The Beginner’s Guide To Renting Your First Off-Campus Apartment

Get excited! It’s finally time to leave that stuffy dorm room behind. Your days of confined space and communal bathrooms are over. You’re finally ready to move into your first off-campus apartment. Independence is so close you could touch it, but before you finalize your Pinterest board, let’s make sure you’re fully equipped to make the best renting decisions. Here are a few things to consider before, and as, you move in!

1. Budget, Budget, Budget!

Woohoo! You’ve picked a place! Now what? First off, establish a budget. College is pricey enough. (Don’t forget about those student loans.) When you start apartment living, it’s important to be realistic about decorating, laundry, parking, eating and cleaning expenses.

If you haven’t already, remember to factor in additional costs, such as a security deposit and monthly utilities if you have them.

2. Establish a Flow with Your Roomie

In the case you can’t afford rent each month on your own, you may have chosen to rent with a roommate. Ah, roommates. They’re either a great matches or a total disasters. Sit down together early on and figure out how you want to split utilities, cleaning duties, etc.

The day-to-day maintenance will probably be similar to how you did things with your dorm roommate. However, apartments can need more upkeep, especially if they’re older. And sometimes landlords who rent to college students won’t be as quick to fix things as your dorm building’s maintenance personnel.

Make a plan early on as to how you and your roommate will handle these types of duties so that things don’t get out of hand. It’s also a good idea, as with any living situation, to figure out your roommate’s general schedule. Are they night owls or early birds? How do their routines compare to yours? You need to try to get on the same page. A lease is a legal agreement and you can’t email housing and change roommates if things go sour. So, it’s better to get ahead of the game!

3. Getting to Class

Think about how far you are from your classes and how much time you’ll need to get to class. Will you have a car? If you don’t have a car, can you look into local bus routes? In that case, you may also need to purchase a bus pass, which could be another thing to factor into your overall budget.

You know your morning or afternoon routine, so plan ahead by asking yourself if a longer commute works with your schedule. The last thing you want to do is rush to class every day.

4. Inspect and Take Pictures

Before moving your things in, inspect your potential new pad to make sure everything is still as nice as it was when you toured and signed. It sounds boring, but trust me: you should take the time to inspect the condition of your home.

Remember… You may have toured a staging apartment, and not the one you ended up with. Note any cracks or damages and bring them to the attention of the leasing office or your landlord right away. You do not want to be charged for anything that wasn’t your doing.

Once your landlord or company is aware of any damages, if you still want to proceed as is, just make sure to take (and keep!) pictures of everything so that, again, you’re not charged for that damage.

During your walk-through, you will want to note the following:

  • Is there enough natural lighting? (Tip: This will be important when it comes to your electric bill)
  • Is the water pressure sufficient? Test out the faucets!
  • Are appliances like dishwashers, washing machines, etc. working?
  • Are there any other issues that weren’t there before, like holes in the walls?

Keep the pictures you take all year, and be careful not to do too much damage to the place. Renting damage costs can be really pricey. We all love a Friday night cocktail party with the girls, but when small parties turn big and get out of hand, the damage can (literally) be explosive.

If you’re really doubting yourself though, you can consider getting renters’ insurance! This can help cover the costs of certain damages, and depending on your plan, there can be other cool perks (I got to stay in a beautiful close-to-campus hotel room for a few weeks when my college apartment had an electrical fire). So it’s worth at least inquiring about!

5. Read and Keep a Copy of Your Lease

Read your lease in its entirety. Ask your landlord questions about anything unclear. It’s important you understand all the details. You’ll also want to keep a copy of that lease on-hand in case you run into any issues along the way.

After you have everything situated, introduce yourself to your neighbors. Remember to be respectful of those around you and take good care of your place — you don’t live in a college dorm anymore. Now, get excited about decorating and making the space your own!

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash



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