It’s mid-November, and Northwestern students are in the throes of finishing up whatever midterms they have, getting ready for finals, counting down the days until break, and yes, starting to look for off-campus housing. For students looking for off-campus housing, the fast pace of the housing process may catch first timers off-guard as many have signed their leases by January or February. Here are some tips and tricks to getting started on looking for off-campus housing.
1) Figure out the logistics
This is where you sit down and set your priorities. If you have roommates, it’s good to do this step together. What is each person’s budget? What are their priorities? What are each of you willing to compromise on? If you’re having some budget problems, an easy way to get the monthly rent down is to consider sharing a room if you’re more concerned about financials than privacy. Be as upfront with one another as you can. That way, you might find some creative solutions that make everyone happy instead of compromising and having some dissatisfaction. You’ll be spending a lot of time in your apartment or house, so it should be a welcoming and homey environment for everyone!
2) Decide on the general location
For most students, the priority in off-campus housing will be location. Do you want to live north with close access to Tech and Henry Crown Sports Pavilion? Mid-campus is a great option for those who have classes both north and south. South of campus means living right in the middle of downtown with lots of restaurants and shopping options. Figuring out different transportation options might also help you decide which general location you want. Downloading the Rider App will show you different bus routes and times that can make it easier to get to class. Other options are to get a bike or a scooter to get to classes faster.
3) Start browsing different options
After you have your budget and your location, you can start exploring different places. There are a few different ways to get a sense of what each apartment complex is like. Northwestern partners with Places4Students as a resource for students to view rental and sublet listings as well as look for roommates.
You can also browse specific apartment complex websites or try taking a walk around and seeing which apartment complexes are advertising open spaces. Many apartments located north are smaller complexes that take some exploring to get to know, and not all of these complexes have online websites. It’s definitely worth looking around both in-person and online to get a better idea of your entire selection.
However, one of the best ways to find apartments is word of mouth. Ask your upperclassmen friends or those who have lived off-campus before. The Northwestern Free & For Sale Facebook page also has various sublet opportunities posted throughout the year. Asking your friends will get you the most honest responses about pros and cons, and you may find options you never knew about.
4) Visit the apartment
Always make sure to check out the physical space in person! It’s no secret that things look different online and in-person, so be sure that you’ll have the opportunity to walkthrough and get a sense of what that space feels like. You can get measurements and start envisioning how future furniture will look. This is also a good opportunity to ask current residents what they think about living there! They can answer questions about management, utility bills, and how the space fares through different seasons. Most people will be happy to answer questions after you introduce yourself and explain why you’re approaching them.
5) Signing that Lease
After you’ve done all these previous steps and found your One True ApartmentTM, it’s time to sign that lease. While it can be intimidating to sign a contract for the first time (or second!), here are some basic things to notice in a lease:
- Your leasing term. Are you renewing your lease month by month, or year by year? Maybe you’re signing a ten-month lease. See what options your landlord offers, and choose the one that suits your needs the best.
- Who’s responsible for paying what? Some apartments will pay for electricity but not for gas, and others have contracts with internet providers so you’re required to have a certain kind of Wi-Fi. Make sure you look this over so you know what to expect in terms of bills.
- Renter’s insurance. Renter’s insurance will basically cover any damages that occur during your stay, such as break-ins. Some landlords require residents to have renter’s insurance. Even if they don’t, it might be a good idea to investigate whether or not renter’s insurance is something you would like to have.
- Be prepared for the deposit. Most apartments will require a deposit around the amount of two-months of rent so they have some proof of your financial capability to keep meeting rents. You’ll get this amount back after you choose not to re-sign your lease, but you should be prepared to pay this deposit when you sign your lease.
6) Enjoy your off-campus life!
Once you’ve taken care of all that, it’s time to enjoy your off-campus life! In the months leading up to your actual move-in day, you can have fun browsing furniture catalogues at Ikea or on Northwestern’s Free & For Sale page. You should also check out Northwestern’s Off-Campus Life department for some handy tips and guidelines on how to live off-campus and interact respectfully with the Evanston community.
Looking for a place off-campus can seem intimidating, but with these tips and tricks, hopefully you have a better idea of what to look for and do in the process!