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If you are a college student attending a school some distance from your home, you will need to find an apartment close to campus. You may even be looking for a new apartment over the summer or need to move closer to that new internship you just landed. While it is exciting to venture out on your own for the first time, there are some renting tips that all students should follow to make the experience a fun and successful one.
1. Start your search early. You will not be the only student in search of an apartment close to campus so you will have keen competition for all available units. The best time to start searching is the summer (or semester before you will begin) to leave yourself plenty of time to look around and find the apartment that best meets your needs in terms of location and budget.
Start by visiting the neighborhood and walking around making note of both appealing and unappealing areas. By visiting the neighborhood, you may also come upon “For Rent” signs posted by landlords. You will also have the opportunity to pick up community papers, which often list apartments for rent. In either case, you will be able to avoid costly broker fees.
2. Visit at least three to four apartments. To get a good idea of the range of apartments available in your budget, try to schedule at least three or four views on one visit. This will enable you to obtain some perspective of what’s available in your price range. You may also find that the apartment you fell in love with was rented to a prior applicant so it’s always good to have a backup or two. It’s also not a bad idea to check out some of the larger communities which have more standardized pricing that is reflective of market value. The prices will fluctuate a lot more with independent landlords.
3. Make a checklist as your view apartments. Before venturing out to view apartments, make a list of things to look. Questions include whether the apartment has working plumbing and electric? Are the refrigerator and stove in working order? Is the apartment located in a commercial district or otherwise noisy area? Does it provide sufficient light? What, if any utilities are included? Are pets allowed?
4. You will also want to examine how the complex is managed. Is there peeling paint in the walls or broken light bulbs in the hallways? Does the building provide ample security? Do the grounds seem well tended to? You will need to weigh the factors that are most important to you as not all apartments will meet your every need. For example, it may be a great apartment in terms of your budget, space, and overall condition but faces the back of the building with not much light.
5. Be ready to leave a deposit. Since competition is keen, you want to be sure you can leave a deposit when you find the place you want. As per Corcoron.com, one of the largest brokerage firms in the country, most landlords that rent to college students will require co-signer willing to put their name on the application.
Since most college students do not have an established credit history, the co-signer will need to have strong credit since this person will assume responsibility in the event you are unable to pay the rent. In most cases, the co-signer will be a parent, other family member or family friend. Once you rent the apartment you can build your credit by researching student credit card deals offered by most major banks.
6. Read the entire lease carefully before signing. When you find an apartment and have been approved it will be time to sign the lease. Make sure you and your co-signer read it thoroughly before committing. Chances are that it will be a boilerplate document but make sure you know the terms as many landlords insert specific languages such as “no pets” “no shares” or “no sublets.” Other important items include when rent is due, amount of security deposit, penalties for late rent, and who you should contact for help with maintenance issues. You may also want to request one final walk-through before signing to ensure the apartment is in the same condition as when you first viewed it.
Guest Blogumnist Daniela Baker helps parents and college students evaluate student credit card offers at CreditDonkey.com.