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Leasing An Apartment 101

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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UNH chapter.

Getting sick of living in a dorm? Off campus apartments can be a great and fun option! Getting an apartment can feel daunting and a lot of people don’t know where to start, so here’s a comprehensive guide of all you need to know!

Do Some Research

The first step to finding an apartment is to look around to see what’s in your area! In the Durham area, there’s a couple of corporations that own most of the housing options around here, but just googling “apartments near me” could bring up a ton of alternative options! There are even some great options on Facebook Marketplace, although these tend to be a little further off campus. It’s also a good idea to start your initial search well in advance of when you plan to move in; typically, signing a lease occurs in the fall the year before you move in. If you want to move in to an apartment your junior year, you’ll probably sign a lease in the fall of your sophomore year, which means you should start looking around for options in the summer before your sophomore year. This process starts earlier than most people think and can catch a lot of people off guard (this timeline is a little more lenient if you’re open to random roommates or are going solo. If you have a group you’re set on living with, start everything as early as possible!).

Make a Budget

Making a firm budget is a good idea to do while you’re doing your initial research. Remember that the listed rent isn’t the only expense that you’ll have to pay — extra expenses like utilities, security deposits, electricity, internet, furniture, parking and groceries can sneak up on you and could add on a couple hundred dollars each month, depending on what’s included in the rent. Figure out how much you’re willing to spend in total and base your search off that.

Take a Tour

Tour as many units as you can! Touring an apartment will let you get a sense of what actually living in the space will be like, not just what the listing online shows you. Take lots of pictures of the space and ask as many questions as you can think of. It’s a good idea to ask about things that the listing won’t tell you- for example, what the noise level in the area is like, if there are lots of parties in the building, when it was last renovated, etc. Tours will also be a good start to get your foot in the door, and many landlords will give you their own contact information so you can reach out with questions.

Apply ASAP!

If you have a unit that you know you like, apply! You can usually do this online, and it’s always a good idea to get your name in there sooner rather than later. This saves time when it comes to leasing, and you’ll get updates about when leases open and other pertinent information. Unfortunately, sometimes there will be an application fee that you’ll have to pay, but I’ve never seen that fee above $100.

Lease Early and Confidently

Once you’re absolutely certain that you want a unit, the next step is to sign! Signing a lease can be a stressful process — if you’re leasing from a company that opens all leases to all students at once (like some of the major apartment management companies in Durham), then you’re usually waiting in line a while without knowing if your unit is still available. If this is the case for you, the best thing you can do is to get there as early as possible (at least half an hour before leasing starts). Also, make sure you’re 100% confident that this apartment is right for you- once you sign a lease, it’s difficult to back out.

The apartment search process can be really stressful, but it’s important to remember that once it’s done, you can sit back and get excited to move in to your new space!

Emily is a junior Neuroscience & Behavior major on the pre-med track at University of New Hampshire. She loves all things medicine, music, and art, and when she's not studying she can be found spending time with friends or her cat.