By Lorraine McKinney
When you choose to live off-campus instead of in the dorms when you are in college, the first thing you have to do is find a good place, which isn’t always easy. While there may be plenty of apartments available to rent, it doesn’t mean that they are going to be suitable for your needs, or even livable for that matter. So, here are some things to think about when you are looking for a place to live while you are in school.
- Tour the Neighborhood – When you find an apartment you are interested in, check out the neighborhood. There are certain things to look for. Make sure it is on a bus route. Also, find out from people who live in the area if it is a safe place to live, and if there is anything or anyone you should look out for. Don’t forget to make sure that it is in close proximity to the school. While this isn’t necessary, it helps when you are running late for class and you don’t have to go all the way across town to get there.
- Tour the Right Place – Many landlords will show you their more expensive apartments rather than the one you actually want to consider renting. These apartments are all set up for show, but they aren’t going to show you what your potential place will look like. Ask the landlord if you can see the actual apartment that is for rent rather than the showcase apartment.
- Check the Walk Score – Residential properties are assigned a Walk Score between one and 10. This will tell you how far it is to walk to school, stores, restaurants, etc. If you don’t have a vehicle and tend to walk to most of your destinations, you need to make sure that you live in an area that is close to everywhere you need to be. Otherwise, you will end up spending extra money on cabs, subways, etc.
- Talk to Tenants – “It is a good idea to speak with people who already live in the building to learn more about it. The landlord can tell you all kinds of great things, but you won’t know the full story until you talk to the people who actually live there,” says an expert from Miami Properties. Ask what they like about the building, if the landlord keeps up with repairs and maintenance, etc. There will always be at least one or two tenants in the building who love to talk, and who will give you the lowdown.
- Inspect the Apartment – Before you sign the lease, make sure that you give the apartment a thorough going-through. And, be sure to bring along your phone or a camera so you can take photos. This way, you can prove what the place looked like before you moved in if the landlord tries to say that you ruined anything. Also, be sure to check for anything that may need repairing, and make sure that the landlord agrees to make repairs before you sign the lease.
- Inspect the Lease – Be sure to carefully look over your lease before you sign it. If there are any discrepancies between the lease and what you have discussed with the landlord, now is the time to get things straightened out. Also, you need to make sure that you won’t get locked into a lease that you can’t get out of if you need to.
- Furnish for Free – Once the lease is signed and the rent is paid, it is time to move in. You probably don’t have a lot of furniture, but, don’t go out and spend a lot of money on stuff you will likely throw out after you graduate. Talk to graduating seniors about donating furniture they won’t be taking with them when they leave. Visit thrift shops for cheap items. Just be careful about stuffed furniture, such as beds and sofas, because of bedbugs and other creepy crawlies.
Lorraine McKinney is an academic tutor and elearning specialist.