House hunting 101 for college students

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Sidney Li
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College dorms are great but most students eventually want to move off-campus. Moving into your own place with your friends, strangers, or even by yourself can seem daunting. From finding places to estimating a budget, house hunting is relentlessly stressful. Here is a simplified how-to manual on navigating the realty industry near a college campus because – we get it – money is tight. And we are trying to get the best bang for our buck at the end of the day!

Determine what style of living you’d prefer.

If you are more of a social person, living with friends is preferred but if you like your personal space, maybe consider a studio. A rental house may offer more space while apartment complexes can offer more amenities like gyms and pool areas.

What’s on your wishlist?

Make a list of priorities that you’d want on your wishlist when house hunting. From utilities included in the rent, location, monthly rent, amenities, and more, there are a plethora of components to consider with high and low importance.

Research. Research. Research.

Research the neighborhood. Research the safety of the locations. Research the average rent prices of local places nearby. Research the proximity and relativeness to campus. Research the convenience with businesses, parks, venues, and other activities.

Read the fine print.

It’s not just a saying… you need to actually read the whole leasing contract before signing. While the landlord or realtor may pressure you to sign fast, it is important to take your time on reading the lease and its details. Do not hesitate to ask questions if there are any confusions.

Make sure to see the property in person.

We get it, catfishing is a real issue in today’s technological world with social media profiles. But it can also affect property pictures. Never sign a lease without touring the property first. The pictures of the property can be altered or misrepresented in many ways. Even if you physically cannot go, try asking a friend or parent to visit on your behalf.

Check campus resources.

Schools may have websites and pages dedicated to realty companies, property management companies, individual properties, and landlords that are approved based on their criteria and standards. Prioritize looking at properties that made the cut.

Take renter’s insurance into consideration.

While it might seem like you are spending more money on a property that you will be staying in for a short time period during your college career, renter’s insurance is definitely an option for new leases. It will create peace of mind knowing that you and your belongings will be safe if anything unexpected occurs.

Document the property condition at check-in.

After you sign the lease and move in, make sure to take a walk around the property on both the interior and exterior sides. Take pictures and document any kinks and damages that you notice so you can get your full security deposit back when you move out.

Furnish on a budget.

Utilize thrift shops, Facebook marketplace, and housing group chats to keep your furniture expenditures to a minimum. Instead of buying new furniture for your first off-campus property, consider buying fair and good condition furniture pieces. It will keep your budget on the low end and allow you to focus your money on textbooks, rent, services, utilities, and most importantly, coffee.  

Keep your expectations realistic.

It is college, after all. Unlike all the movies and tv shows, the reality of college properties is that they aren’t all cute and quirky with a style that you prefer. While some places may possibly be the perfect place for you, it is quite rare. There isn’t a ton of space and amenities that you can have with the college budget.

You should always feel happy and comfortable in your home-away-from-home. By making sure you research and take all of these factors into consideration, you will be able to have a place that you love to call home!


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