Tips for Parents

How to Start Your Off-Campus Housing Search

By Sarah Schupp, UniversityParent

When it is time to start looking for your first off-campus apartment, you may feel excited and nervous at the same time. You’re probably ready to have your own space and something larger than just a shared dorm room with a Twin XL bed and mini-fridge. But while it is exciting to move off-campus, make sure you don’t rush your housing search.

Signing a lease is a really big step and serious commitment that requires careful research and thoughtful planning. Here’s how to get started with your search to find the perfect first apartment.

Before You Start Your Apartment Search


When you’re ready to move off-campus, before you even start looking at potential rentals, first consider these 3 questions in order to narrow down your search:

  • Cost. How much can you afford to pay in rent and utilities each month? (If you’re not sure, see below for more information on creating a budget). ​​Do you want (or need) to have roommates to minimize the cost?
  • Location. ​​What area or neighborhood do you want to live in? ​How close do you want to be to campus? ​Do you need to be walking distance, or just a short drive from campus? Either way, will public transportation be easily accessible?
  • Amenities. Are there any must-have amenities on your list, such as a washer/dryer, dishwasher, or free parking? Does it need to be “pet-friendly”? What amenities are on your “nice-to-have” list, such as a pool or fitness center? What kind of safety and privacy  features would you like? Start prioritizing what you’d like to have, and what you need to have.

How to Set Your Apartment Rent Budget

Here’s what you’ll need to consider in order to set your monthly rent budget:

  • Rent. What is the monthly rent estimate? What is included in the rent payment?
  • Electricity, Gas, Trash, and Water. Are utilities already included in the rent, or will you be responsible for paying them individually? If you are responsible, ask for an annual estimate because some utility costs vary based on seasonality.
  • Cable and Internet. Is cable TV and high-speed internet included in the rent? If not, how much will it cost? Is it available in the building already, or will it need to be installed? If so, is there an installation fee or setup fee?
  • Renters’ Insurance. Renters’ Insurance is highly recommended by finance professionals to protect renters from unexpected expenses and loss, such as theft.
  • Deposit. Do they require a deposit? If so, how much? When will it be returned? What can you do to make sure you’ll get it back?

How to Set Housing Budget Infographic


How to Find the Right Off-Campus Housing

​Now that you’ve established your budget range, desired location, and prioritized a list of “must-have” amenities, you’re ready to start looking. There are so many online and offline resources available to help you with your search.

Whether you want a studio apartment or 4-bedroom home, cheap or luxury-loaded, lets you search and sort off-campus housing with ease by size, price, amenities and distance to campus.

First, find your college or university alphabetically or by state. From there, you’ll be able to view available student housing, and sort by price, number of bedrooms, amenities, and safety and privacy features. Click the heart icon in the top right corner of the listing to save apartments to your favorites list. Once you’ve found apartments that you like, just click the “Check Availability” button to request more information.

When you request more information, remember to be polite and professional in your communication. Remember that the property manager wants to find the right fit for their community too, and you want to make a great first impression.

Next Steps

Now that you’ve found a few apartments that you’d like to visit in-person, schedule a property tour. This should give you a better feel for what it will be like to actually live there. While it may seem like a ton of work to research apartments on the front end, be sure to put plenty of time and attention into this process to find the right fit for you.

About the Author

Sarah SchuppSarah Schupp is the founder of UniversityParent, the place for parents to find connection, support and information.

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