Renting as a College Student: Advice to Finding Off-Campus Housing

college student

college student

Becoming a college student suddenly comes with a load of new responsibilities, one of which includes living independently from your family. The transition from living at home to being out on your own is a huge adjustment and renting an apartment for the first time is on top of the pile.

If you’re a college student, you’re most likely a first-time renter too. In that case, you might have many questions and concerns about finding off-campus rentals. As you leave your family, you’ll understand many things will change in your life. You’ll have to find out how to pay bills on your own, do your laundry, live with other people, cook for yourself, and more.

The rental market is constantly increasing due to demand, especially since approximately 8.6 million students need rental housing close to campus. That said, you need to be cautious about the type of rental you want to rent and its location.

It may seem an intimidating process, but there are some tips you can use to help get your boxes in the door.

Define Your Budget

Finding a proper rental for college comes with many challenges, but the first thing you should learn is to set up a budget and work around it. That said, you should separate your needs from your wants. For example, there are essential costs such as food, water, electricity, utilities, and other services; and there are additional services that you can set aside for now.

A common rule you can follow is the 50/30/20 rule, meaning 50 percent of your monthly income is toward needs, 30 percent toward wants, and 20 percent toward savings. Note that the rent, especially for college students, shouldn’t be more than 30 percent of your income. For example, if you make $1,000 a month, you should pay around $300, and no more.

As a student, your income is likely to be limited, so you want to establish your budget carefully and think about upfront expenses, such as:

  • Security Deposit
  • First and Last Month’s Rent
  • Holding Fees
  • Pet Deposits (if you have any)

Although these costs can be refundable at the end of your lease, they may also make your experience more challenging. If your landlord asks you to pay for all of these upfront costs at once, they’re probably trying to keep their student population low on their property.

Start Finding a Roommate Early

No college student wants to scramble around to find a place to live alone. If you’re planning on living with someone else, it’s best to understand who you’re going to share a rental with. When you settle on a roommate, you should also communicate beforehand and see which things you agree on, and what amenities you can afford together.

Similarly, if you’re planning on living with many roommates, it’s also a good idea to have a list of every item you own and can bring to the rental. Usually, you can agree on sharing each other’s items as that’ll make things easier for everyone.

Find a Neighborhood

One of the first steps in your to-do list as a first-time renter is to research the city or town you want to live in. Since this is your first time, it may be challenging to narrow down your options, but we can help you out with that.

For example, if you’re unfamiliar with a neighborhood, you can drive or walk around to get a sense of the places, shops, and stores. It’s also essential to pay attention to the lifestyle of the area as it may be different from where you’ve lived before.

Whatever you do, ensure you can see yourself living there and feeling safe. You can also search for the average prices of apartments in the area and if they match your budget. Most importantly, you should check if the distance from campus is not too long and easy to get to.

According to WalletHub, some of the top five college towns and cities in the U.S. include:

  • Austin, Texas
  • Ann Arbor, MI
  • Provo, UT
  • Orlando, FL
  • Oxford, OH

However, everything depends on the college you’re attending. Still, if these areas are remotely close to your campus, it’s worth checking them out.

While you’re researching neighborhoods, it’s not just the local amenities, safety, and proximity to campus that should be on your radar. The state’s rental laws and regulations can also play a significant role in your renting experience. For instance, some states have more landlord-friendly policies. Understanding how to choose a landlord-friendly state is crucial, as such states often have regulations that could result in fewer tenant protections when it comes to disputes, rent increases, and evictions. Having a better grasp on the legal landscape can help you make a more informed decision and prepare you for what to expect as a tenant. Gaining a comprehensive view of how different states stack up in terms of landlord-friendliness can influence your choice of neighborhood and even the state you decide to live in.

Search on Apartment Listings Websites

If you don’t have enough time to visit different neighborhoods at once and make a decision, there are many websites with apartment listings that can make your process easier. One of the best websites is Rentberry because it allows you to do your search online, read each property’s details and requirements, and then apply for a rental.

This and other websites are a significant help because you can limit your search to a specific city or use keywords for any amenities you’re looking for. Find what works for you, but be cautious of some listings as they not be legit.

Define the Type of Property You Want to Rent

As a college student, you can choose between a house and an apartment. Both of them have their own set of benefits and disadvantages, so it’s best to analyze and understand what works for you.

For example, apartments have a more secure and private entry, so the landlord or property manager is more likely to be onsite and respond to your concerns. At the same time, you have to share a space with other residents, meaning there’s more potential for noise issues.

Houses, on the other hand, are more spacious and a better way of living with other people. Also, if you have a furry friend, the chances of allowing you to have a pet are higher.

However, one of the biggest downsides of houses is that they tend to be less secure than apartments and require more maintenance.

Regardless of the type of property you decide to rent, you need to agree on a rental period that also meets your needs. Usually, you can choose between:

  • One-year leases
  • Six-month leases
  • Three-month leases
  • Monthly leases

The longer you agree to rent a place, the lower the price. However, if you decide to abandon a lease, you can face serious legal and financial consequences.