and what can be shared.

Living off-campus is a big responsibility, and it’s important to think about everything that could happen; however, try your very best not to be too overbearing with your roommates. There’s setting boundaries, but then there’s also setting ridiculous rules about what each other can do. That’s why considering your roommates is an important step. 

If you want more of an in-depth look at rental prices in the Geneseo area, this article I wrote for The Lamron a year ago is probably off on prices, but accurate in the sentiment of understanding how prices change from year to year. Plus, it has interviews from a few landlords in the area.

While living off-campus is an incredible experience, you need to make sure you’re ready for it. Hopefully, these tips can help you out as you start your search

Rebecca was the Campus Correspondent for Her Campus at Geneseo. She graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts in English (Creative Writing) and Communication. Rebecca was also the Copy Editor for the student newspaper The Lamron, Co-Managing Editor of Gandy Dancer, a Career Peer Mentor in the Department of Career Development, a Reader for The Masters Review, and a member of OGX dance club on campus. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @Becca_Willie04!