Tips for Parents

How Can I Help my Student Have a Great Off-Campus Housing Experience?

By Real Estate Professional John Iannone 

For most students, the transition to living off campus is their first exposure to life in the “real world” outside of the structured purview of university boundaries. It’s an exciting time for students. For parents it brings a new set of concerns and worries, but with some planning and a little guidance, the process of moving off campus can be a rewarding experience for all.

Step 1: Start planning EARLY and define your needs

Planning should start well in advance of your student’s estimated move date. In some college towns preleasing of rental units starts as early as one year in advance! Start by asking the basic questions to help your student get on the same page as his roommates or housemates. 

  • How many bedrooms and bathrooms are you looking for?
  • How much can you afford?
  • Do you have pets?
  • How long of a lease do you want?
  • What kinds of amenities are MUST HAVES?
  • When do you plan on moving in? Summer, Fall, Mid-Semester?

Step 2: Choose your location, location, location…

Encourage your student to get familiar with the different neighborhoods and areas of town. He should note the proximity to school, amenities, and transportation. Don’t rely on others and their opinions — make sure he takes the time to investigate and explore his options firsthand. It’s also a good idea to browse listings online in advance to get a feel for rental rates and availability in different parts of town.

Step 3: Get professional help with your search.

Identify local property management companies, apartment locator services, and real estate agencies that specialize in student rental housing in your area. Many college towns have established student rental agencies and off-campus housing resources available for students to utilize in their housing search. Your student may want to seek them out, visit their offices, and get to know them. Encourage him to ask a lot of questions and use his gut instincts to decide which ones he is comfortable with. He should also check with his on-campus student services as they may have suggestions.

Step 4: Be prepared to qualify

Landlords and property managers will ask your student to meet certain qualifying criteria in order to be considered for tenancy. The criteria will vary depending on the landlord and the property. Remember that it is ultimately up to the individual property owner or landlord to decide what they want from a student renter (and their parents) to feel comfortable renting to them — so remind your student to be prepared, polite, and be professional — he is essentially going through an interview process.

Common requirements for qualifying for off-campus rental property include:

  • Parental guarantee: this is an addendum to the lease document whereby the parents of the student renters will sign a guarantee of the lease agreement.
  • Security deposit equal to one month’s rental rate or more.
  • First and last month’s rental payments made in advance.
  • Credit checks, and positive rental history verifications.
  • Eviction checks.
  • Criminal background checks.

Step 5: Be safe and beware of scams

When moving off campus your student’s safety will be a top priority. As student renters are going off campus for the first time they need to be aware of the many dangers lurking in the rental market, and they need to take some precautions. 

Popular rental search sites like Craigslist, Zillow, and others have become hotbeds for scammers, criminals, and ghost postings. There are new varieties of scams popping up daily in the rental world. Students are particularly at risk as scammers tend to target college towns with ample supply of rental units and renters.

One of the more common scams is the ghost posting. A ghost posting is a type of scam whereby the scammer copies information from a real rental listing and then reposts it under his own account and contact information, creating a fake rental listing using the property photos, address, and details for a real property. The scammer then uses the fake listing to lure unsuspecting renters into sending them money to secure the property.

To avoid rental pitfalls, encourage your student to:

  • Meet his prospective property manager or Landlord in person. He should never go alone; encourage him to bring you or his housemates along. 
  • View the actual property he will be renting before he signs a lease or pays a security deposit. 
  • Never mail money to a property manager or Landlord without meeting them in person and viewing the actual property, no matter how trustworthy they seem.
  • Do some research on his prospective Landlord or property manager: Google them, read online reviews from other renters, check with his local Chamber of Commerce or Rental Housing Association.
  • Check to ensure the property is up to code and carries a current rental license. Many cities require rental properties to pass a licensing inspection to ensure they meet basic safety and habitability requirements. 
  • Ask a lot of questions. Make sure he understands what costs are included in the rental rate and what is not, and knows his responsibility for utilities, repairs, maintenance, lawn care, and snow removal. 
  • If possible have his lease agreement reviewed by an attorney prior to signing. A lease agreement is a legal document and it is important that he understands what he is signing. 
  • Buy renter’s insurance. Most landlords do not carry insurance to protect your student’s personal belongings. A renter’s insurance policy is affordable and provides peace of mind should the unexpected occur. 

Now that we’ve covered what could potentially go wrong with renting off campus, it’s important to keep things in perspective. The vast majority of landlords and property managers are good, hard-working people that are there to help your student. Utilize their resources and experience to make your student’s move more enjoyable.  With a little planning and some guidance, students will find that their first move off campus will be as much of a positive learning experience as those experienced on the university campus.

John Iannone is a real estate professional with Housing Helpers, a relocation company in Boulder Colorado that provides housing solutions to students and professionals including: rental locating and apartment finding, corporate housing, real estate brokerage, investment property marketing, and relocation services. Each year Housing Helpers assists hundreds of students and their parents with off campus housing in Boulder Colorado and beyond. For more information visit www.housinghelpers.com or call (303) 545-6000.

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