It’s that time of the year again! It’s leasing season and time for students to begin to search for where they will live for the next semester or year of their college career. There are many factors that go into where you should live next school year, and some financial tips that every student looking for a new place to live should know. Here is an 8-step list of what to consider when deciding where to live next school year.
- Determine the Most Important Factors
Everyone is different and each of us have our own way of prioritizing what is most important to us for our living arrangements. Here are a few important factors to consider:
Roommates- the number of roommates you have will be a central factor in calculating housing cost. This should not be overlooked! If you don’t want to live in a single living arrangement, try to find roommates that you know you can get along with while living in the same place. It’s one thing to be friends with someone when you are in class or hangout on the weekends, but it’s a totally different game when you live in the same place. Some things you may want to agree on are cleaning style, house/ room temperature, and personal space.
Housing Style- Dorms, apartments and rental houses are the most common places for college students to live. Once you’ve got your roommates together, decide what style will fit your needs the best. Weigh the pros and cons of responsibility versus freedom between each of the three. Living in the dorms typically requires less responsibility for food arrangements and cleaning, but students have far less freedom to be noisy after quite hours. Living in an off campus house demands much more responsibility for daily cleaning and food preparation, but allows the freedom to enjoy the company of others with almost no limitations.
Location- locations closer to campus tend to cost more per month. This is of course, due to the benefit of being close to the campus which reduces expenses such as travel cost. Think about how close, or far, you would like to live from campus and how important being connected to the campus is to you.
Paying Separate Bills- On campus living has the benefit of paying for housing expenses through KSIS. This is also beneficial because the bill is applied directly to you and does not will not depend on others. This is an important factor to consider, because your credit score may be affected by your ability to make payments on time. If this concerns you but you would still like to live off campus, look for apartments that offer individual room payments so that you and your roommates ability to make payments on time does not affect each other’s credit. Some new bills that require monthly payments may include: rent, electricity, water, gas, garbage, and internet service. This is not a bad thing, however students should be prepared to make these payments on time to protect their credit score.
- Decide On a Price Range
This is one of the most important steps in deciding on where to live. Housing cost vary dramatically based on the number of rooms, location, and housing style so set a price range based on the factors listed above. Most two bedroom apartments cost each person roughly $350- $450 in rent. Rent can be very high in Manhattan so you’ll want to go for a place that falls into your price range. If you are uncertain about your price range or if your monthly budget will allow you to pay for a living arrangement than you should set up a free appointment with Powercat Financial. Our peer financial counselors would love to help you organize your budget and help determine a good price range. Some preliminary questions you should ask yourself are: What is my expected income source? How much money will my income source provide? What will I be able to afford to pay each month? What additional services and cost will I incur by living in an apartment or house?
- Start Your Search Online
Using an online search tool is an easy and cost-effective way for your preliminary housing search. I tried a couple of different websites and found Aparments.com to be one of the better tools. You can filter your search by location, number of rooms, and price among other requirements. You can take your online search a step further and look at the land ownership group’s websites. Often time, landowners have multiple properties under a single web page and can offer a small variety of housing options. If one that you saw looks interesting, but not the perfect fit it is possible that they have another that better meets your needs.
- Talk to Peers
See what your peers think about where they live currently. Person to person communication can usually offer a better and more accurate understanding of expectations for places that you are considering. Ask them if they can make payments online or if they can pay with money orders or checks. An honest opinion from a current tenant may be more reliable than a review from an angry past tenant or an online review from a few years ago that “LOOOOVED” the place.
- Narrow It Down To Three
Once you’ve got a good set of data points select three living options suit you and your roommates the best. Your top three may not be prefect so prepare to give and take with benefits listed in the first two sections.
- Do a Walk Through
Always look at the living arrangement with your own eyes. Though pictures are nice to look at, the pictures that you see online may look a little bit different in real life. So schedule an appointment and do a walkthrough so that you are totally familiar with the real environment. After all you are considering spending your money and living there for the next year.
- Gather Down Payment and Find Co-Signer
Several rentals have application fees on top of down payments and security deposits. Ask for down payment and fee information up front so that you are prepared to make those payments ahead of time. Fees can be anywhere from $25- $50 on top of down payments that are often at least $100 or the price of a full month of rent. Sometimes these fees can be waved as a promotion so also be on the lookout for any promotions and always ask if the application fee can be waved.
Numerous off campus rental options require co-signers on any unit that will be rented by a college student. Be prepared to have a co-signer if you would like to live off campus. A co-signer is someone who contractually agrees to pay for your rent in the event that you do not pay it. If a payment is missed it will have a serious negative effect on you and your co-signers credit score.
- Read Over and Sign Lease
Read the lease carefully and ask the person going over it any questions that concern you. Fixed term leases are the most common and typically last for 5 or 6 months (one semester) or an entire year (possibly extending into the summer). In many cases if you choose to leave early you will still be responsible for paying until the end of your term. Lease terms should include any circumstances where the landlord can keep your deposit such as damage to property or permeant fixtures.
Finding a new place to live can be exciting and sometimes overwhelming. As we progress in our education and lives, we take more control and responsibility over our finances. Take the steps listed above to try to make your decision easier and to help keep your finances in order. After the proper preparation you should be able to snag a new dorm, apartment, or house and spend more time focused on your education and other priorities. Don’t forget Powercat Financial is here to help so make a free appointment today at www.ksu.edu/powercatfinancial.
Peer Counselor I
302 K-State Student Union, Third Floor
918 N. 17th Street
Manhattan, KS 66506-2800