When you prepare to live off campus for the first time while attending college, there are a few things that you should be aware of. Making the decision to live on your own is a big step, but one that requires common sense, budgeting, and a firm grasp of what you are getting into. When you choose an apartment to live in, make sure that you first visit the site where it is located, get a look inside the apartment (not just the model that they show you), and ask them what is in included in the rent. Utilities (water, gas, electricity, trash, etc.) can add up really fast, and you want to make sure that you can afford that on top of the rent. Also, factor in a deposit, which depending on where you will live may run anywhere from 100 to as much as 400. Knowing all of the charges before you sign the papers is a good start to getting a quality apartment.
As you look around, see what shape the blinds are in, how well the grounds and apartment are taken care of, and if you see many things that don’t look right, go somewhere else. A lack of proper maintenance shows the kind of support you will have if you run into a problem with the building. Getting other’s experiences with different places helps you to know where it is good to live and where not to. There are many options to look at, and you deserve to find one that is within your budget and is also relatively nice.
If you find a place that you like, read the contract the landlord gives you – thoroughly. You need to be aware of the rules, costs, and other related issues that go into this contract. Remember, you are signing a legally, binding contract that can be held up in a court of law. It comes with responsibility, both on your part and your landlord’s. When you first move in, make a detailed inventory of what is broken and needs to be fixed, and keep a copy. Then tell your landlord anything that you feel needs to be replaced or repaired. If something is unsafe, they are legally required to replace it. This list also protects you from having to pay for something that was broken before you get there. Protect yourself and keep good records. Be aware of what you do affects your neighbors as well – for instance, if you love to play loud music late at night, expect to see the landlord and / or the police on your doorstep. Respect their privacy and right to a quiet environment, and they will return it in kind.
A word on pets and roommates – both of which can either be blessings or nightmares. If you have a pet, realize that there will be an extra cost with a pet deposit if you have an animal, and that if it does any damage you will be liable. Also, consider how much time you have to spend with it, and if you can afford to take care of it. If not, do not have one. For an apartment, a cat is one of the best options you can choose. They are clean, easy to take care of and are extremely low maintenance. Dogs are wonderful, but can be a lot of trouble in a small place. Consider very carefully what you are buying and what it will grow into before you purchase it and bring it home. Additionally, do not try to have a pet and not tell your landlord. Many companies that run apartment complexes will actually fine people, and do find out very often when people are hiding a pet. This well end up costing you more in the long run, so be honest up front.
Roommates are another area where you have to be very careful. You need to evaluate your people skills, and how well you will actually get along with someone in a small place. If you do not do well with someone else living in close proximity living with you, don’t get a roommate, even if you want to save the extra cash on rent. If you do want to have one, choose carefully. This is someone that will be near you twenty-four hours a day, and should be a responsible person that you can count on to do their part in taking care of bills and the house. The more you know about them, the better.
Setting up a budget from day one is also essential, as you have to have money to pay bills, get your rent in on time, and make sure that you have plenty for groceries and related costs. If you can stick to a budget, then you will have a good start on living on your own. If you don’t budget, you may find yourself at the end of the month with no money to pay your rent or bills with.
One last tip is to consider your reasons for living off of campus, and the pro’s and con’s of staying in the dorms. Ask yourself if you are truly ready for the responsibility, can handle it financially, and are ready for this next step into the real world. By being totally honest with yourself, you will be able to see if you are really ready to live off campus for the first time.