Tips For Finding a Roommate and a Place to Rent
According to every Hollywood movie about college, living in the dorms is a right of passage into adulthood and college life. And while living in the dorms does have a lot of benefits, there are plenty of downsides as well: sharing a room with someone, communal bathrooms, RA (Resident Assistant) checks, and just a general lack of privacy on many fronts. But the biggest downside is that on-campus living is expensive. Generally speaking, if you can get a roommate or two to go in with you on a place, you can live off campus for a lot less.
If you put in the time and effort to look, living off-campus will not only save you some money but offer you some freedom as well. Whether you’re new to college or you have been living on campus the last couple of years, here are some tips to help you live off-campus.
Finding a Roommate
Unless you’ve got a trust fund or someone paying the bill for you, you probably can’t afford to rent a place on your own. Getting a roommate will not only help keep costs down, it’s just more fun to live with someone … as long as you choose your roommates wisely.
There are many ways to go about finding a roommate. The first go-to method is usually to look at your own friend group. Is there anyone you know who is looking to get a place off campus as well? Now’s the time to ask around and see who is up for joining forces. But remember, just because you’re friends, it doesn’t mean you would live well together; make sure to critically assess your ability to live with your friend, and make sure to set some ground rules beforehand — like how bills, chores, and food will be split, and the protocol for guests and parties.
If you can’t find someone among your friends or acquaintances to room with, there are luckily a couple of other ways to seek out a roommate. One way is to post an ad on a school bulletin board. This method is typically more effective at the end of the school year to seek a roommate for the following school year, but if you’ll be in town a month or so before school starts, this may still be a viable tactic. You can also place an ad on Craigslist with the type of roommate you’re looking for. If you like the social aspects of college, it’s best to specify that you’d prefer another college student or at least someone in your age range; a lot of butting-heads in a roommate situation comes from differences in lifestyle and maturity, so to keep that to a minimum, it’s better to have someone in the same life-stage that you are.
When looking outside your own friend group to find a room, always be sure to do your research on any potential roommate. It sounds creepy and stalkerish, but a little creeping is going to keep you safe, as there are a lot of scam artists and unsavory people out there. Along with doing a free background check online, also exchange social medias with them; a person’s Facebook is going to tell you a lot about a person, most important being if they are real or not; assuming you’ve been on social media for awhile, you know the signs of a fake account, but if you need some help determining, here is a guide on how to spot fake accounts.
Finding a Place to Rent
Finding a place to rent can be tricky, but all the work you do to find a place is going to be worth it when you have your own bedroom, a real kitchen, and a living room to come back to. Whether it’s a house or an apartment, you are going to appreciate the freedom and space that comes with renting off campus.
If you attend classes on campus every day, it will be in your best interest to find a rental near your school. While some property management companies hike up their prices and take advantage of the fact that many students will be looking for close-to-campus housing, you can still find a good deal if you know where and how to look. If you and your roommate have the means, you might consider starting your rental in July, as every other student looking for off-campus housing is going to be looking and starting their leases in August. While it may be too late to do that this year, definitely keep that in mind for the future, in the case you want to find a better or cheaper place next year. But for now, all of the rental companies that hold properties near campuses are looking to fill all their units ASAP, so if you haven’t already secured a rental, be sure to start applying now.
Some ways to find rentals are on sites like Zillow, Hot Pads, and websites for local property management companies. Craigslist is also a great place to find rentals, and you may even be able to find a rental that is through the home’s owner. There are pros and cons to renting from property management companies versus renting from an individual owner, so be sure to look into what works best for you and your roommate.
One hiccup you might find in your search for a rental is your ability to qualify. As a young college student, you probably have a very short history of credit, if you have any at all, and no credit is sometimes just as bad as bad credit. But don’t fret, because there are ways to get a rental with bad credit. Having a roommate is definitely going to help you in this department, but also getting someone to cosign the lease — like a parent or trusted friend with good credit — will help you get into a place. On the plus side, being a good tenant and making your payments on time every month is going to help build your credit and rental history, making it easier to qualify for rentals in the future.
While there are positives to living in the dorms, living off-campus is going to offer you the privacy and freedom you really crave in your adulthood. With some good roommates and the right place, you can save a lot of money while still experiencing the fun social aspects of college.
Mila Sanchez is a writer and recent graduate with a BA in English Linguistics. Her ambitions include traveling the world, studying languages, and taking pictures of her dog, Baymax. Connect with her on Twitter and Instagram!