Written By: Michelle Barrett, Junior at The Ohio State University, FLI Program Participant
(This content has been edited for clarity and grammar)
So, you’re looking to move off-campus? I can certainly help. In my sophomore year of college, I had no plan and no idea where to start. I had no idea where to start looking or in which areas to start looking for an apartment. It took me a while to gain the confidence to go on apartment tours or even call for an appointment, but I eventually found my first home. I made this checklist to help guide students in their off-campus housing from one struggling student to another. So, what should you do first?
Make A Plan
Before you search for places set up a realistic monthly budget sheet. How much you do see yourself spending each month? This budget sheet should include your budget for your new places such as rent, utilities (gas, water, trash), Wi-Fi, and your current bills that you may already have such as car payments, phone bills, and food. You can also create a checklist to budget everything you might need for your new places such as furniture, decorations, bedding, bathroom items, utilities, storage, cleaning supplies, food, and electronics. You must have a steady income before filling out the application. Most housing requires tenants to bring in three times the amount of rent each month. For example, if the rent is $800, you should be making $2,400/monthly. After you budget your monthly budget, consider whether you can afford to pay that amount each month, if not consider other options such as subleasing or having a roommate that could help.
Start Your Search Early
When considering moving you should start searching for a place as soon as possible. Typically, upper-class students begin their search for housing at the beginning of the school year and winter break. Seniors and juniors typically get the first pick on housing that is near campus or have the first pick of nicer housing. Waiting until the last minute could result in having to live further away from campus or living in old senior housing.
Each university should offer support in moving off-campus. Googling your university off-campus housing provides links to local property owners. You could also use websites like Apartments.com or Rentcollegepads.com to search for housing. These websites help filter out requirements that you have such as being pet friendly, having a pool, near campus, a bus route to campus, local stores, and much more.
Tour and Ask Questions
Never sign a lease without touring and reading the entire lease first. You can set up tours on the property websites. So important questions to ask during your tour are:
- Are pets allowed?
- Is the flooring/carpet cleaned?
- Do all the outlets work?
- Do the AC/heating work?
- Is this unit electric or gas heating?
- Is there washing/dryer on-site?
- Is there on-site parking or a garage? Are there parking fees and if so, are they included in the rent?
- How close is it to public or university transit? (if you don’t have a car)
Asking these questions is important because the property owner isn’t required to tell you unless you ask. Do not be afraid to ask any questions!
If you find a place that is within your budget, you have already pre-inspected the unit, now you need to contact the leasing office to sign your application. Housing applications usually have an application fee. If so, you will have to pay for this. You’ll also have to show proof of employment, photo ID, past residences, references, and proof of residency. Some property owners might need your credit score depending on the property owner.
Make sure you thoroughly read your lease and ask detailed questions about your lease before signing.
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