How do I choose off-campus housing?

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Answered by: Megan, An Expert in the Life Off Campus Category
Off-campus living is all about personal preferences, lots of research, and trade-offs. It is important to keep in mind that not all off-campus living situations will fit all your needs. Yet is is all essential to know what you are looking for. And to take adequate steps to make a more informed decision about where you will be living.

After all, once you sign a lease, it is your obligation to live there for the term it specifies. It may take a little work, but it is better to do the extra research and enjoy your living situation rather than be stuck living somewhere you hate.

The first step in choosing where to live off-campus is to make a list of what you are looking for. Write down five things that are essential for you to have in your accommodations. These should be things that you absolutely must have when choosing a place to live. If you can compromise on something, don't put it on the list. These are your deal breakers. If a living situation does not have these, it would not be right for you to live there.

These deal breakers could be price ranges, locations, amenities, pet policies, etc. For example, if you just simply cannot live without having a pool, then it is a deal breaker. If you can see yourself being disappointed but not completely crushed, then it is not a deal breaker. Leave the pool off the list.

Once you have compiled your list of five deal breakers it is time to research off-campus living situations in your area. It is helpful to pick up a local housing guide from your school. If your school does not provide these, online is your best bet. When researching apartments online it is important to look for your deal breakers. If an apartment complex or home does not meet your deal breakers, automatically discard it. When you come across a place that looks like a possibility, write it down. Include information such as location, contact numbers, monthly rent, any deposits, and other important policies. Compile a list of all possible living situations.

After you get a list of possible accommodations, visit them. After all, a website can only portray so much. It is better to really get the vibe of the community, neighbors, and owner's attitudes. Before you visit, make a list of questions to ask each place you will visit. It is important to think of these questions ahead of time and to write them down so you don't forget on the spot. These questions should be anything unclear about the website. Or anything that may be specific to your situation. It is also important to ask questions about exact rents, prices, and dates.

After you have your list of questions it is time to visit. Try to call and schedule an appointment to look at the apartment or home. That way you can be ensured a time spot with management. While visiting, look for your deal breakers. Also, pay attention to the owners and employee's attitude. If they seem rude or unprofessional from the start, it may be time to take your business elsewhere. Take a tour of the facility, asking to see an actual unit rather than a model unit. This ensures you are seeing what you will actually be paying for.

Make sure you have a look at the whole grounds, from the amenities to the parking lots. If possible, say hello to the maintenance. In college apartment complexes, they may become your best friends! At some point during your visit, make sure to sit down and ask the questions you wrote down, jotting down the answers as you speak with the owner. After you take a tour and ask all pertinent questions, try to get a pamphlet or flyer with information about the apartment complex or home. It is just a little something extra to help you remember each place.

Also, make sure to thank the management for their time. After all, you could be seeing them a lot more often as a future tenant. It's important to establish good relationships and communication with prospective owners. If management presses you to sign a lease the day of your tour, resist the urge. You may feel tempted if the place seems really great, but make sure to consider all other options before just jumping into a lease or contract.

After you have visited all the possibilities on your list, it is time to decide where to live off-campus. Weigh the possibilities in your head, comparing and contrasting. Ask yourself these questions: Which place best fits my deal breakers? which community did I feel most comfortable in? Which place stuck out positively in my head? Which place could I see myself calling home? If you still can't decide, it may be helpful to talk it over with family and friends. Getting opinions may help you decide one way or the other. But remember- Choosing a place to live is all about where you feel most comfortable and happy.

Once you have made a decision, get all the proper identification and paperwork necessary to sign a contract or lease. You will have then successfully chosen a happy home for the year!

Good luck!

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