Starting on the road to higher education can be one of the most exciting times of your life. You’re on your own for the first time, forging the path to your future, and having all kinds of new experiences. That includes having (and being responsible for) your own living space. But whether you’re a freshman looking for an apartment for the first time or an experienced student looking to get out of the dorms, there are some important considerations you should keep in mind while preparing for your first apartment. Future you will thank you for it later.
1. Assess the Location
First, think about where the apartment is situated. Someplace that’s within walking distance is probably ideal, but those can often be difficult to come by and more expensive. On the other hand, living further away from campus might be cheaper, but more difficult if you don’t have a car. If you do decide on a place some distance from campus, look at the public transportation situation — can you take the bus or train? Are you close enough to amenities like grocery stores and medical facilities? These are all things to think about while searching for your first apartment.
2. View the Property Before Signing
Thanks to the internet, it’s easier than ever before to get a read on a place without ever laying eyes on it. Website photos and virtual tours count for a lot — but they don’t always tell the whole picture. Photographs can easily exaggerate or omit certain details, which is why you should always inspect the property firsthand before you sign anything. That way, there won’t be any unpleasant surprises about the place’s actual condition and appeal.
3. Check the Crime Statistics
Although it’s not particularly fun to think about, safety should be non-negotiable when it comes to finding a place to live. Before you fully decide on a place, do a little homework and dig into the crime statistics in the neighborhood. How is the police presence? Are there neighborhood watch groups? This goes for transportation routes as well, especially if you will be living further from campus. It’s tough to focus on your education if you don’t feel safe, so make sure your potential home is as secure as can be.
4. Decide on Roommates
One of the biggest choices you’ll make when finding an apartment is whether you want a small place just for one person, or to share the space with one or more people. Both choices have their advantages — if you’re a solitary sort and like your privacy, a small studio or one-room apartment might be perfect for you. However, if you get lonely easily or just like having other people around — or if you’d struggle to afford a place on your own — roommates might be the way to go. Just make sure there are clear rules and boundaries up front, to avoid any potential drama.
5. Take Out Renters Insurance
Something many younger renters overlook is the subject of renters insurance. You may not think you own enough things to worry about insuring them, but insurance is good for more than just protecting your possessions. Renters insurance can provide help with finding temporary housing if something should render your apartment uninhabitable. It also provides valuable liability protection in case someone should get injured while in your rental unit. And best of all, it’s inexpensive. Ross Martin, who writes for insurance comparison site The Zebra, reveals the average renter’s insurance policy costs an average of only $19 a month. That’s a small price to pay for the peace of mind you get in return.
6. Read Your Lease Agreement
Before putting your name on any agreement, make sure to read it carefully. A lease provides you with the terms and conditions of your stay there, as well as any responsibilities you and the landlord have. If you’re unsure about something, don’t be afraid to seek out the guidance of a parent or experienced adult, to make sure the lease is fair and on the level.
7. Get an Inventory List from the Landlord
Finally, once you do get the keys to the property, it’s time to make sure you have everything you were promised. If the apartment is furnished, get an inventory list from the landlord and make sure everything on it is present in the apartment — and in good working condition. If there are appliances that don’t work or aren’t there at all, get things settled with the landlord as soon as possible. Furthermore, it’s a great idea to take photos of the apartment in its current condition before you move in. This can be valuable evidence in case there’s a disagreement about a security deposit later on.
Finding the perfect student rental isn’t likely to be easy — but if you do some research and have a clear plan of attack, chances are you’ll find someplace you can call home while completing your education.