Your kid doesn’t want to stay in the dorms, so now what? In today’s real estate market, finding a place to live can cost a fortune. Real estate experts share some ways to save on your kids’ off-campus apartment.
How to Get Started
Where is the best place to look for off-campus housing? Check with your campus housing office first. They will have information for nearby landlords that are looking for college students to rent out their units. Most schools will display postings for apartments for rent and recommendations from past students on the best places to live in the campus housing office.
Use websites to conduct additional research. It is critical to use the ‘alerts’ function for these online resources because most often they provide a text or email whenever there is a new post meeting your criteria.
Location, Location, Location
When determining where to look, familiarize yourself with the market rental rates in specific pockets close the campus, as even a three to four block difference can save you a few hundred dollars per month. Look at proximity to campus. Is there a campus shuttle, local bus or is it an easy bike ride or walk? Does the campus security patrol the area? Are there free rides from campus to your apartment late at night? Or, if you have a car, ask if a parking space is included.
Consider a new development. These buildings might offer more incentives – free rent, gift card upon lease execution, etc. than other buildings, as they are looking to pull tenants in.
Do some local reconnaissance, if logistically possible. Even though most rentals will be listed on the major services, it’s not true of every rental. Stop by grocery stores, community centers, and other places where small landlords post openings. This can be time-intensive, but also can be where most of the ‘deals’ are found. Tell everyone you know that you are looking. Maybe there is an available apartment next door to a friend and it has not been listed yet.
Don’t Go at it Alone
Not only will they be able to show you a plethora of places, but they can also help you negotiate rent with the landlord – they want to lease the apartment just as bad as you do!
You will pay a fee when using a broker, but sometimes that fee can be negotiated. When negotiating with a listing broker charging a 15% fee, show them how qualified you are by discussing the financials of your guarantor and then request a reduction in the broker’s fee. If you can assure them a quick, easy deal they may go for it.
Compare Short Term vs. Long Term Rates
Stay away from short-term rentals, as they tend to be more expensive. Even if you are in school only for the fall and spring semester, it may be cheaper to rent an apartment for a full twelve months. If your landlord lets you sublease the months you are not there, all the better.
Another money-saving trick is to pay upfront — if you can afford it. Try to pay for the entire year of rent upfront…this is a very good tactic to give you leverage when negotiating the rent!
Ask the Right Questions
When you meet with the broker or landlord, arm yourself with a list of questions that will help you find the place that is right for you. Ask whether it’s furnished, if Wi-Fi, trash collection and utilities are included, etc. Finding a furnished apartment and having utilities included may be a little more on a monthly basis, but comparing this to buying furniture and putting deposits with utility companies to establish service needs to be considered when comparing total move-in and monthly costs.
Make a Good Impression
Because competition can be stiff and apartments can go quickly, make sure you stand out as a solid candidate. Also, be prepared to commit on the spot if you find the place that’s right for you. You should have a way to put the deposit down immediately-whether by check. Additionally, you should pull your own credit report and have a copy available. Great credit will open doors. If your credit is not perfect, be prepared to offer more in terms of a security deposit. Write a short statement about why you would make a great tenant, highlighting your strengths and even including references from former landlords, coaches or professors.
Refer a Friend
If you are looking at an apartment in a large housing complex, inquire about referral bonuses for bringing in tenants for the following school year. Big student apartment complexes usually have some sort of promotion to bring in new tenants. For example, the apartment buildings will sometimes offer the first month’s rent free as a signing bonus, or might have a referral program you could join where you and a friend can get discounts off of rent for signing a lease.
Timing Is Everything
Most college students are looking for apartments towards the end of summer for the fall semester. If you happen to be looking mid-year or well in advance of the school year, this could be to your advantage. For those looking to increase negotiating power, try to get off the summer search cycle. Look for an apartment in late September or October, after living somewhere temporarily for the first couple of months.
Time to Move
When you’re working out your budget, don’t forget to factor in moving costs. Many people underestimate the cost to move and the sticker shock can be overwhelming. It could be thousands of dollars with the moving truck handling and travel fees, packing services, and mover’s insurance.
Plan Ahead for Next Year
As soon as you get the sense that your student may want to live elsewhere next year, look now. Many locations are pre-leasing up to one year in advance. This will save time and money and it will give you the best chance at your desired locations.