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One of the biggest ways to save money is to consider off-campus housing. Outside of the dorms, there are a variety of options: apartments, house shares, and co-ops, to name a few. For Part I, here are some things to consider before beginning the search, which I will discuss more in Part II next week!

Pros:

  • Living off campus can be cheaper than living in the dorms
  • Freedom to choose your roommate(s) or if you want to live by yourself
  • More privacy and freedom, such as no prowling RAs or quiet hours/curfew
  • More living space
  • The freedom to have guests, friends and parties whenever you want
  • Having a kitchen and being able to make your own meals
  • Parking, if you have a car

Cons:

  • More responsibility: Rent, utilities, cleaning
  • No dining halls, meaning grocery shopping and making your own meals
  • Security deposit (usually about 2 months of rent paid in advance, returned after assessment of damages after your contracted lease)
  • Contracts: Most landlords want to contract with students for a school year or 6 months. (You are lucky if you find a landlord who is willing to be more flexible about it, which was something I had to consider when I studied abroad)
  • It can be more expensive if you include water, utilities, Internet, etc. so it is important to watch your consumption

Some things to consider:

Defining your Space
Would you mind living in an apartment with other people or would you really prefer to have your own place all to yourself? If you do live with other people, would you mind sharing a room with another person, or would it be better for each person to have their own room?

Also think about how much space you need. Some students think of their apartment as just a place to go home and sleep. If you like to have people come over often, you may prefer a place with a living room and larger kitchen.

Consider the People You Want to Live with
Roommates or housemates — Are they someone you can trust and feel comfortable living with for many months? Can you count on them to pay their rent on time? Communication is important and problems should always be discussed, so think about if this is someone you really think you can live with. How well do you know this person? There is a difference between friends and someone you can actually live with.

Location
Distance from campus — do you primarily walk, take the bus or drive? Some neighborhoods are quieter, others lively. Check out the surrounding area, such as where the nearest grocery store is and get a feel for the area. If you come home late, would you feel comfortable walking through this area late at night?

Price
Of course, the thing that can make or break a deal. If you are planning to live with other people, discuss the price range that you are all willing to pay.

Also consider some additional costs:

  • Utilities — May or may not be included in rent
  • Furniture — Do you want a place unfurnished or furnished?
  • Parking — An additional monthly cost if someone owns a car
  • Laundry — Most places use coin laundry machines like dorms
These are only some of the things to consider when moving off-campus. Start thinking about these things early, because finding your new home can be a months long process. Stay tuned for Part II next week!

Photo courtesy of Cyril Caton via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).