Most college students reach a point where they start to grow tired of their college dorm and look into living off campus. For some this can be as early as their sophomore year of college, or as late as their senior year. While most students may be eager to jump right into their new housing and basking in their new freedoms, there are several things these students should consider before diving in and signing a lease. Failure to do proper research can lead to painful obstacles both financially and mentally, leaving some students angry and stressed over their living situations. Here are some things to consider before rushing into off campus housing.
Find a group of people you mesh well with
This is one of the first steps anyone should consider. If you have no one to live with, chances are you will not be living off campus anytime soon. Consider who you’d want to have as housemates; it could friends from your fraternity or sorority, an academic club or class, a student organization, or friends from your college dorm. The point is to carefully consider who you would not mind living with for a year in such an intimate setting, since you aren’t choosing just one additional person to live with. In my situation, there are currently 10 of us living in one residential home off campus (with a lot of different personalities, it can get a little crazy at times), but all of us get along great.
Find the right house
There are many different variables to consider when choosing a house: how far is it from campus, how many rooms are there, how big are the rooms, can it accommodate a large group of people in the basement (for social gatherings of course), etc. You should also be aware of whether or not you will be doubling with someone or taking a single once you and your friends have decided on a house. If a lot of you have a girlfriend or boyfriend, you might have to fight hard for those few singles in the house. If you’re lucky enough to all get a single, even better. As you can see, there are many different things to consider, so I suggest you sit down, either by yourself or with your housemates, and figure out what you want in your house off campus. Your school might have a network of landlords you can use to find a house, or you can look online for one. Once you’ve found a house that fits your needs, your next step should be to check out the owners.
Do a background check on your landlord
While some of us might like to believe everyone is a decent person, not everyone is. It’s a crucial step before you settle on your off campus housing that you do your research on the landlord of the house. Ask the current tenants what their relationship is like with the landlord and whether they’ve experienced any problems such as not being able to get in touch with them over an issue with the house. A few years back some friends of mine had several headaches with their landlords that resulted in them losing time and money that could have been avoided if they’d spoken to the previous tenants. While it’s important to have a good relationship with your landlord, remember that they’re running a business and will treat their relationship with you as such.
Examine the lease
While most college students, such as myself, simply skip to the bottom of the terms of agreement and accept everything without reading, you should stop and give your lease a hard look. Some leases will be short and straightforward, while others may be several pages long with lots of detail. Examine every clause and understand completely what your responsibilities as a tenant are as well as what the landlord’s responsibilities are. Make sure you get your own copy and let your parents look it over, especially if they’ll be the ones paying your rent.
There are other things to consider as well, such as the costs associated with off campus housing, utilities and furniture for your room. Once you’ve sorted everything out and you’ve signed your lease, you’ll be on your way to much more freedom.