To say the least, living in the dorms was an interesting experience for me. From community bathrooms to not having a good roommate experience, I was eagerly waiting for the opportunity to venture off campus. I wanted to wake up to carpet under my feet instead of tile, have a kitchen area not shared with 300 other residents, have my own room, and not have to share a bathroom with all of the girls on my floor, just to name a few. Aside from a few of the basics that I wanted to have in my future living arrangement, it was definitely a big decision that required a lot of thought. Did I want to rent out a house or apartment? What about a duplex? How close to the school did I want to be? Did I want to live with roommates or be on my own? Did I want a complex that catered to college students or not? Today, I’m hoping to give you my advice based off of what I learned from going through my apartment search. Just be sure to remember, I’m definitely not an expert and you should always ask the leasing assistants at the apartment complexes you look at if you want specification on how things work at their property. I wrote this post based off of how I noticed complexes where in my area.
Money Saving Options
Fun fact: sometimes apartment complexes offer deals if you sign during prime leasing season on a particular kind of unit. This ‘deal’ could range from waiving your service fee, giving out gift cards, allowing you to move-in earlier, giving you prizes, and more. It’s amazing how much the little fees can add up when you are signing your lease and any kind of fee that you can have waived or any prize that you can get is a bonus worth taking. I highly recommend that if you go to look at places to rent you ask if they are currently running any specials. But just remember, if you waited until the last minute to sign, sometimes it’s not worth waiting for an upcoming deal/special because you might miss out on getting the unit you wanted.
Rent vs. Installments
An interesting thing that I learned is that some complexes have you pay monthly rent and some complexes have you pay monthly installments. Monthly rent is a bit different because at the complexes discernment they can raise your monthly rent payments, but with an installment you are typically paying off a lump sum that can’t be changed. When you look at apartments, ask whether they do rent or installments and be sure to mention that you want to know if you monthly payment can be changed month to month. It definitely can make a difference if they have the ability to raise your rent, so it’s something you want to know about before you sign the lease.
A typical lease runs January-December for one year, but in my college town it’s common that the complexes run from August 15th-July 31st. Some places occasionally allow you to sign a lease starting on the first of any month and ending a year later. Always be sure to know how long the lease goes because you don’t want to find yourself trying to move and find a new place to live during fall semester finals.
Distance from Campus
When I looked for apartments my second semester of freshman year, I wanted to be as far away from campus as possible. I had lived in a dorm that was basically in Greek town and it wasn’t uncommon to hear music blaring outside until 4am and all day if it was nice outside. Scarred from that experience, I had figured that the further from campus, the quieter it would be. Definitely not the case. As long as you are off campus and not in areas where there are a lot of bars (which in my town is downtown), then you should get peace and quiet. If you want the bars to be right across the street from you, then go ahead. I just wouldn’t handle the noise well if I was trying to get some rest.
Live on Your Own/With Roommates
As I’ve mentioned a little before, I definitely did not have a good roommate experience and because of that I was determined to find a one bedroom apartment. But maybe you had a different experience. Maybe you know that you want to be able to go into the living room and hang out with your roommates and then go to your room for some time to yourself or maybe you are like me and when you get back from a long day on campus and at work you just want some time to yourself to relax and get some work done. And remember, if living on your own or with roommates for one year doesn’t work for you, you can always try to move to a different kind of unit the next leasing period.
Where you want to live can make a big difference. Whether you want to rent out an apartment, duplex, or house it’s all up to you. I have a friend that wanted to rent a duplex simply because she knew she would have a garage to park her car and store her bike and Christmas décor, but for me the simple parking structure cover outside of my apartment building was fine by me. If you are trying to decide what kind of unit you want to live in, call different complexes that you have found and schedule a tour so that way you have an idea of whether you want an apartment/house/duplex.
Amenities that are Important to You
In my large college town, it’s not uncommon for the complexes further than a 10 minute walk from campus to offer a shuttle service that goes to and from the complex to your university. They will also typically offer a computer lab with free printing and will host events to benefit students. Take into consideration if you want these kinds of amenities or if you are the kind of person that just wants a pool and gym area at your complex. Another amenity to ask about is whether or not your unit will have a porch or outdoor area that you have access to.
Ask what is allowed and what’s not
When you actually take the time to read the lease when you sign, you might be surprised to read what you are allowed to have and what you aren’t allowed to have. Some complexes very strictly don’t allow pets, multiple guests to stay over at once, grills, candles, and other things that you might have thought you could have. While many people are willing to “risk it” and try to get past these things any ways, there is often a huge fine for doing so. Even if you have read the lease, be sure to ask the leasing assistant at the complex what you are and are not allowed to have on the property and if there is anything you are required to purchase for the unity, as I’ve heard of several places that require people to buy their own fire extinguishers, furniture pieces, light bulbs, etc.
Safety Features at the Complex
Safety should be taken into consideration no matter where you live. Make sure that the building you live in is well lit along with the parking lot, ask if there are security systems for the rooms (typically this is only in houses or duplexes), ask how the keys work for the main door to enter your apartment, and know who to contact if you feel uncomfortable. A lot of the complexes in my area actually have a policeman that lives on campus for you to contact if you were to ever feel unsafe on the property, but that is just in my specific area.
If you have made the venture off of campus, what kind of living option did you chose and how did it work out for you? Is there anything you would have done differently or that you would add to this list? And if you haven’t made the venture off of campus, what are you hoping to find in where you chose to live? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!