For freshmen, renting an apartment is an exciting step toward adulthood. However, it’s a huge commitment, so make sure you do your research beforehand to make a decision that’s best for you—and of course, your budget.

First, you need to know when to start looking for an on-campus or off-campus living arrangement or apartment. It’d be best not to start too early or too late. Begin the hunt for potential apartments at least eight months in advance. 

This post will help you hunt for your first apartment as a first-year student. Keep reading below to find out more. 

How Much Rent Can You Afford?

Things can go so fast once you start the hunt! So, before looking for an apartment, you need to be clear with your budget. Ask yourself: how much can you afford to spend on rent? 

You might be surprised to figure out the cost of renting an apartment, especially in well-known cities like New York. However, the real estate market hasn’t been doing well these days, so expect the rates to increase much higher than before.

To answer the question posed above, you’ll need to set up a realistic budget. First, determine how much you can earn per year and how much of your earnings should go to your rent. To make it simpler, you may use these two basic budgeting rules: the 30% rule and the 50-30-20 rule.

  • The 30% Rule

The 30% rule indicates that 30% of your gross income should be spent on rent. For example, if you’re earning USD$100,000 per year, 30% of it, which is USD$30,000, will be used for paying rent. Divide it by 12 to determine how much you should spend on monthly rent.

  • The 50-30-20 Rule

The 50-30-20 rule suggests that 50% of your income should be spent on necessities like food and rent, 30% on wants like shopping and hobbies, and 20% on savings or debts. 

For example, if your yearly income is USD$100,000, USD$50,000 will be allotted to necessities, USD$30,000 to wants, and USD$20,000 to savings, loans, investments, etc. 

As you can see, the 50-30-20 rule doesn’t provide an exact percentage for rent, unlike the 30% rule. But it’ll help you establish a budget.

Now, apply these rules to your budget to determine how much you can spend on rent. Then, you may start looking for apartments that fit your budget. You may visit Hillcrest Townhouses or other similar platforms for affordable, student-friendly housing options.

What Are The Factors To Consider When Choosing A Student Apartment?

Indeed, renting a student apartment can help improve your university life. Yet with tons of options to choose from, how would you know which one to pick? Would you choose the one near your school or one with enticing features? 

If you’re having trouble looking for the perfect student apartment, worry no more. Below are the things you need to consider before choosing one. If you want to improve your college experience, read further below.

  1. Location

Before getting swayed by the cheap cost of a particular student apartment, you have to consider its location. The distance to your chosen university is a crucial deciding factor. If you live in a bargain apartment but must drive hours to reach your school, you’d probably waste more time.

If possible, pick a student apartment that’s not so far from your institution. Aside from saving time and money from the commute, being close to the university may help encourage you to do well in school. 

  1. Internet Speeds

These days, students require a fast and reliable internet connection to do research for school-related activities and projects. 

Also, a solid internet connection helps students to stay connected with their loved ones. Since they’ll be living away from home, it’s important to strengthen their familial bonds to encourage and inspire them to perform better in school.

To check the internet connection of your prospective accommodations, you may ask the past residents you know or search for reviews online. 

  1. Cost Of Utilities

Before choosing an apartment, ask the property owner if the rent includes the cost of utilities. Sometimes, property owners include utilities in the monthly rent. Utilities include regular expenses, such as garbage collection, gas, laundry, electricity, water, and more. 

If the cost of utilities is included in the monthly rent, ask the landlord how much it is. This is to determine whether or not the amount is justifiable. Otherwise, look for other options that offer affordable housing and reasonable utility costs.

  1. Coziness

Living alone can be a fun and exciting journey, especially if you’ve been stuck in the same house with your loved ones for several years. Nonetheless, it could also make you feel overwhelmed. This is especially true when dealing with the obligations that come with independent living.

To adjust to the new environment, look for apartments with the same vibes and coziness as your home. This way, adapting to new surroundings and interacting with new people won’t be difficult.  

  1. Furniture And Fittings

You should know what’s included in every student apartment you visit. Some furniture and fixtures may seem nice and enticing, but they may not stay there with you for good. 

For example, the cozy-looking couch you saw on one of your visits may have attracted you to pick that apartment. Yet the landlord may remove it days after moving in. 

Before you decide, ask the landlord whether the fittings and furniture are included in the rent. If the apartment includes a few mattresses, look for broken springs to reduce future repairs.

  1. Potential Roommates

Some students prefer living in a shared apartment because it’s cheaper than living all by yourself. Yet before you agree to move in, familiarize yourself with the peculiarities, behaviors, and habits of your potential roommates. If you find their behavior too offensive, consider looking for other options around the area.  

If you and your friends plan to stay together until graduation, look for a place with enough rooms to ensure everyone has their own privacy.

