There are certain things you need to know when preparing to live off campus, such as how to budget, deal with landlords and affordably furnish an apartment. Forgetting to cover just one of your bases can at best give you a headache and at worst lead to a lawsuit. Follow these tips to optimize your off-campus experience and avoid getting stuck in any unpleasant situations.
1. Don’t wait until the last minute.
Make sure you don’t miss out on the perfect rental and avoid last-minute housing panic by checking out for listings ASAP. Learn more about your housing options and win prizes during Heels Housing Week Oct. 22-26, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Pit. Don’t miss out!
2. Figure out your roommate situation ahead of time.
It’s important that your roommate is someone you can trust. You can ensure this by using , internet stalking, meeting people in person and . Don’t be afraid to communicate openly; establish your needs and boundaries from the get-go.
3. Set a budget and stick to it.
This might seem obvious, but it’s easier said than done. Determine how much you can afford to pay per month for rent, utilities, internet, groceries, etc. and choose an apartment based on your budget. If you’re living with roommates, make sure to agree on a price range for rent. Bankrate has a useful that makes it easy to create a student budget.
4. Consider location and transportation options.
As a rule of thumb, the closer an apartment is to campus, the more expensive it is to live there. has a “Distance to the Pit” feature that allows you to filter apartment results based on how far away you’re willing to live. You can also use the site’s Map View to see where apartments are located.
If you don’t have a bike or car and are too far away to walk, make sure there’s a bus stop nearby. You can check rental listing details to find out, or ask property managers in person at the Housing Fair! You can also enter the apartment address into Google Maps and select the bus option to UNC to see how far you’ll have to walk to a bus stop. are all Chapel Hill bus routes and schedules.
5. Check for amenities.
Dishwashers, laundry machines and A/C are the amenities that will make your life easier. But if you’re looking for luxury, you might try to seek out large closets, furnishings and even a pool or gym. If details aren’t included in the listing, send an inquiry to the property management. Contact information on can be found on the right side of each property listing.
6. Visit the apartment to inspect and take pictures.
Make sure to document the condition of the apartment before you move in. Taking photos of initial damage and having landlords fix them can prevent you from having to pay for them out of your security deposit, which is typically at least a month’s rent. If you notice that something’s broken, write it down and let the management know.
7. Be prepared to deal with landlords and understand your lease.
With off-campus housing, you will be interacting directly with a landlord, especially since you have to pay rent every month. Make sure you read every part of the contract and check it twice, as you can’t get out of it once you’ve signed. If you have questions, ask property management.
8. Get everything in writing.
Just in case of complications, you should obtain documented evidence of every interaction and agreement. Verbal agreements don’t stand in court, so it’s important for you to write in any extra conditions on the lease and ensure every necessary party signs off on them. Don’t forget to keep a copy of the contract!
9. Check whether your apartment comes furnished, and if it doesn’t, plan accordingly.
Many places aren’t furnished, so you’ll probably have to acquire furniture. You can buy used or rent to get a good deal, but you can also try befriending a senior who’s graduating soon and offer to take their old items off their hands when they move out.
10. Coordinate with your roommates to plan who’s bringing what.
Without strong communication, it’s very easy to have duplicates of certain items and a complete lack of others. You probably don’t want to end up with three coffee machines and no toaster — unless you love coffee and hate toast; to each their own. Try making a list of everything you’ll need on Google Docs and have everyone divvy it all up.
11. Make the necessary maintenance requests.
When parts of the apartment — such as built-in appliances, locks, lights or windows — break, don’t let them stay broken. Submit reports on damage to your landlord to get things fixed and ensure the repair costs don’t come out of your security deposit.
12. Keep the kitchen fully stocked and label your food.
Without the dining hall just outside your front door, you’ll have to periodically buy groceries and cook. Some items, such as spices and milk, can be communal and shared among roommates, but other more expensive ones can be labeled with names and stored in individual cabinets.
13. Establish a roommate rotation for chores like dish and garbage duty.
Setting aside time to do chores in college is tough, but it’s necessary to prevent your sink and trash can from overflowing. You can buy a whiteboard with a magnet on it to put on the fridge, write each roommate’s name on it, and have everyone check off their name once they’ve completed their turn.
Save the stress for studying and ensure your off-campus experience is the best it can be by finding an apartment match on . Learn more about your housing options and win prizes during Heels Housing Week Oct. 22-26, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Pit. Don’t miss out!