As spring rolls around, you have to ask yourself one basic question: Where are you living next year? Many students, especially those in the class of 2015, are entering the world of independent living. Since on-campus housing is especially limited, students have to start deciding where to room for the coming year following their sophomore school year. Here are some useful tips to make the housing search a bit simpler.
1. Get Started Now
It may only seem like the beginning of spring, but time will fly by fast! The local off-campus apartments usually want new leases to begin starting on June 1st. This means all contracts and decisions should be finalized in these upcoming months. So, don’t dilly-dally on finding roommates and looking for places to live that’s comfortable and close to campus!
You will have to put your name on a waiting list for apartments since many landlords and building managers lease rooms based on a first come-first serve basis. So the higher up on the wait-list, the better chance you have for getting a place once graduating seniors start leaving. New and recently renovated living units will also be the first to go, so don’t get stuck with a subpar apartment by procrastinating on your search for a living space.
2. Plan Ahead
Before visiting any of the local housing, finalize all roommate decisions if you don’t plan on living by yourself. You, and your potential roommates, should also choose the range of the budget for monthly rent. This will be a huge element in choosing the right apartment building and may come into play when negotiating for rent prices. Make sure you consider the cost of utilities, Internet, television, and phone networking since some apartment units do not include those factors into the monthly rent.
Decide on when you will want to move your stuff into the apartment, and when to start the lease. Will it be June, July, or August? Keep in mind the months you, and your potential roommates, will be in Baltimore during the summer. Depending on the date you choose, the landlord may schedule professional cleaners, renovations, and other services for the unit before your arrival. Also, decide on the length of time you will want to stay in the apartment. There is usually a discount on the monthly rent for a 2-year lease. If you are uncertain on the length you plan on staying, ask about the pricing and leasing policy for a situation where you may want to renew your lease. You don’t want to be caught in between leases and confuse your landlord, or have the rent cost increased!
3. Rank and Research the Top 3 Choices
There are so many places to choose for off-campus housing. From the fancy Halstead down Charles St. to the Blackstone right across from the MSE, each building has a slightly different leasing process. You should pick your top three choices for living, and then invest your time visiting those buildings for tours and open houses. You should give them a call first, sign up for a mailing list, and then set up a date for an open house or a conversation with a housing representative. Usually, there is a staff member on site who can show you floor plans and discuss room availabilities after you have made an appointment. Here is a helpful list of items you should ask about for each apartment building:
- Are the apartment units independently owned? If so, who should you contact?
- What appliances are included in the apartment? For example, ask about the refrigerator or microwave.
- What is the application fee for renting an apartment?
- What are the required items for the application process? Will you have to provide a copy of your ID for the application? Is there a security deposit? Is there a move-in fee?
- What will the rent cover? Ask about the water, electricity, gas, waste, heating, Internet, phone, and television costs.
- How and who would receive your monthly rent?
- Is subletting allowed?
- For those who own a car in Baltimore, ask about the parking fees and policies.
- What amenities, such as a fitness room, will be provided?
4. Check the Place Out
Once you have found a unit you like, examine the unit in person and note the details. Even take some pictures if you get permission from the current residents. A picture is worth a thousand words! Check to see that the plumbing, lighting, stove and windows are functional. Also, you should insure that the walls and floors do not have mold, and ask about leaks. Lastly, inquire about past pest problems, such as mice or ant infestations.
When residents move, it’s usually a hassle to bring along large furniture. See if you can purchase the items, such as the couch, from the current residents before they leave. Usually the price of the furniture will be much cheaper than regular department store prices.
5. Sign the Contract
After looking through available housing units, all you have left to do is sign the contract!
Good luck with apartment hunting.