As a college student, getting accommodation close to campus is very important, particularly if your school has not provided you with housing. The cheapest option is obviously to commute from home, but if your college is some distance away from your home, this may not be possible. The next best thing is to look for an apartment to rent.
When should I start looking for an apartment for college? If your college town is small and the number of apartments available is limited or the rental market in the area is highly competitive, you can start your search 8-12 months in advance. On the other hand, if your college town has a wide selection of apartments, you may start your search 2-6 months in advance.
Apartments for college are usually in very high demand. Everyone is looking for a place to stay just like you are, so you need to beat all that competition and find an apartment that checks all the boxes you want. This is one of the main reasons why it is so important to start your search as early as
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How Can You Tell the Kind of Apartment You Can Afford?
Before you go out looking for an apartment, you need to figure out the type of apartment you can afford. 30 to 40% of your budget will go towards rent, so work backwards from that to see how much money you will be spending every month. Here are a few more statistics to help you out:
- Utilities such as gas, electricity and any other fuels you use account for 18% or rent
- Food related expenses will take up about 14% of your income
- If you live some distance away from your campus, an average of 15% of your income will go to transport costs
- Entertainment and Healthcare share an average of 9% of your income
Before you rent, you will therefore need to establish your monthly rental budget and try to find an apartment that matches it. As a student, your rent and utilities bill should never be more than 30% of your monthly income. You also need to think about upfront costs, including:
- Two months’ rent
- Security deposit
- Pet deposits
- Any holding fees
All recurring costs such as rent, utilities and any other services such as internet and cable need to be factored in as you start looking for an apartment. This will determine what you can and can’t afford.
6 tips for renting an apartment as a college student
1. Start your apartment search early.
This has already been mentioned a few times, but it cannot be stressed enough. If you are looking for an apartment near your school, you should know that you are not the only student looking for one.
Consider starting your search about a semester before school starts or at least a month or two in advance. This will give you enough time to look through all the options available to you and to choose one that works best for you. This is also the best way to avoid costly broker fees.
If you are searching online, start looking out for listings in the late morning from 9 am to 10 am if you want competitive offers. Most landlords and brokers usually post their listings at the start of each day.
2. View at least three apartments per visit
Schedule to view at least three or four apartments every time you head out on a search. This is the best way to tell what exactly is available to you at your price range. It is also a good idea to look at a few different options and to have a Plan B just in case you find out that your Plan A was rented out to someone else. Try to spread out the types of apartments you look at. For example, you can look at a few options from large standardized communities and one or two from independent landlords.
3. Make a checklist of features to look out for
Before heading out, make a check list of features to look out for. Have a list of essentials that you simply cannot do without, such as electricity and plumbing, along with other things you would ideally like to have such as whether pets are allowed, the location of the apartment, and the lighting levels inside.
4. Look at how the complex is managed
There should be several tell-tale signs that would begin to show you what you can expect when it comes to the management of the apartment. Are there functioning lights in the hallways? I the paint peeling? How is the security situation? You will need to weigh the factors here and determine what is most important to you and what you can do without. For instance, a nice well-managed apartment might have terrible natural lighting.
5. Have your deposit ready
Competition for most of these apartments is very high. So when you find something you like, you should be ready to pay for it as soon as possible. You should know that most landlords will need you to have a co-signer just in case you are unable to pay the rent. Your co-signer will usually be a parent or family member, or any other person with strong credit.
6. Read the lease before you sign
If you get approved for an apartment, you will need to sign a lease agreement before you can move in. Make sure you read the lease before signing it. Read the fine print and make sure you understand all the landlord’s terms. Determine when the rent is due, amount of security deposit, any penalties for late rent, and how maintenance issues are handled. Before you sign, request one final
Important Points to Note
1. Never rent an apartment without seeing it in person
Because of the highly competitive nature of college apartments, it is easy to convince desperate students to fork out cash for an apartment they haven’t even seen. Do not fall for this trap. Besides the obvious risk of falling for a scam and paying for a non-existent apartment, you may also realize that the apartment you paid for looks nothing as advertised when you finally set foot in it.
Most online listings make use of display rooms or the best features of the unit to attract buyers. You will never get a full picture from looking at an online listing. So if you find something you like, consider driving there in person and ask the landlord to walk you through the apartment before making a decision.
2. It is easy to rent property based on looks alone. Be sure to go beyond that as you look for your apartment.
You may stumble upon an apartment that looks great at face value, but has leaky pipes or has been poorly maintained. Ask all the questions you need to and make sure that you get the best deal you can. The charm of a pretty apartment runs out fast when you have a pest problem and no central AC.
3. Try not to pay for amenities you do not need
It is nice to live in an apartment with a pool and a doorman, with a nice roof deck or gym. But ask yourself this; do you really need all those bells and whistles? How often will you use them? Because even if you never use them, you will still be paying for them. And that cost piles up, and you end up wasting a lot of cash on things you do not need or use.
If you have to choose between an apartment with a pool and one without, make the smart decision and opt not to pay for amenities that you do not need.
- How do you choose a roommate? Before you settle on a roommate, you need to be sure that they can be respectful, cooperative, and you can be comfortable around them. Do not accept a roommate you think will clash with your expectations just to be nice. A few more things you need to also establish include whether or not they have pets, if you have similar lifestyle choices, if you can trust them around your belongings, if they can reliably afford to pay their share of the rent every month, and how you plan to split household responsibilities with each other.
- What documents do I need to rent? As a student, you probably do not have an established credit card history. Landlords tend to take more precautions when it comes to renting to students for this very reason. You may need to provide all or most of the following information and documents: social security number, bank statements to demonstrate income, rental history including contact information of former landlords, co-signer information, personal references, and any criminal history.