Looking for Off-Campus Housing in BloomingtonDimana Tzvetkova
It’s only September, but if you know anything about housing at IU, you know that people have already started looking at their options for next year. Signing up for a dorm room doesn’t start until January, but if you want to live off campus next semester, the time to start looking is now.
As a sophomore, I know a lot of people who are either on or off campus. I, myself, stayed on campus. Last year, when everyone on my floor was started to look at apartments and houses, I declined to join them. I had only just moved into a dorm and was no longer living at home; it scared me to think about having to pay rent and bills and basically do more adult things than I was ready for.
Instead, I chose to live in Union Street, which is the best transition between dorm life and off-campus life that you can find. Especially if the idea of not only having to cook for yourself but also pay bills on time scares you as much as it scared me.
Needless to say, Union Street is pretty awesome. I live with three of my best friends, I do not pay for a meal plan, and I’ve found that cooking for myself is a lot easier than I thought it would be. Not to mention that having a room to yourself is a nice change from sharing a small dorm room with someone else.
More importantly, though, Union Street has convinced me that I can do the whole living off campus thing. I can manage both school and responsible adult things.
Anyway, having decided that, I’ve found my roommates for next year and we’ve been looking at houses close to campus. I’m hoping to bestow this newfound knowledge of house/apartment hunting onto you, so here are top five need-to-know things.
- Figure out what you are looking for. How many people are you going to be living with? Do you want a house or an apartment? Do you want a place where everyone has a room to themselves or do you not mind sharing a room? Do you want to be close to campus or are you not bothered by taking the bus. It’s important to figure out these things before you go actually go out to look at houses or apartments. You don’t want to be running around Bloomington without some idea of what you’re looking for, so narrow it down to a few key criteria. If your major is science related and you know that you’ll have classes with exams late at night, you might consider somewhere closer to campus so that you won’t have to walk far in the dark.
- But don’t be afraid to keep options open. Even if you know for sure you don’t want an apartment, look at one anyway. It might help in confirming your decision to go with a house instead. Or, you know, vice versa. When my future roommates and I went on a search for houses, we knew we wanted a house and we knew we wanted to be as close to campus as possible. We looked at a townhouse anyway, despite this fact, and we all agreed that it was definitely something we weren’t interested in. Also, don’t be afraid to tell your future roommates what you think of the place, good or bad. You’re all trying to find a place that you could potentially live in until you graduate (renewing a lease is a lot easier than having to move in and out every summer), so you want to find a place you all equally like.
- Find a company that you’re comfortable with. The big questions you need to answer are whether you want utilities to be included in your rent or separate. Do you want the place to be already furnished or would you rather furnish it yourself (I saw an advertisement on Atwater Ave. for a furnished space that includes internet and utilities in the rent)? The company we’ve been going to is Elkins Apartments. They offer apartments, townhouses, and houses, and the majority of the homes are walking distance from campus. It would be hard not to find something that fits your needs, but even if you find a different company, just be sure to read the fine print.
Another thing to be weary of: look at reviews online of each company, but don’t take them seriously. Most companies have the worst reviews because only students with serious complaints write them. The best thing to do is to take what the complaints are into account and form them into questions that you can ask the agent before you sign the lease.
- Once you get there, look at every crack and corner of the place. Look at the appliances – do they seem to be in working and bearable condition? If they were to break down through no fault of your own, will the rental agency cover it? Chances are they will, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. The most important question though: do you see yourself living there? One of the places we looked at was a townhouse that was very new looking. The place was nice, the rooms spacious, and everything was spread out over 3 floors. Unfortunately, the kitchen was on the lowest floor behind the living room where there were no windows (basically it was like a cave). While this isn’t much of a problem for the college students living off of take-out and ramen, it’s a problem for the four of us, who spend a lot of our free time cooking and baking. We wanted a kitchen where we would want to spend a good portion of our time.
Also, look at the place one more time before signing the lease. Make sure that you think about things that you might have forgotten to look for the first time and look for them the second time. Between the first and second viewing of the house my future roommates and I looked at, I remembered that we needed to check for double-paned windows because in the winter, they keep the gas bill low.
- Ask friends and family with experience to also read the lease. If you’re like me, you have never set your eyes on a leasing contract. Going into this, I had no idea what to expect let alone what things should or should not be on a leasing contract. My parents, though, have seen their share of leasing contracts and then some. It’s best to have an experienced eye look over a sample contract for any red flags. The company will let you take home a sample of the contract so that you have the opportunity to look it over, and it’s a lot more reassuring to have someone who knows what they’re doing look over the contract.
I hope these five pieces of advice help, or at least get you started in the right direction. As a bonus round, I have created some sample questions that will get you going:
- How much is the rent?
- What is included in the rent?
- If utilities are not included in the rent, what is the average cost?
- Does the company often come to do regular maintenance or only when the tenants request something to be fixed?
- What sort of maintenance things would the tenants be charged for and what sort of repairs would the company cover?
Also, if you still have concerns about housing next year, check out what these other bloggers have to say: