The 5 Most Important Elements in Choosing an Off-Campus Apartment

Renting an apartment while in college requires some forethought and planning. After all, the last thing you want to do is sign a semester- or year-long lease and discover you made an error in judgment.

To help you pick a student apartment that’s off-campus, follow these five college apartment tips.

  1. Investigate Different Neighborhoods and Communities

Obviously, you want to be able to get to your classes conveniently and efficiently. Therefore, your apartment should either be close to major roads, walking routes or public transportation drop-offs/pick-ups. Yet proximity is only half the battle. You must be sure the neighborhood will fit in with your lifestyle.

For instance, some neighborhoods and communities are simply not accepting of college students. Perhaps they’re made up of seniors or elderly residents, or they’re filled with young couples and their children. You could wind up feeling like an outsider as an off-campus apartment renter.

Before you agree to any lease, take a tour of the blocks around the apartment or townhouse. Get a sense of what it will be like to live there. If you can, talk to current residents. The more information you have upfront, the better you’ll be able to determine if an apartment is a good – and safe – fit.

  1. Create a Thorough, All-Inclusive Budget

You’ll be spending more off-campus as a renter than you will if you live in an on-campus dorm room. Pull together a comprehensive budget analyzing how much you can realistically spend per month. Don’t forget you’ll need a security deposit, the last month’s rent and regular bills.

Think about everything from groceries to travel costs to utilities. Do yourself a favor by including an emergency fund in your budget. This budget will help you see what rentals you can reasonably afford. Not sure you can do it all on your own after fiddling with the numbers? Consider getting one, two or more roommates to spread out the costs. This is an exciting time but remember to work together and communicate with your roommates to create the best budget together.

  1. Outline Your Daily Calendar Expectations

As a college student, you have a schedule you must adhere to in order to keep up your grades. At the same time, you may also have a part-time job, internship or other responsibilities. Outline each of these in a weekly format, and then look at how they will play into your living off-campus.

Ideally, you want to minimize the trips you need to take to get on campus or to your place of employment. As you begin to outline your anticipated schedule, you will likely discover that living a certain distance from campus will make it simpler for you to keep up with your tasks.

  1. Consider Furnished Versus Unfurnished Apartments

Although furnished apartments might be more expensive to rent than unfurnished apartments, think about the cost of buying furnishings. Beds, tables, chairs, nightstands, dressers, sofas, futons and more will cost money.

If it isn’t feasible for you to rent a furnished apartment, or it’s impossible to find one in your area, you can always rent furniture. This allows you to invest in having furnishings without buying them outright.

Another possibility is to borrow furniture from your family. Perhaps your parents are looking to downsize and would allow you to take your bedroom items to college. It never hurts to make a suggestion!

  1. Choose the Right Lease for You

Are you planning to stay in the area after your semester or college year ends? If so, an apartment with a year-long lease shouldn’t be a problem. However, if you intend to return home or go elsewhere, you will need to find a landlord or property manager who offers a short-term lease.

Owners accustomed to working with students will usually anticipate this need, but newer landlords may not be flexible. Ask about this before your first walk-through to ensure you aren’t wasting your time or the landlord’s. And don’t be afraid to say no to renting a property if the landlord won’t budge.

Your first off-campus apartment hunt might take longer than you’d like, but that’s all part of the due diligence process. Talk to your fellow students who rent off-campus for other advice and tips. They might even know of vacancies, which could shorten your wait to get into a decent place. Your goal should be to minimize your stress and maximize your comfort as an off-campus resident of your city’s community.

If you decide to rent an off-campus apartment and need furniture, consider renting from IFR through our student housing program.