A Student's Guide to Apartment Hunting
Whether the school semester is ending or just beginning, there are always students looking for a place to live. For those living on campus, the time may have arrived to pack up and move out of residence. For those already off campus, maybe the lease is up or you're looking to move on. For students looking at renting apartments and houses while at school, there's a lot to consider.
The Question of Utilities
Depending on where you end up, there are a few basics you may need to cover, including utilities such as heat, electricity and water. As a student, you'll probably also need Internet connectivity as well — and depending on who you're renting from, all or none of these may be included in the monthly rent.
When comparing the prices of different apartments, it's important to note which ones include which utilities in the monthly rent. Depending on where you go to school, there may be local property managers that cater specifically to students. The rent for these apartments will sometimes include utilities and Internet, which means you won't need to worry about paying those bills yourself.
If you don't know what the rent will end up being when combined with utilities, talk to the landlord or property manager, or check online for average costs in that area. Many municipalities allow you to search for the address you're considering and will calculate an average hydro or water bill, based on previous tenants and their usage.
Local Amenities: Less Obvious, but Just as Important
All that said, there are a good number of non-quantifiable things to consider before you sign your lease. Is the location good? What are the neighbours like? How far is it to local shopping centres and grocery stores? Where is the nearest laundromat? And perhaps most importantly, how long does it take to get to campus? An apartment might be lovely, but if the building is next to a noisy boulevard or several blocks from the nearest bus stop, it might not be ideal.
Dealing with Roommate Issues Before They Arise
For both financial and social reasons, many students will be living with at least one roommate. Generally, the idea is to avoid conflict with your roommate(s) — but that in no way means you should avoid talking about potentially touchy subjects before the need arises. It's crucial to be upfront with your potential roomies, especially regarding finances. When the two (or more) of you go out looking for a place, have a set budget in mind — one that works for everyone. Shared expenses, like Internet, furniture and groceries, need to be hashed out beforehand.
It's also important to consider the quality of each housemate's bedroom. If one person is sleeping in what's essentially a master suite and another is tucked away in a questionable back room facing an alley, then maybe they shouldn't be paying the same rent. If there are significant differences in bedroom quality, then this is worth discussing. If all are generally the same, then there's nothing to worry about.
Finally, don't let eagerness about finding a place cause you to rush into anything. Take the time to consider everything thoroughly before you sign a lease.