One of the most exciting rights of passage is signing the lease on your first apartment. For college students, finding student rental units near your campus is a great way to transition into independent living while still having support from your school and friends. Off-campus housing may not be as perfect as you’ve imagined, though. Here are four tips to find and maintain your first apartment or student rental.
Know What is a Must-Have…and What Isn’t
Some apartment buildings will charge extra for add-on’s like fitness centers, WeWork spaces, professional grade kitchens, etc. Those are great perks for working professionals, but if you’re still an undergrad student, you don’t need them. Instead, you’ll want to know what amenities are available, how far you are from the campus, whether parking is included, and whether you and your roommates will have private rooms or study spaces. Make a list of a few practical needs and narrow your search to those, such as “off campus housing with in-unit washer dryer” or “student rental units within walking distance of University of Delaware.”
Focus on Properties that Rent to Students
Rather than just looking for inexpensive or low-income housing options, look for rental companies that are used to working with students. Even if they’re not explicitly labeled as “student housing,” they’ll be used to working with university students. Ask about various options, but off-campus apartments for students may collect rent after on-campus jobs pay their student workers or may have different lease options that work around the school year. Ask your friends for recommendations and look for apartment listings that mention your university or terms like “student rental units.”
Build a Budget
Ideally, your rent and utilities should only be 30% of your monthly income. If you’re a college student working part-time in the library, that may not be feasible. However, you can still find a quality apartment without breaking the bank by finding roommates, budgeting your part-time income, saving, and student loan dollars, and having your parents cosign on a lease. Not all apartments will consider FAFSA loans and grants as part of your income, so be sure you have a network of roommates and family who can help get the rent paid every month.
Choose your Roommates Carefully
On that note, it’s important that you screen your potential roommates. Many students look forward to living with their friends, but you shouldn’t sign a lease with someone unless you think they’ll be able to pay their bills on time and help with the apartment chores. You should decide in advance whether you want your apartment to be primarily for studying or relaxing and how chores will be divided. It’s better to live with an acquaintance that you’re compatible with than a friend who doesn’t clean or pay rent.
Ultimately, there is no perfect apartment. As long as you have access to your college campus, work with a trustworthy rental company, and choose roommates with whom you are compatible, you’ll be set up for a great school year.