It’s that time of year again, and I don’t mean the fall season. I am talking about the apartment-hunting months, the lease-signing months; the time when college students in Gainesville begin choosing places to live for the next school year. Yes, it is only October, which means that, for most of us college students, the fall term only started about two months ago. But, here in Gainesville, you usually have to sign for where you will live the following year, nearly a year prior to when you will actually move in.
With such limited time restraints, you have to know what you are doing before you enter into that lease. I have had some experience with signing apartment leases (with some mistakes along the way), so here are my best tips on what you should consider before you sign your lease.
1. The model won’t necessarily look like the actual apartment
Did you take a tour of the apartment you are thinking of living at? Did you fall in love with the model they showed you, and now you can’t wait to live there? Not so fast. The apartment model you see on the tour may not necessarily be exactly what you are given. Apartment models are often decorated very fancy to look appealing, and sometimes, they are much bigger than the actual apartments. If you really want an accurate impression of what the units actually look like, try to find someone who already lives there who can show you his/her apartment. Ask around your friend group, and ask your classmates. More often than not, you can eventually find someone who lives at that apartment complex.
2. The Early Bird Gets the Worm
You have to be willing to sign your lease early in Gainesville. I signed my apartment lease for my sophomore year during the month of October in my freshman year. Apartments around UF’s campus are already advertising for fall 2017, and if you wait too long—until the spring semester—you may have a hard time finding a place. Costs can change, too. Sometimes, the longer you wait, the higher the prices will rise. An apartment I have been considering now costs about $50 more per month than it did when I first looked at it during the summer semester.
3. Location, Location, Location
It’s always been said that location is everything in real estate, and that is definitely true in Gainesville. Apartments closer to the University of Florida campus will often be more expensive than those farther away, even if they are not as nice. You may be tempted to take the less expensive, nicer apartment that is farther away from campus. But, before you do, consider your travel arrangements. How will you get to class? Walking may be out of the question and you will have to rely on the bus, which can be unreliable. How is traffic? Will it be harder for you to get to class if there is a lot of traffic? Are there stores nearby? Will it be easy to take a simple trip to the grocery store if needed?
Parking is already limited at UF, and it can be true for off-campus apartments as well. The nice apartment you will live at may turn into a problem if you can’t find a place to park. At some apartment complexes, the only parking spots are parallel parking spaces on the streets. In some places in Gainesville, you have to obtain a parking permit to park in the streets.
5. Utility Charges
Always ask about utility charges. Utility charges are basically your charges for things like electricity and water. Some apartments will have very cheap rent, but then you have to pay extra for utilities, which can be expensive. And then other apartment complexes give you a monthly cap. If your utility charges go over that monthly cap—maybe $40—you will be charged extra. So make sure the monthly cap is reasonable in order to avoid being constantly charged extra.
Apartment hunting can be stressful, but it can be fun, too. Just make sure you think your decision through carefully before you sign that lease. You don’t want to live a year of your life in a place you hate!