  1. Restrooms

Decent restrooms are a must when renting a place to stay. This is particularly true for individuals who are meticulous when it comes to their hygiene and cleanliness. 

So, before you make a decision, it’s crucial to inspect the bathroom and give it a try to ensure everything’s working in good condition. After all, nobody wants to delay their toilet time just because it’s clogged and not working properly.

  1. Common Areas And Available Amenities

The life of a college student has its own fair share of stress. So, although you want to study as hard as possible, you want to take a break too, enjoy the moment, and create great memories. That’s why you should consider the common areas and amenities inside the apartment.

Check if the student housing includes a gym, a movie theater, or a lounge area. These things may not be helpful for your studies, but they can make living away from home much easier and more comfortable.

  1. Water Supply

An apartment packed with students who need a constant stream of water to flush the toilet, wash the dishes, or do the laundry can lead to water pressure issues. 

When visiting student apartments, scrutinize the sinks and toilets and ensure enough trickle of water flows through the pipes. Plus, you should try flushing the toilet to see if it’s working. 

Lastly, don’t forget to look for leaks and damp areas—signs of broken pipes. Water damage can be detrimental to your health if left ignored.

  1. Security

Security is arguably the most critical factor you need to consider when choosing a student apartment. To determine the security level of a potential residence, consider asking the landlord the following questions:

  • Are the locks secure?;
  • Are there surveillance cameras installed in every corner of the building?; 
  • Does the apartment have security guards to keep the building in check 24/7?; and so on. 

Answering these questions may help reduce the worries you may feel about the security of your belongings while having a class in school.

Understanding The Lease Contract

Signing a lease can be intimidating and overwhelming, especially for first-time renters. Before you sign the contract, read it thoroughly to ensure you’ve left no stone unturned and no surprises in the future. Take all the time you need, and don’t hesitate to ask questions. 

Here are some tips to follow when checking (and double-checking) a lease contract:

  • Check The Accuracy 

Before you sign the contract, make sure that every detail included is accurate, from your name and apartment address to the price of rent and policies involved. Don’t hesitate to ask questions if some parts of the contract seem confusing and unclear.

  • Review The Penalties And Charges

As you go over the contract, you’ll see the penalties and charges you might be accountable for during the term. Common penalties you may see in a lease contract are charges for late payment, disruptive behavior, end-of-the-lease cleaning, and property damage. 

  • Read And Understand The Escape Clause

You’ll never know what will happen during your term period. You might find a more comfortable apartment or transfer to a new school. If an opportunity shows up, grab it, and never let go! 

If such a situation occurs in the future, what will you do? Read and understand the escape clause of the lease contract. It’ll tell you some conditions you need to meet to leave the apartment. 

Usually, escape clauses require existing renters to pay a 30 to 60-day notice and a penalty fee that may cost 2-3 months’ rent. And you may be required to forfeit your security deposit because of your untimely leave. 

  • Review The Rules Involving Guests

Most student apartments these days have stringent policies when it comes to bringing guests inside. This includes how long guests should stay and whether you can bring one. Make sure to understand the conditions presented in the contract, as breaking them may carry hefty penalties and eviction.

  • Check If You’re Allowed To Bring In Pets

Do you have a pet, or are you planning on getting one after moving in? Some student apartments don’t allow furry companions inside the premises, while others do. 

Ask the landlord whether there are restrictions on certain breeds, weights, and species. You may be excited to bring in your furry friend, but your landlord may hate it. Don’t hesitate to ask when in doubt.

  • Secure Your Deposit

In most cases, renters are required to pay a deposit before moving in. Make sure to understand the conditions surrounding it and whether it’s refundable. After signing the lease, get a copy of the contract for future reference to avoid confusion for both parties.

Additional Costs When Looking For A Student Apartment

Here are some additional costs associated with renting a student apartment:

  • Application Fee

Most student apartments require potential renters to pay an application fee. Although the price may vary from one apartment to another, application fees tend to range from USD$50 to USD$150. This fee covers background checking and application processing.

  • Security Deposit

Security deposits are fees held by the landlord during the lease term and typically range from USD$100 to a month’s rent. If you follow all of the provisions regarding your security deposit until the end of your lease, you may be able to refund your security fee.

  • Utilities

Utilities are one of the biggest monthly expenses you should prepare for when occupying a student apartment. These include electricity, gas, water, and more. Some flats offer a one-time utility setup fee of around USD$25 to USD$100. 

Other costs in renting a student apartment are rental insurance, moving expenses, pet rent and fees, and upgrade packages.

Final Words

Living independently can be a fun and exciting journey for freshmen students, but it can be overwhelming as well. That’s why looking for the ideal student apartment is crucial. The perfect housing will help you adjust to your new surroundings and put you at ease so you can easily meet and interact with new people. Use this simple guide on your hunt for the perfect student apartment.