Many students arrive at their freshmen year of college with focus and drive. For some it’s as easy as high school. Perhaps this is because much like home, dorms can provide a calming environment that allows focus for study and day-to-day life. Without interruption, your workload can be taken with ease and met with success. But what about life for those who choose to live outside dorms? In fact, it might surprise you that between 2009 and 2011, 25% of enrolled students over that period (about 5.8 million young adults) lived off-campus in non-family households.
There are many ways to go about taking this step – but finances can be one of the most difficult aspects. If done correctly, this rung in the ladder of adulthood can be easy. Here we’ll cover just four things students should realize about financing their first apartment.
Do not skip the loan step even if you plan to live off campus. Being a full time or even part time student should still cement the idea that you may need financial help at some point. To get a start on this, and a better picture of what you’re eligible for, file a FAFSA application online. Best news is that it’s free. Make sure you know your deadlines so you don’t miss out. June 30th is typically the last day for submission for the Fall Semester.
Price and Location
Remember that you’ll be paying back every dollar with interest by the end of your time at university. Locating an apartment in your price range is likely the biggest factor in your decision next to location. Walking or riding a bike can save money, but you also want to make sure the neighborhood is safe. Search for a few locations and if possible, go in person. Here are a few resources for finding an apartment:
Finding off campus housing: https://www.abodo.com
Local Crime Map: https://www.mylocalcrime.com/
Cyclist route planner: https://cycle.travel/map
Read the fine print. You should understand all contracts you come across in your search for an apartment as well as who you’re signing with. If you’ve never heard of the LLC the rental company is using, do a background check on them yourself. Find out what the landlord is supposed to maintain. Will you find your study hours turning into yard care? Be wary of throwing parties if the contract forbids them – in certain states, breaking this rule could leave you out on the street. Similarly, make sure you understand how many days notice a landlord will provide if you are asked to leave.
In some cases, rental contracts have a non-stabilized ledger that states the landlord doesn’t have to have the apartment ready for move-in on a specific date. Typically the term “reasonable time” is provided in lieu of an actual date. Look for this in the contract and if it’s not immediately visible, ask for a write in and signature.
Beware of scams
Sites like craigslist are full of very appealing houses for low-ball prices, and while this diamond in the rough can and does exist, it’s very rare. One modern technique for scamming is to post a picture of a great place, fill out a listing online with inviting information and when someone contacts asking about it, request a deposit, get paid, and disappear. Often the houses pictured are home to residents already. If the rental company or landlord says they are permanently out of town and require money for a key to be made or sent, stop there – you have yourself a scammer.
Consider making some checklists and pro and con lists when picking the places you most desire. Saving money should be at the top of your list, as well as location and safety. Never sign something you don’t fully understand. Happy hunting!
This article was contributed by guest author Ryan De La Rosa.