For many UNC students, there comes a time to trade in shower shoes for mailbox keys, RAs for landlords and a suite-full of roommates to (hopefully) fewer.
Navigating off-campus housing, however, is no small feat. The Editorial Board has been there, so we have put together our best advice for moving out of dorms and into the Chapel Hill community.
Know your options
There’s no shortage of options for the soon-to-be tenant. Knowing the differences between them all is key to finding a housing situation that works well for your needs.
A popular choice among those new to off-campus living are high-rise apartment complexes, specifically those advertised as student living solutions. Complexes such as Lark (real ones remember when it was called “Lux”) and Union tout fully-furnished units and luxury amenities. Although not explicitly for students, The Warehouse advertises premium living just a short distance from campus.
You could also choose to live in a duplex or triplex, or homes divided into two or three separate units, respectively. Like apartment complexes, you may ultimately share a wall or two with your neighbor, but often at a lower cost.
Lastly, you could grab some buddies to live in a house together. Costs vary depending on the number of bedrooms and location, leading to a wider variety of homes to choose from.
This isn’t a comprehensive list of off-campus living solutions, but it is a great starting place for those who are new to the complicated process of choosing a home without the help of UNC’s housing portal.
Cost of living
Students are not immune to rampant inflation and rising cost of living. In Chapel Hill, the average rent is a whopping $1,917, according to RentCafe, with the cost of living nine percent higher than the state average. For many, cost is a massive barrier to moving out of the dorms.
Student apartments don’t offer the most cost-effective solutions, either, with a four bedroom/four bathroom apartment costing over $1,200 at Union and over $1,100 at Lark. It’s worth noting that things like utilities and parking are not included in these shocking price tags. Homes, duplexes and triplexes might provide more cost-effective solutions.
Things to keep an eye on
There are a lot of moving pieces in a lease, and it’s important to know what you’re entitled to and what you are not. Note if your lease requires you to have renter’s insurance, which averages $106 per year in North Carolina.
We recommend seeking out leases where parking is included, as it can greatly increase your monthly expenditures otherwise. Lark, for instance, charges $120 per month for on-site parking, bringing the total rent up dramatically. Familiarize yourself with the guest pass policy if you want to have friends or family visit you.
Be aware of whether or not utilities are included in the rent. If not, ask your landlord or leasing office how much utilities average to get a better idea of what your monthly bill will look like. Think about things like water, sewage, electricity and trash disposal.
Don’t get caught up in the allure of amenities, which often make your lease more expensive. Behind that $1,200 per month price tag at Union is a swimming pool, gym with Peloton bikes and yoga studio. As glamorous as this seems, consider how often you will use these spaces, and whether or not you can access similar spaces on campus. Access to gyms, pools and yoga studios at the Student Recreation Center and Rams Head Recreation Center is included in your student fees.
Be aware of the distance from campus and any nearby bus routes that might make your commute to classes easier. Furthermore, make note of the length and terms of your lease so you know exactly when you have to renew or find another living situation.
If you’re not sure where to get started, look at one of the many Facebook groups dedicated to matching students with leases and potential roommates. No matter what you decide, living off campus is an exercise in independence and can be a great way to meet new people.
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