Off-campus housing enables you to pursue a college education without many of the constraints that come with dormitory living. Finding the perfect place to live and learn is a process, however, and you have to be willing to do your fair share of homework about potential properties.
Explore Both Yourself and Nearby Neighborhoods
Good off-campus housing fits seamlessly with the way you want to live your life. For example, if you like being out and about, a property near bus, subway or other transportation systems can be ideal. Do some basic self-reflection to figure out what your priorities are and what types of amenities are must-haves for you.
As you do this, visit different neighborhoods and talk to people who live in them to get a sense of each community’s flavor. Even if the housing in a location is perfect, you still might not want to sign a lease if everything else around you doesn’t gel with who you are.
Most real estate agencies, such as Dixons Estate Agents, Dixons Branch, can give you a sense of what different communities offer, as their entire business is to match renters and buyers to best-fit properties.
Get Serious About the Financial Numbers
The next step in finding the right property to support your academics is to set your budget. The main rule of thumb in doing this is to be realistic and don’t overspend! Aside from this key point, remember that spending a little more for some “extra” amenities might translate to savings in the long run. For example, if your property has a fitness center, you might not need to have a membership at a pricey gym.
Make Sure You’ll Be Safe
Getting a good education at a reasonable cost shouldn’t go hand in hand with compromised security. Check that the properties you are considering are up to date on regulations, such as fire. Look for areas of potential hazards during your walk-through, and don’t be shy about asking representatives when the facilities were last cleaned, renovated or otherwise maintained.
This is also the time to find out what the maintenance services are like, such as who you should call with emergencies and how long it takes for staff to complete work orders. Consider whether the neighborhood for each property has a low crime rate, and verify what types of security (for instance, keyed entry, locks, live personnel) the property manager can provide.
Decide If You Want Roommates
Having a roommate means you can split the cost of utilities and rent, which can make a big difference in whether or not a property makes sense for the budget you’ve set. The more roommates you have, the cheaper you can live as you study.
The flip side of this, of course, is that you have to be careful that any roommate you pick is trustworthy and a good fit for you. You also should understand that others having access to the property affects security.
Plan and Take a Tour Early
Depending on where you’re going to college, there might be hundreds or even thousands of students who all are looking for affordable and comfortable properties near the campus. Properties thus have a tendency to fill fast, especially if they’re considered top rated.
Taking a tour of properties well in advance — at least two months — gives you time to really consider all your options, plan for the move and submit your application before someone else grabs the spot you want. Imagine yourself living at the property as you tour. If something feels off in your gut, it probably is.
Go Over the Lease
Even though you might be tempted to move into a place near campus without a lease in an attempt to get more freedom or save money, don’t. Without anything in writing, you have very little legal recourse if anything goes wrong during your stay, and what you and the staff are responsible for will be one big sticky grey area ripe for potential conflict.
Read the lease one, two, three times or more if you have to. If most of the lease is acceptable but there is one or two small points holding you back, talk to the leasing agent about your concerns. Some agents respond well to reasonable requests.
Finding a good place to live while you’re going to college probably won’t happen overnight. It’s also up to you to investigate choices thoroughly, asking honest questions of representatives before you sign your lease. Use these steps to move toward a new home without regrets!
Isobel Ryan works as a student liaison officer and is able to offer a useful perspective on how to make acclimatize to the demands of student life. She is a frequent contributor on a variety of relevant websites.