If you’re one of the over six million students enrolled at a four year college, you have probably been counting down to this year–the year you are allowed to move out of campus housing! Gone are the days of judgmental roommates, passive aggressive RAs, socks on the doorknob, and mattresses lined in rubber. The increased privacy and room that will stretch out before you, both literally and figuratively, make off campus apartments a no-brainer.
Seeing as it’s halfway through July already however, you’ve probably also become acutely aware of the stress involved with apartment searches, both on your emotional state and your finances. It can be tempting to jump on the first few apt rent ads on craigslist just to get it over with, but findnig an apartment is an important process that shouldn’t be rushed, particularly if you’re concerned about safety. Below are a few tips to guide you through your apartment searches that will hopefully result in a secure and pleasant living situation:
Narrow down the neighborhood. This should be the first thing you do, as you can’t expect realtors or landlords dealing in student apartments to be forthright about problems in the area. A good way to do this is to connect with current off campus livers and ask them how they handled their apartment searches and where the good streets are. Once you’ve got a handful, visit the area if you can and look around. Lots of kids, well kept yards, and no fraternity houses are all good signs. Also, closeness to campus should be a top priority especially if you are a woman who will often have to walk home alone at night.
Do your own inspection. Once you’ve narrowed down your search to a few options, ask to do a walk-in inspection of the property. Check for dampness, unsound structure, mold, and that all the appliances are in working order. We once heard a horror story of a girl who nearly got electrocuted by a faulty oven, of all things! If possible, make sure the land lord is present during the inspection, and take photos with time stamps of any problem areas you want fixed before move-in. Finally…
Inspect the locks. Reinforce the locking systems if possible with deadbolts and door chains. If permitted, maybe even change the locking mechanisms, just in case the previous owner left a few keys floating around unwisely. Also, make sure you know about all the possible ways to enter and exit your new home. If you’ve got some windows that look loose or faulty, maybe add a screen or your own latch, and definitely check if your apartment has a hidden basement door.
We realize that probably the last thing you want to do right now is add more litmus tests to your endless apartment search notes, but be patient! It is totally worth it to wait an extra week or two to hold out for a safe, nice place that you’ll love for the next two years!