From dorms to apartments to houses, from living by yourself to having a bunch of roommates, there are many options when it comes to finding housing. When trying to find the perfect place for you, the process can feel unfamiliar or overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some tips to help make your search as efficient as possible.
Create a List of Non-Negotiables
Your first step should be creating a list of features that you will not compromise on. This includes (arguably, most importantly) creating a budget: determining the maximum amount you want to spend each month on rent. Other non-negotiables to consider could be the length of your lease (typically either 9 or 12 months), number of roommates, included amenities, ability to sublet, and walkability to campus.
It’s important to note that this list should be on the shorter side. Realistically, you most likely won’t find your dream space: one that checks all of your boxes. Therefore, it’s important to determine your necessities early.
Plan Your Timeline
Once you have an idea of what you’re looking for, the next step is to create a timeline. This doesn’t have to be anything thorough, but simply a plan of action to stay on top of your search. Housing in U District, especially affordable housing, goes quickly. Determine when you want to search, when you want to find roommates (if applicable), and when you want to sign your lease (while some places have pre-leasing—the option to sign months in advance—some places do not). Creating a plan of action is the best way to guarantee you’re not scrambling at the last minute.
Utilize Online Discussion Boards
If you’re looking for off-campus housing, and not sure where to start, my advice is that social media is your friend. More specifically, UW Housing Facebook Groups. This is a great way to see what’s in the area, and understand what pricing looks like. It also helps you search for specific criteria.
Or Walk Around the Area
Another option is to walk around U District and see what you can find. If you see a place that catches your eye, make a note of that. Many apartment buildings have signs with contact information, making it easy to get more details. But if you see somewhere that doesn’t have contact information, don’t stress! Try looking up the address online and see if you can find the owner or property manager.
Make Sure to Tour the Space
Before you make any decisions, take a tour. In fact, take tours of multiple places. It can be tempting to sign a lease at the first place you visit. But keep in mind, property owners and managers constantly try to take advantage of students. The more spaces you see, the better you become at determining the benefits from the red flags. To make sure you’re getting all of the information, it’s always beneficial to have a list of questions prepared.
And Consult Tenants
Those giving you the tour are trying to sell you a product, so of course the pitch is inherently biased. A great method to get a less biased perspective is to consult current or past tenants. An easy way to do this is to look at a building’s Google Reviews. If that’s not an option, or you’re looking for a more detailed analysis, ask someone you know who lives there. Or while you’re on a tour, if you run into a tenant, ask them about their experience.
Read Over the Lease CAREFULLY
Although this may go without saying, I cannot stress enough the importance of reading your lease. As I mentioned earlier, landlords try to take advantage of students. There may be questionable clauses in your lease that weren’t mentioned to you.
If you’re worried about your lease, or want someone to go over it, contact Student Legal Services. This is an on-campus law office where UW students can ask questions or express concerns. According to their website, landlord/tenant disputes are one of their most common areas of practice. So if you need someone to look over your lease, don’t hesitate to schedule a consultation.
Whether you start your search now or months later, it’s crucial to not be rash when signing a lease. There are many different options available, so remember to plan accordingly to find the best place for you.