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Finding Off-Campus Housing

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Off-campus living: for many, it's a big step toward adulthood. You'll be living on your own and responsible for rent, utilities, and cleaning. Along with those responsibilities comes a great deal of freedom, but before you can take advantage of that freedom, you've actually got to find somewhere to live.

This process is basically the same as finding somewhere to live while not in school, with the exception that your school may give you some help in your search.

Decide What You'll Need

It's not a bad idea to get a sense of what's out there as soon as you can. But, before you start narrowing down your options, you need to figure out what you'll need in off-campus housing. First of all, how many people are you going to be living with? Knowing this will help determine what you can afford and how much space you're likely to need.

Other things to consider include:
  • Utilities – Look at gas and oil prices and figure out which is the best option for heat. Also determine if you would prefer a place with air conditioning.

  • Proximity to campus – You may want to live within walking distance, or you might be ok with driving back and forth to school.

  • Washer and Dryer – Some places may come with their own washer and dryer, while others don't, forcing you to use a self-service laundry facility.

  • Accessibility – Do you need wheelchair ramps? Would you mind living on an upper floor of an apartment building?

Find a Place

The first place to start looking is with your school. They may have resources available to you for finding off-campus housing. For instance, some schools have an off-campus housing website or a list of local apartment buildings that are student friendly.

The next best tool for your search is the Internet. There are tons of websites out there with the sole purpose of helping people find somewhere to live. Some are even geared toward students. When you come across some promising possibilities, contact the property's landlord or superintendent to set up a time for you and your future roommates to check the place out. If everything looks good, you can fill out applications or, depending on the situation, jump straight into signing the lease.

Other places to look for housing include:
  • Classifieds - Local newspapers are a great place to look. Just call the number listed in the ad, and set up an appointment to look at the home.

  • Community bulletin boards - Oftentimes, there will be ads or fliers posted on community bulletin boards for local apartment buildings or homes to rent.

  • Use your eyes - Sometimes, the best method is just driving around and looking. If you pass by an apartment building, stop by the office to find out about rentals. You may also see for-rent signs outside of houses as you go.

TIP: If you're looking at apartment buildings, check out their reviews and ratings online at websites like http://www.apartmentratings.com/.

It's best to start your search as early as possible, since you're likely to be contending with a bunch of students seeking off-campus housing. If you find a place and sign the lease, you won't have to worry about someone snatching it from you.

Once you’ve found it, your off-campus home can provide you with a great place to study, host a party, or simply to get a good night’s sleep. While you might not be living in the lap of luxury, with a little time and work, you can find a comfortable and affordable college home.

Sean McClain  Posted by Sean McClain on June 29, 2010

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