A Quick Guide to Moving Off Campus

So, you want to move off-campus. Maybe you’re an upperclassmen so you can’t live on campus anymore. Maybe you have a group of friends that you really want to move in with. Maybe you’re just sick and tired of having to pay for a meal plan to eat crappy dining hall food. Either way, moving off-campus will be an exciting step in your life, but it does come with a lot of stress and responsibility. I recently moved into my first house with a group of my friends and it has been a long process. Whether you’re also a first-time renter, or you’re a pro at moving in with roommates, here is a guide to moving off-campus that will make your house-hunting process more organized and (maybe) a little less stressful.

 

RELATED: 6 Reasons You Should Live Off Campus

 

PRE-HOUSE HUNTING

Once you have roommates, figure out what you each want out of the house. Is each person getting their own bedroom? How many bathrooms do you want? How many people are bringing their car (this is especially important information if you are looking for an apartment or townhouse)? How far are you willing to move from campus? When do you want to move in? Do you want a 12-month lease, a 6-month lease? Is anybody going to be studying abroad for a semester? If so, do they plan to continue paying rent or will you have to look for houses that allow you to sublet? Are people hoping to renew the lease for a second year? Does anybody have pets? Does anybody want pets? Are there any special accommodations that are necessary for your roommates? These are all things that will make the house hunting process easier if you know them ahead of time.

Also, start to think about the financial side. Make a budget with your roommates ahead of time so you have an idea of how much money you can spend on rent. When you come up with your budget make sure to consider the other things you’ll have to pay for. This includes utilities (generally this is water, power, trash and recycling, gas and WiFi/cable). You’ll also have to pay for food, gas and parking passes on campus. If not everyone can pay the same amount, figure out how that will work. Maybe one person pays less and doesn’t get their own bathroom or two people pay less and share a room. Make sure you are keeping all this in mind when you look for a house.

 

LET THE HOUSE HUNTING BEGIN

Now that you know what you’re looking for and you know your budget, it’s time to start searching. Housing websites and apps like Zillow and Trulia make it easy to plug in your information and find houses that best fit your group. Remember to stay within budget. As much as we all wish life was an episode of House Hunters, we can’t all afford to go $3000 over budget because one house has stainless steel appliances and the other doesn’t.

Make sure everyone in your group is actively searching for houses and contacting listing agents. Start a shared Google Doc to keep track of the houses that have been contacted and the viewings you have coming up. Contacting listing agents can seem daunting if you’ve never done it before, but it’s super easy. All you have to say is, “Hello. My name is _____. My (# of roommates) and I are looking to move into a house in (month of preferred move-in). We saw your property at (address of property) and were wondering if there is there a time in the next couple of days when we could set up a viewing.” Keep it short and sweet, but give them the basic information they need to know. Start a roomie group chat so that you can easily let your roommates know about any viewings that are available and figure out when is the best time for all of you to go.

Keep in mind that you all have to be flexible. Viewings come and go quickly so you have to be willing to make accommodations until you find a house. This goes for other things as well, like the location. You may have an ideal location to start with, but be willing to go outside of that location to check off more of the items on your bucket list and get more bang for your buck. My roommates and I weren’t having much luck even finding a townhouse in our budget that was close to campus but, we decided we were willing to look in areas that were 15-20 minutes away and ended up finding the perfect house that fit within our budget.

Also, don’t forget to look at all of your options. Let’s say, for instance, you have a group of four people. A house may be listed as 3 bedroom, but it may include an office, extra living space or finished basement that could potentially serve as a fourth bedroom. Maybe a townhouse only has two assigned parking spaces, but everyone is bringing their car. See if street parking is available. If so, how much? If not, would people be willing to carpool to and from campus? Make sure you are sticking to the limits you set for yourself, but don’t be afraid to figure out ways to get what you need even if it is not directly offered to you.

 

THE VIEWING

So you are going to view a house. Great! There are a few things to keep in mind when you’re there. One thing, that is especially important in townhomes and apartments is the parking. Figure out where your reserved spots would be and check out the street parking situation.

Once you’re in the house, make sure not to just breeze through it. Check that all the bedrooms are a good size. Look at how much storage is available. Be on the look-out for potential problems that could impact you such as water damage, broken appliances, etc. If you find any issues, make sure to ask the agent about them before you leave

.Don’t be afraid to talk to the agent and ask questions. One that I started asking is: how many other applicants are there already and how likely are we to get accepted for the house. It’s better to ask up front than to keep paying for housing applications that you aren’t even likely to get approved for. Let them know you are college students. It’s better that they find out before you fill out the application because that could be a big factor in being accepted for the house.

On your way out, make sure to look around the area. See what is around your house. What is the neighborhood like? Is there a grocery store or gas station nearby? How far is it from a shopping center, movie theater, restaurants, etc.? Are there shuttle stops nearby that could take you to campus if parking becomes an issue? These are all things that you’ll want to know later, so you might as well check them out while you’re in the area. Also keep in mind that, just because you got an application doesn’t mean you have the house.

Always be on the lookout for houses and continue to schedule other viewings, even while your applications for one property are being processed. It can be frustrating at times, but the more properties you look at the quicker you’ll find one that accepts your application.

 

CONGRATULATIONS, YOUR APPLICATION HAS BEEN ACCEPTED

Yay! You have a house (or a townhouse, apartment, condo, etc.). What’s next? A lot of things happen very quickly once you get a house. You’ll have to sign a lease, set up utilities and meet with your landlord. A lot of these things will be different for each property so just make sure you are in contact with your landlord and you’re ready to be flexible.

Now comes the fun (and sometimes not so fun) part: moving in. One of the first things you’ll need to decide is who gets each room. This is something you should have discussed a little bit already before house hunting when talking about the budget (who gets the biggest room, who’s sharing a room, etc.) but this is when you have to make a final decision. You can do it based on the amount of rent everyone is paying, you could draw straws, just make sure that the room-choosing process is fair and be nice to each other. It’s better to play fair and not get your dream room than bite each other’s heads off for a room you’re just going to be sleeping in anyway. This is also a good time to talk about buying furniture and decorations. Figure out what each person already has and is willing to bring and what you need. One option is to split the cost of the furniture you buy among all of your roommates.

Another option is to have everyone volunteer to buy certain furniture items on their own. Whoever buys the piece of furniture gets to keep it when everyone moves out. Check out yard sales and yard sale groups on Facebook, eBay, Goodwill and local thrift stores for cheap furniture. Also, ask any of your friends who might be moving out if they’re willing to sell some furniture. You’d be surprised at the deals you can find.

 

RELATED: 6 Tips for Decorating Your Living Space on a Budget

 

Moving off campus is a lot of responsibility. There are a ton of things that you will have to do that you wouldn’t have had to do on campus. But once you get past the hard stuff, it’s so much fun. My roommates and I have been so excited to talk about how we are going to decorate, what we’re going to name our house (because yes, of course, she has a name), and our plans for the summer. So shake off some of your stress and get excited about this new step in your life!