Whether you live in a small college town or a huge city with multiple universities, looking for off-campus housing always feels like a headache. Fortunately, though, it gets easier when you learn to use your resources.
Before you resort to renting out your friend’s couch, explore your options and get proactive.
Whether you and your friends are hunting for a four-bedroom house to call home in Kansas or you’re looking for a good apartment in New York City, your search is going to boil down to these same basic steps.
Start With Roommates
Whether you’re arriving to the U.S. for the first time or escaping a mandatory year of dorm life, you’re almost guaranteed to need a few roommates to survive college financially.
Aside from the monetary aspects, though, having good roommates adds a lot to the college experience. Coming home to the right people means laughing off stressful days at school, pulling all-night study sessions during Dead Week and having movie nights complete with pizza, pajamas and popcorn.
As you hunt for that right roommate dynamic, consider major lifestyle habits:
Do you need roomies who live by certain “quiet time” standards?
Do you want roommates who like to have guests over and socialize?
Do you want roommates who share your major so you can study together?
Do you need your roommates to be neat freaks?
Do you want roommates who can tolerate ethnic food odors?
Of course, there are so many more roommate criteria you should consider before choosing who to live with. Just don’t forget the golden rule – not all friends are meant to be roommates. No matter how close you are to your friends, think through potential pet peeves that could lead to passive-aggressive roommate behavior.
Once you’ve found the right roomie(s), it’s time to get apartment hunting.
More often than not, college students find their next home through word-of-mouth. Take advantage of your many resources – namely, fellow international students.
Put up Facebook posts asking for apartment recommendations. Ask your classmates about their complexes and how well they like them. Talk to your parents, teachers, even advisors about fair pricing for the area.
In college towns, it’s not uncommon for students to take over others’ leases – students graduate and move away, they choose to move in with better-suited roommates and sometimes they simply decide they want to leave the university. By asking around, you just might stumble onto a good fit for your next home.
If word-of-mouth isn’t getting the job done, though, it never hurts to investigate some good home-hunting databases. These offer specific search criteria, but don’t just rely on websites. Validate your findings by asking around about what you’ve found. That way you’ll be able to figure out if you can rent an apartment even without an established credit history.
Once you’ve collected a few good leads, it’s time to meet with some landlords.
Evaluate Your Future Landlord
Before you sign anything, you absolutely must meet your property’s manager. You want a landlord who’s truly invested in their properties – one who cares about pest control, maintenance, general upkeep and the like.
Your first step in determining whether a property has this kind of landlord is very straightforward: Meet with them.
A trustworthy landlord will offer excellent management services from the moment you ask to view the property to the end of your stay. For instance, a good landlord will start by talking to you about the property, showing it to you, answering all your questions upfront and giving you time to look over the lease before signing.
If, on the other hand, you try to meet with a property’s management and feel unseen, rushed to sign or generally uncomfortable, why would you choose to have that landlord? It’s not uncommon for shady landlords to take advantage of international students who are less likely to know right off the bat if they’re getting ripped off.
So call up that promising property, set up an appointment, bring your future roommates and give yourselves time to talk it over before closing the deal.
Consult With the Right People
Once you think you’ve found the right place, consult with people you trust. There are so many things to prepare before moving into a new home and if this is your first lease, you should have a more experienced renter look it over with you. Friends, relatives, older siblings – they’ll probably have a good idea of whether the pricing seems fair and the agreement sounds reasonable.
In addition to getting a second opinion, make sure you yourself read the lease. This is your chance to learn what your trusted consultants already know about renting.
If you’re not sure what to look for in a lease, do a little research! Before you know it, you’ll be the trusted advisor your younger friends come to when they’re not sure whether to sign.
Take the Plunge
Apartment hunting can be a little overwhelming, but fortunately, you aren’t alone. You have endless resources at your disposal, not the least of which is your fellow student renters.
So hop to it! Find a good roommate or two, start looking at your options and never hesitate to ask questions.