Ah, dormitory living. That interesting mix of having friends, classmates, and roommates around you all the time and balancing with the noise and low level of privacy that accompanies it. It’s fun for a short time, but after a semester or two, many college coeds look for something a bit more elegant and a lot more private, like an apartment or small house off-campus.
Getting out of sight of a resident advisor, far from the generic school food, and into a residential space that’s bigger—if only slightly. When you are ready to make the transition from on campus life to your new living quarters away from the school grounds, remembers this helpful information.
#1 Your Top Priority Should Be Location, Location, Location
It’s pretty much optional to remain close to campus, but having a short commute in only part of finding the best location for you. Secure housing in a safe area of town should be a top priority. Carefully inspect the immediate areas around the neighborhoods that are close to campus to get a sense of how safe you feel with roads and activities nearby, like businesses and traffic. Would walking home late at night be an option you would be comfortable with? Is there enough lighting on your street? Spending some time researching on the internet can help you gauge the safety of a neighborhood your looking at moving into, but don’t ignore your gut instinct, too. If you have an uneasy feeling, that’s a red flag! It’s best to just move on and keep looking for a spot that fits all of your needs adequately.
#2 Cast a Large Net For Your Housing Search
Once you have found a suitable neighborhood for your needs, get a head start looking for your off-campus dwellings. A visit to your campus housing office will have a list of rentals available or at least the names of trusted landlords whom you can contact. Keep in mind that even if an apartment or house is currently taken, students move out every few months or semester, especially when graduation nears, so be proactive by asking around, place flyers up on campus and in classrooms, and chat with your friends and classmates to let them know what you’re looking.
Be careful of scams for listings of apartments or cottages when searching online, particularly on sites like Craigslist. Lovely and PadMapper are a couple of good resources. Set aside plenty of times over a few weekends to visit and look up close to as many places as you can, and feel free to take photos and jot down notes.
#3 Pad Your Budget Well Beyond the Rent
On average, utilities cost at least $200 per month, and that must be factored in with your monthly rent payment as well. If your apartment or housing managers include the utilities in your rent, that’s an incredible bonus! But, there’s still food, transportation, and household necessities to consider that you probably did not have to worry about when living in the dorm.
If you’re lucky you could find an apartment or house that furnishes your new space with furniture and appliances. Some expansion of your budget will be necessary if the space you’re looking at doesn’t have furniture or appliances.
#4 Get a Roommate to Help Offset Some Costs
Taking in a roommate or two might be a good idea to take the monthly costs off your shoulders a bit—or an absolute necessity. Selecting an awesome roommate can make things more comfortable financial as well as entertaining. Should you take on BFF in you living quarters? Be absolute certain that they are super responsible, keep the noise level low, and pay their part of the rent and bills on time and in full. If your bestie isn’t suitable for your needs then post flyers and notices on campus and on social media, or use of an app to find a local housemate can help.
Just like choosing your location, pay close attention to your gut feeling about this area of your change in living standards. “This place would be so cool to have a party” or “Don’t worry. Paying my bills a little late isn’t going to be too much of a problem, right?” should send up red-flag warnings about your possible roomy. Spend some time and really get to know your potential roommate before you officially sign on the dotted line and take them into your home. If you come away from an hour-long conversation over coffee emotionally drained, then they are definitely not the person for you and things would probably end badly if you did take them on.
#5 Carefully Read the Fine Print and Go Over Your Living Space Before Signing the Lease
Never sign anything until you go over the lease and your apartment or house with a fine-tooth comb. Make sure you understand exactly how long you are signing for, what the rules are, and when the rent payment is due. Will you be able to repaint the walls? Can you adopt a pet to live with you? How about subletting it out? What about reaching the landlord or maintenance crew when an emergency occurs like a water leak or the air conditioner shuts down? And the day you move in, or better yet, before signing your lease, go over every room with the landlord or property manager to inspect all the “handy work” that was done before you live there so that you are not responsible for damages or repairs that you did not cause or try to correct.
#6 Make a Home out of Your House (or Apartment)
Once you’ve located the best place for you, signed a nice lease, maybe brought on a great roommate then it’s time to make your living space feel like home. Now using the “free stuff” on Craigslist comes in handy. Watch out too for great deals from local yard sales that have nice pieces of furniture. Waiting until the end of the day can especially be worth it to save some money because sellers will be more desperate to unload their stuff. If you do pick up some furniture, beware of upholstered items that might have mold and bedbugs.
Check and clean everything thoroughly before you bring it home. You can never be sure of what a secondhand item has been through before you scored it.
#7 Have Fun During Your Transition
Now that you’ve made you way down the list here, it’s time to have some fun in your new dwellings. Look through the classified to see if a used game table or mini-fridge is free or inexpensive to get for snacks and drinks when guests come over. These days, getting a streaming service is a very cheap way to find entertainment with loads of variety for everyone.
Also, consider painting a wall in chalkboard paint to help liven up your home. Make sure to get permission from your landlord! A chalkboard wall will encourage fun and creative drawings and the such.
Now imagine yourself getting home after a long day in class and getting to relax in your new pad without the chaos of the dorms. You get to enjoy a better location, more space, and all the privacy you want.