There are a lot of things I wish I knew before attending college, but one thing I really wish I knew was how hectic finding a college house can be. It’s filled with countless house tours, the repetitive statement “sorry, we’re living here next year”, and a lot of bickering between roommates. Well, after making just about every mistake in the book regarding three different houses in three years at Michigan State University, I would like to provide some insight into the college house search and offer some suggestions to help smooth the process.
It’s Never Too Early to Start Looking
This can’t be stressed enough. Houses in college towns get snatched up quicker than free food in the kitchen at the office. The earlier you start the better selection you’ll have. Over the summer, take a look online at the local listings and keep track of any homes you desire. When school starts, cruise around town with your roommates and a take a look at the houses on your list. You don’t want to rush this process, because it’s not fun living in a house you don’t like, but the sooner you and your roommates can come to a consensus the better. If you wait too long, you may just miss out on the house you really wanted.
Private Landlord vs. Community Management Company
The safer route to go is through a community management company. There are typically more options to choose from, they have a maintenance staff, and there is a staffed office you can call or visit. Community management companies are the more credible option, but you may have to endure some more costs in terms of security deposit, utilities, etc. And unless you leave your house in perfect condition (which is nearly impossible) when the lease is up, don’t expect to get 100% of your security deposit back. Things like holes in the wall, broken windows, and other similar fixes can run you a big bill, mostly from what they charge for labor.
Privately owned homes can sometimes be a hidden gem in a college town full off worn-out homes. But they can also be a nightmare, depending on the owner. Unlike a community management company, there’s only one person you can call when you run into any issues. Depending on their reliability and responsiveness, you may run into a lot of problems. The advantage here is that there’s an ability to negotiate prices and policies. Management companies tend to have very strict home renter guidelines.
Figure Out What’s Important to You
There are many different aspects that factor into renting the right college house. What’s the distance from campus? How big is the house? How many cars does the driveway fit? How many bathrooms are there? Does it have a basement? How about storage space? You must prioritize your wants and needs, because it’s almost impossible to find a house that will completely satisfy all your desires. Location is the most important factor here because the difference in price from a house a block away from campus compared to three blocks away might surprise you, so if you have a car or there is a good bus system, don’t be afraid to venture away from campus.
Do Your Research and Utilize ALL Resources
What’s your price range? What’s the cost of utilities? How many bathrooms do you want? Do you want a porch? All of these questions and more can be answered by doing your homework. Use leasing company websites, city government websites, college review websites, and sometimes even the university will have resources available on their site. The internet is an amazing thing – take full advantage of it. But keep your eye out for flyers and rental signs, and word of mouth can sometimes be the best resource of all.
Know Your Plan for Next Year
Ask anyone who attended college – time flies (because it’s one of the greatest time of your life). So just when you’ve settled into your new home for the year, you have to give some thoughts as to where you’ll be at the same time next year. This can be an easy decision if you have the ability to stay in the same house the following year. But if, say, two of your roommates are graduating in the spring, you may find yourself on a wild goose chase to find somewhere to live. This goes hand in hand with “it’s never too early to start searching”.
If you take the time, make the effort and follow these tips, you’ll hopefully be on the right track to your ideal college home.
Have any experience looking for a college house? Share your stories in the comments section below!