Renter Guide for Students

04 Dec 2019

Housing is one of the most important aspects that students should consider when moving to college or university. While many colleges recommend freshmen to live on-campus, within time, it becomes obvious that off-campus housing is a rather beneficial alternative, especially for students who have already accumulated some experience of living on their own. According to recent estimates, on average, 44 percent of undergraduate students choose to live off-campus. By doing so, they significantly save on housing expenses. However, it is important to consider several aspects in order to truly enjoy off-campus living.

Budgeting is the Very First Step

Many private and public colleges and universities in the US promote their room-and-board offerings as convenient living options for students. They bring some obvious benefits, like good location and absence of bills for electricity, water, and gas, as well as a security deposit. But the costs are considerable because schools charge thousands of dollars for services that some students don’t need at all. In contrast, off-campus apartments often turn out to be cheaper, but there are some additional costs that students should keep in mind while looking for a place to rent. Here are some usual expenses that come along with rent cost that students will pay to their landlord on a weekly or monthly basis:

Although one should possess a considerable budget to cover these fees, monthly payments do not suggest such significant expenses. Furthermore, students can end up with a lower budget, for instance, by finding roommates and using public transport instead of a car, or at least by sharing a car with roommates.

Tips on How to Pay Less for Rent

Unlike on-campus housing that provides no opportunities to save costs, off-campus apartments enable students to find solutions and pay less for rent. Here are some recommendations on how to save:

  • Live with roommates – share costs with other students;
  • Negotiate with your landlord – if you reasonably think that suggested price is too high, try to negotiate; you will likely end up with a lower rent;
  • Look for promotions from service providers – you can save some money by changing providers from time to time and looking for promotional rates;
  • Know average prices and local laws – sometimes, landlords break the law by demanding massive rent; knowledge or relevant laws can help you lower rental costs;
  • Terminate prematurely – if there is a cheaper option that you find attractive, and if you can cover the early termination penalty in just a few months, than why not?

In addition to listed hacks, students can also save money by using utilities wisely. For instance, you will save some money if you switch off the light and turn off cooling/heating when leaving an apartment.

Choosing Roommates and Building Friendly Relationships with Them

Evidently, sharing expenses with roommates is an effective way to save on rent. You can find roommates among friends or by checking advertisements. Students can search for candidates on campus or online, using social media and checking relevant websites and apps. Craigslist, Padmapper, Roommates.com, and Roomster are among the online options for search. Some of these also enable users to verify the candidate’s trustworthiness, but it is still very important to meat potential roommates beforehand and discuss terms and conditions.

How can you secure yourself from conflicts when there is no guarantee that roommates will share your interests and lifestyle? Indeed, depending on their backgrounds and origins, people may have very different daily routines and values. But certain decisions can help turn such cohabitation into a memorable and culturally enriching experience. Signing a Roommate Agreement is one of the options. Of course, there is no need to turn into Sheldon Cooper from “The Big Bang Theory” and try to control every step of your future roommates. But you should list all the important aspects that you want your roommates to know and respect. Also, you should think of some conflict resolution tactics beforehand. For instance, what will you do if one of the roommates can’t pay the rent? You should write down acceptable delays and agreed penalties even if your relationship with roommates is really great.

Where to Find an Apartment?

You should consider the same approaches when looking for accommodation. First, it is sound to refer to your school’s housing office for suggestions. Current students and alumni also can provide you with good recommendations so you should consider checking housing groups on Facebook and talking to them in person. Finally, there are many websites that help students find various rooms and apartments for rent. Here are them:

StreetEasy

If you attend a college or a university in NYC, then this website will be of use to you. Using keywords, address, minimum and maximum budget, and/or desired number of rooms, students can search for apartments for rent. Advertisements contain photographs and general information about apartments, as well as contact information.

HotPads

Students can search for apartments by city, price, and number of beds. All options that meet their search settings are conveniently presented on a map, so students can easily assess distances between desired apartments and the campus.

Zillow

Using settings pertaining to the city, price, a number of beds and home types among other users can customize their search and find relevant options that meet their demands. A map is also available, so students can see the exact location of apartments for rent.

