Renting an apartment is almost inevitable for college students. Even after college, buying a home seems far out of reach thanks to the mass of debt you accumulated.
Living in a "college town" for nine months likely means you'll need somewhere to stay. Unless of course, you are lucky enough to have parents or relatives close-by. In that case, save yourself the extra expense! (It's not that bad, I mean, you can always crash at your friend's place if you need to get away, right?)
As a former college student, and as someone who has been through the process of apartment hunting way too many times, I will share with you what I have learned to help you avoid getting into a lease that will haunt your life.
First: One word, pests. Ask about them. Ask if there were any prior problems with them. The last thing you want is to find out that your apartment is infested with ants, or worse... Also, ask about pest control. How often is the unit serviced? Who is responsible for pest control? Is pest control included in the lease? If it's not included, pest control is expensive, and you don't want to end up paying for it. And I imagine you'd rather not move into an apartment with a pest problem, so ask before signing a lease.
Second: When you go in for a walk-through, note all imperfections. Look at all of the appliances, and make sure they are working. Look at the ceilings for leaky spots or water stains. Look at the tiles for cracks or other damage. Check the weird things, like the water pressure, the toilet, the air conditioner and light fixtures, the stove, and the hot water. Don't forget - take a peek at the windows. If they aren't sealed properly, you'll pay more in heating and cooling costs.
Third: If the driveway of the prospective apartment happens to be fifty feet long, but is only one car-length wide (with 5+ people living in the unit) there could be an issue. I'm not saying this because I ran out of other apartment hunting tips. This happens in real life - it happened to me. In total, there were five vehicles in the "driveway" (my two roommates, two landlords, and I each had a vehicle). My roommates and I had to park according to who was going to leave first, second, and third. You can see how this would be annoying...especially when we were rarely home at the same time. Plus, that wasn't the worst part. I won't even talk about the times where I had to go out in the middle of the night to move my car, or early in the a.m....Then, when we had friends over, it was a parking disaster! The point is, before signing a lease, check out the parking situation for your own mental well-being.
Fourth: Okay, so it's your first year of college, you may not have accumulated that much stuff. But for some reason, as you progress through your college (and post-college) years, it seems that your once fairly light load of belongings grows exponentially. Now, you have this massive pile of stuff, and you have to answer the question: "Where do I put it all?!" Don't panic, one of four things.
- You can leave the majority of your stuff back at your parents' house.
- You can rent storage space (ugh, I hate the idea of spending money to store my own stuff).
- You can find an apartment with plenty of closet and storage space, preferably even a basement. (Problem solved! Until you get more stuff, that is...)
- Or, you could host a massive garage sale and attempt to sell all of the pointless things you now own, and pocket some extra cash. Not a bad idea!
My recommendation would be to get rid of some of the things you don't need, and try to profit from it. Do what's most efficient for you - there's no need to waste hours upon hours of sorting through your old stuff. Make quick decisions on what to sell, and how to sell it - whether it's online or in a garage sale. If you know someone who's already hosting a garage sale, even better! Ask if you can hop on board with their sale. Bring your stuff and you're good to go!
Lastly: Renters' Insurance. I know, the sound of it makes me cringe, too. Ever since the health insurance catastrophe, there is just something off-putting about the word 'insurance.' But think of it differently. Renters' insurance is really an investment in protecting yourself, and all of your newly accumulated stuff (from number four above), from the un-thinkable.
What's good about renters' insurance is that it's fairly inexpensive. (I know, any added expenses as a college or post-college student are devastating to the wallet). Policies, though, can cost you only $200 a year. (Okay, let's think in college terms. That's like a few pizzas, some nights out, and maybe one trip to the mall). I'm guessing you can afford to skip out on a few activities in order to insure yourself. It's either that, or you risk losing your treasured belongings.