by GRACE SCHUMACHER
After students finish their freshman year of college, they may consider moving out of the dorms and into a house or apartment off-campus.
“My roommates and I found a great place in College Heights that checked all the boxes,” said junior political science major Jackson Davis. “It was close to campus, a good size and reasonably priced.”
Every student is unique and has different reasons and expectations for their move off campus.
“I really like the idea of having independence outside of university-provided housing,” said undeclared sophomore Kinsey Brotman. “My roommates and I have our Zillow notifications turned on and are looking for places within walking distance to campus.”
It can be easy to jump at the first available house or apartment, especially when students are anxious to move out of dorm living, but here are five things to keep in mind when house hunting.
Finances play a large role in the decisions many students make when looking for housing. Some people might decide to have a roommate, since sharing expenses with a trusted friend can cut costs and possibly achieve a nicer or more conveniently-located living space.
Many college students are not financially independent and should look into signing the lease agreement alongside a cosigner. These individuals take on full financial responsibility and act as insurance for the property manager to ensure that payments are received.
“Since myself and all of my roommates are college students, the property group we rent from actually requires us to have cosigners,” said Davis.
- Find the right property group
Some landlords and property groups express reluctance about renting to college students. According to the Fair Housing Act, students fall under protected groups. This means that they cannot be barred due to qualities such as their marital status, age or source of income. Groups like MacDoc Property Management and Eagle Property Management are good places to start the search because of their reputations as “student-friendly” groups.
- Build relationships with landlords
While it is common for students to hop on Zillow or Apartments.com, finding the right property management group is really important in this process. Having a direct line of communication with the landlord or property group is vital in case the space is in need of maintenance. The relationship between tenant and landlord can shape the overall experience you have, so it’s important to build a positive relationship with property management.
- Start the search early
The early bird gets the worm! The rental market can be very competitive so start the search early on in the spring semester before your intended move-in. The Stratford apartments are notorious for this; they tend to fill up by March, so it’s important to get your name into their waitlist early. Follow up on your inquiries and don’t be afraid to sell yourself as a glowing potential tenant.
- Use your connections
Communicate with upperclassmen and students who live off-campus. They are the best resource when it comes to finding safe neighborhoods, reliable landlords or property groups and general housing advice. UMW’s “Rent It” Facebook page is a great site to keep tabs on if you don’t know where to start.
Off-campus housing allows students the independence they seek when becoming fully-fledged adults and nearing the onset of their professional careers. “Having a living space to yourself means that you have the ability to dictate who you invite over as well as who you live with, whereas, in the dorms, students are virtually living on top of each other,” said junior geography major Caitlin Shirvinski.
The goal of college is to learn and grow; one of the benefits of living off-campus is more of a real-life experience. On-campus living is a bit like living in a bubble. When living off campus, you are more responsible for more aspects of your life and that is a huge part of the college experience.
Josephine Good and Cosmy Pellis contributed to reporting for this article.