Summer Apartment Search Crash Course

Few things are as stressful as job hunting and apartment hunting, and invariably if you are doing one – you may be doing both. Add the pressure of an unfamiliar housing market, remote searches, end of semester exams and the rising temperatures as you draw closer to the finish of the semester, and it’s likely you’re already sweating.

No need to sweat the summer apartment search. Upon independent research and with the aid of both professional and semi-professional advice, Her Campus Virginia Tech is here to make your summer housing search as low stress as possible.

First, determine your needs.

Consider the location and proximity to your internship or job. Do you mind a longer commute in favor of a better price? Are you comfortable with sharing a room or do you prefer a private room or private apartment? Will you furnish it for the summer or would you prefer it already furnished? These are some general questions to ask yourself when considering your housing needs. 

Pro Tip: Make a list —

"Write a list with your needs and expectations (location; safety; price range), " says Dr. Solis, Assistant Professor of Consumer Studies at Virginia Tech. It's important to prioritize needs and separate those needs from wants.

Next, begin your research.

Every city offers a different type of real estate market. If you are interning on the west coast, understand that prices in cities like San Francisco or Los Angeles will be expensive because these two cities are the nation’s top sellers’ markets, meaning owners have the advantage because there are more people looking to buy or rent.

Emily McCaul, a junior majoring in Multimedia Journalism offers her advice on finding a summer apartment. McCaul will be the public relations & social media intern for Redfin, a residential real estate company located in Seattle, Washington for the summer. Luckily, she has already experienced the apartment hunt and offers the following advice, "If I could offer any advice to college students starting their own summer apartment hunts, I would say to research the area you’re interested in before moving there, and if possible, visit the apartment in person. For myself, public transportation was a necessity; so a big selling point for me was how close the nearest bus or monorail stop was from the property. You want to make sure you can picture yourself living there; it doesn’t have to be a luxurious living arrangement, but just be aware of the atmosphere, the amenities, and dissimilarly, any potential challenges you may need to prepare for as well (i.e. laundromats, grocery stores, public transportation, neighbors, etc)." 

If you are going to be in a major east coast city, like New York City, then definitely do as much research as possible. The New York City real estate market is very fast-moving and unlike any other. 

In addition to learning about the market, it pays to familiarize yourself with a few key terms.

Sublease: is an arrangement which makes you a sub-tenant to the original tenant who holds the lease. Sometimes, tenants or landlords will have you sign other contracts but it does not involve as comprehensive of an arrangement as a lease would. Generally, subleasing is the ideal arrangement for summer housing.

Short-term rental: often a minimum of 6 months necessitates a short-term lease, but some situations allow for shorter duration leases.

No-fee vs. Broker’s fee: a broker’s fee is the percentage of the property that is given to the real estate broker or agent for showing you a listing in which you make a purchase. You should seek no-fee apartments because it saves a lot of money.

Private room: is a room in an apartment in which living space is shared but one bedroom is yours exclusively. Often private rooms are furnished and are a great, inexpensive option for summer housing. 

Shared room: is a shared bedroom and is the cheapest way you can score a furnished short-term housing arrangement for the summer. It is recommended that you meet your potential roommate before. Likewise, if you enjoy private time, then this is not the option for you.  

Application form: if you are seeking the help of a real estate agency or listing agency, then you will be prompted with an application form and application fee to be eligible for the properties. This is more indicative of a rental in which your name will be the name on the lease, which is avoidable if you sublease. Here is an example tenant application from REAL NY full-service brokerage firm.

Guarantor: usually a parent who agrees to cover the rent if you are unable to make payments. This is often required of college students seeking rental housing in which your name is on the lease as the tenant. In New York specifically, the guarantor must live in the tri-state area and make an average of 80x the monthly rent.

Studio: an apartment in which there is no separate bedroom. The living space, kitchen and bedroom are all in one room.

Some favorable search methods –

1. Word-of-mouth.

Put the word out that you are seeking a short-term rental or sublet. Your friends or friends of friends may be able to connect you to an ideal property. We also asked Dr. Solis the best method for finding listings. He agreed referrals and word of mouth are the top methods to find apartments, and suggests "ask friends, current residents, or former residents." 

2. Facebook.

Alex Hutt, a VT senior studying Industrial Design with an industrial design internship this summer in San Francisco, CA – offers her advice for Facebook group searches. “I found my summer apartment through a Facebook group called San Francisco Housing, Rooms, Apartments, Sublets.” [My advice is] “definitely be persistent, know your budget and [use] FaceTime. I know it sounds weird, but think of it like the MTV show Catfish. If your landlord/subletter isn't willing to do a video chat, your apartment may be a scam. Also, if the price is too good to be true, the apartment is most likely a scam.”

3. Trusted Websites.

Brick Underground offers many helpful tips for those seeking short-term and long-term apartment rentals in New York City. In an article on Brick Underground titled, “The 8 Best Websites for Finding a No Fee Rental Apartment in NYC,” you can read more about finding no fee apartments. 

Expert picks: realtor.comtrulia.comzillow.com

While some listings are more geared towards long-term leases, you can find an array of sublets for the summer that meet your desired dates. My top recommendations for short-term rentals and sublets are Leasebreak.com, Sublets.com and ListingsProject.com.

Alternatively, you can score monthly subleases on Airbnb, which gives the added comfort of immediately scouring popular apartments and seeing ample guest reviews for nearly all listings. The downside is prices seem to be very competitive, so it may be better to seek other options.

After researching, try to compare at least three options.

Don’t ever just commit to one place, unless you are totally sure and the apartment offers exactly what your needs require. Usually, professionals recommend comparing at least three options. While a summer housing search is on a short-term basis, it is still great practice to compare three options.

Finally, make the decision.

If you are unable to view the apartment in person, but you have a friend who lives in the city you intend to live in for the summer, then ask them to view the apartment on your behalf and send you a video.

This enables you to make a quick decision without being present. It is strongly discouraged to pay “site unseen,” so either send a friend, video chat the landlord/current tenant or schedule a trip to view apartments. NEVER make a payment without seeing the place. After approving of the apartment, then go through the sublease or rental agreement and read through the terms.

Hopefully these tips have prepared you for your summer housing search if you have not already begun it. With the necessary preparation and frequency in checking new listings, then you are sure to find a place to call your (summer) home.

Image sources: Rep Image / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7