Off Campus Housing
Getting your own apartment off-campus is a big step and requires a great deal of thought to ensure that you are making the right decision. Shopping around and making comparisons is important, but before you start that process, there are many things you need to consider. Here are just a few items that may help you make a better-informed choice about where you will live next year.
Things to think about:
1. Location – Remember that off-campus apartments are just that…off-campus. Consider how far from campus they are and how long it will take to find a parking spot on campus. Does the apartment shuttle run to your complex? If so, how much time should you plan on to make sure you get to class on time? Where will you go between classes/during the day? Will you shuttle back to your apartment?
2. Construction – Many students don't think about the quality of construction when considering off-campus apartments, but it can really affect their satisfaction with their new home. Noise carries up and down and through walls fairly easily. The quality of the construction can have tremendous affect on the amount of noise that is dampened in an apartment complex.
Also, poorer quality construction can result in more maintenance problems and more inconvenience for the resident.
3. Security – Most apartment complexes will take steps to provide at least basic security measures for their residents, but there are certain features to look for here. Is the entrance to the apartment inside or is it open to the public? Garden style apartments offer only the outside door of the apartment as a barrier to intruders. Indoor corridors provide a second layer of security. Are there security screens on the first floor windows? Intruders can silently cut a standard window screen and enter an apartment if the window is unlocked. Some apartments advertise security alarms in the apartments. If you look at one of these be sure to ask if the monitoring service is included in the rent. Often that is an additional charge.
4. Cancellation Clause – Is there a cancellation clause in the lease? If so under what conditions can you cancel?
5. Furniture – Is the apartment furnished? Completely or partially?
6. Staffing – What kind of staff is available at the apartments? Is there an on-site maintenance person? What happens if you have a disagreement with your roommate(s)? Is there someone who can help mediate? Is there a possibility for a move to another apartment? What if a neighbor is being disruptive? Who do you call?
Things to Watch out for:
1.“Our apartment rent is all inclusive!” – Be sure to ask for a definition of all inclusive. Often you will find that different complexes define that phrase differently. Ask specifically “What is included in my rent payment?” Get an itemized list. Many will respond “all utilities”…but what they define as utilities differs. Water sewer and power are usually considered utilities, but internet access, local telephone and cable TV may not be. Just ask.
2.“We offer the best amenity package in town!” – Don't be swayed by fancy amenities packages that may add cost to your rent and contain items that you will never use.
3.“You just have to pay this low monthly rent…oh and…” - Beware the hidden charges. Many apartments say utilities are included in the rent, but have cap. If you exceed $X.XX in utilities, the additional amount is charged to you each month. Many also have application fees and assignment fees that are non-refundable and will add as much as $20.00 per month equivalent to your total package. They may advertise that they are wired for internet access…but you have to pay the monthly charge for the service.
4.“We let you do this, but those other guys make you do that!” – Many complexes will offer comparisons between their package and that of a competing property. Never accept that type of information except directly from the source. Many of these comparisons are based on hearsay and are grossly misrepresented.
The bottom line is that you need to collect as much information as possible to be able to compare “apples to apples.”
If at any time in your process you feel uncomfortable with something, go with your gut. It is usually pretty accurate. If you hear something that sounds too good to be true…it probably is.
If at any time during this process you need advice, we will be happy to assist you in processing the information you gather. All you have to do is contact the Housing and Residence Life Office. We won't pressure you to stay on campus…we will simply help you through the decision making process.