ApartmentGuide

Here, students can search for apartments by state and by city. Advertisements provide general information about available options, along with photographs. Website settings enable search customization; for instance, students can find pet-friendly options or special rent suggestions among other apartments. There is also a map, so users can see exact locations of chosen accommodations and easily estimate the distance to college or university.

Rent.com

This is one more source where students can search for rental options by city and housing type. They can find apartments and houses that meet their expectations concerning price, number of bedrooms, and other characteristics. All available apartments are presented on the map, which conveniently clarifies exact locations. Like in previous cases, each advertisement contains a general description, photos, and contact information. Users can save variants they liked most.

ForRentUniversity

Here, students can filter apartments available for rent by a particular university or college. This very convenient because even students who relocate from other states can find apartments located near colleges without any additional efforts. Each advertisement contains information about the distance to the campus.

Student Housing

Students can search by college, city, or property type among other characteristics. They can also install and use the corresponding app, which makes the search even more convenient.

Student Accommodation

Here, students can find off-campus housing by city, type, price, and house size. An option of choosing by the university is also available. In addition to search help, this service provides accommodation advice.

Nestpick.com

This source provides information to students searching for rent in the US or in Europe. Easy-to-use filters ensure that the chosen apartment perfectly matches the users’ demands.

Housing Anywhere

This source provides access to mid to long-term rentals. Still, students who are looking for temporary accommodation can search it here as well.

Pros and Cons of Different Housing Types

Depending on their budget and preferences, students may choose among different housing types. The variants have both advantages and disadvantages, some of which are listed below:

Leasing

When you have chosen your accommodation, found roommates, and contacted the landlord, deciding on leasing terms and conditions is the last step before moving into the property. To rent an apartment, house, or room, you should sign legal documents that describe major rent terms, including the period of leasing. Usually, longer periods of rent make apartments cheaper. However, it is important to make all necessary calculations, because early termination often results in some penalty the amount of which can vary. Students may choose among the 1-year lease, 6-months lease, or month-to-month lease options. Obviously, the last variant costs the most, but it provides students with the greatest flexibility in decision making: they can terminate the lease whenever it is comfortable for them, without the need to wait another month. Given that students attend colleges by semesters, 6-months or 1-year lease options should be acceptable as well.

Students can sign either lease or sublease agreements. The lease agreement is signed with the landlord. This legal document lists major agreements between the landlord and the tenant. For instance, it clarifies the price of rent and specific dates when it should be paid out, lists deposits covered by a tenant, and specifies possible penalties. An original tenant can sign a sublease document with roommates to clarify major rent conditions and terms. In order to be able to sublet, an original tenant should get the landlord’s permission. No matter which of these documents students will sign, they should read them carefully beforehand. It is important to ensure clarity because any misunderstandings can eventually result in financial losses.

List of Questions to Ask Your Landlord

Here are some questions that students should ask to ensure their safety and convenience in a rented property:

  • Are there smoke detectors installed?
  • Is it possible to test a carbon monoxide alarm?
  • Are there fire exits?
  • Are there any limitations to property customization?
  • Are there any quiet hours?
  • Will there be any inspections made by staff or other landlord’s representatives?
  • Are there any guest restrictions?
  • How security deposits will be refunded?

Avoid Scammers

Unfortunately, while looking for off-campus housing solutions, students may deal with rental scams. There are some signs that can help identify a scammer who wants to still your money. For instance, when the price is too low for a given apartment, it is likely to be a scam. Also, scammers rarely show property referring to various excuses. Grammatical mistakes in advertisements or early requests to male payments also should act as signals for you. Evidently, you should pay attention to every factor that makes you suspicious. There are no reasons for you to accept excuses for incorrect grammar, lack of opportunities to show an apartment or requests for payments without signing legal documents first because there are many other options on the market. Instead of taking risks, consider finding more trustworthy alternatives.

Off-Campus Housing Is Worth Considering

Overall, renting accommodation off-campus is a good way to save money. Unlike on-campus housing, the rented property provides students with significant freedom. They can choose their roommates as well as determine the approaches to money spent on their own. Eventually, they can better control their expenses, receiving comfortable accommodation and new experience for a fair price.