Whether you prefer to find housing off-campus, or you were forced to because there was no room in the dorms, an apartment is a big commitment.
In a college dorm, you don’t have to deal with monthly bills and roommates not paying rent. If you were hungry, places to eat are close by.
College apartments are much closer to the real world. You will likely have to sign a lease on your apartment and pay monthly bills, which if not paid timely will impact your credit for years to come.
In addition, you will have to deal with finding your own roommates and making sure they pay their share of the rent and bills. Some college students will need to have a parent or relative co-sign a lease in order to rent a college apartment.
Housing off-campus does have some benefits over college dorms.
- Depending on the school’s location, you may be able to find college apartments that are nicer, or less expensive than the dorms at your school.
- There may still be rules at your college apartment, but they are likely less strict than that of a dorm.
- Assuming you pay your monthly utility, electricity, water and cable bill on-time, you can start building a positive credit history.
- Most college dorms are so crowded that your building and roommate may be chosen based on a lottery and you feel that your housing decisions were a roll of a dice.
- With college apartments, you have much more freedom and control over your roommates, location, building structure and amenities.
We’ve put together some tips to help you find college apartments and make smart financial decisions:
Start With a Budget
Use this monthly budget calculator to make sure you can afford to live in a college apartment before you start your search. Don’t forget to include additional expenses, like water, utilities, electricity, cable and internet.
If you can’t afford to live on your own, or prefer not to, you can split these expenses with one or more roommates.
Evaluate Campus Housing
Some colleges own campus housing, which are not dorms. These properties are generally located just off-campus and have a similar vibe to apartments.
In cities where housing is very hard to find, you might want to evaluate campus housing.
Find Your College Apartment
If you have chosen not to use campus housing owned by the university, you’ll need to start your own college apartment search.
- You can check with the student activities or housing office at your school to see if they can recommend any local complexes that cater to students.
- You can also check the student newspaper for advertisements and move-in specials offered by local apartment complexes.
If you prefer to work with a single individual landlord, instead of a corporate run apartment complex, try the classifieds in both the student and local newspaper.
Remember to make sure that you are located as close to school as possible. If your university offers transportation, you may want to make sure that your apartment is located near a campus bus stop.
A lease is a legally binding contract, so it’s important to understand exactly what you are signing. Make sure you review the term of the lease, the fees expected of you, and the rules outlined by your landlord.
For instance, if the lease says “no pets allowed,” and you decide to bring your pet anyways, the landlord can demand that you remove the pet from the property. If you don’t comply, your landlord can have you removed from the property.
Paying rent on-time is one of the basic items outlined in your college lease.
- If you don’t pay on-time, your landlord can charge you a late fee.
- If you don’t pay for an extended period of time, your landlord may start the eviction process.
It’s important to maintain a good relationship with your landlord, because your future landlords may call upon them as a reference before allowing you to rent a property.
If you are going to be splitting the rent with roommates, it’s probably a good idea that you all sign the lease.
If only your name appears on the lease, and your roommate fails to pay the rent, you are legally responsible to come up with the money. If the rent is not covered, your landlord has legal recourse with you and could take you to court. In that situation, there is no legal document binding your roommate to the rent payment.
No matter how much you trust your roommates, financial issues can happen, so try to cover all bases.
Furnish Your Apartment
College dorm rooms come with almost all the furniture you need. If you choose to live in a campus apartment, you’re going to have to find furnishings.
Plenty of college students change roommates and apartments from year to year, so it’s probably not worthwhile to buy brand new furniture.
- See if your family or friends have hand-me-down furniture that they would be willing to donate to you.
- The student newspaper or website for your school may have furniture listed in the classified that other students are giving away or selling for cheap.
- There are always people in your area selling used furniture on Craigslist.