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7 tips for off-campus house hunting

by Benjamin Eppel

“Home is not a place, it’s a feeling.”

…And we have a feeling that you might be looking for housing for the coming year. House hunting develops skills that you’ll use for most of your life. It takes confidence, preparedness, and negotiation. The best way to house hunt is to put yourself into a landlord’s shoes, and keep in mind that every house is unique. But where do you start?
the joker saying "do I really look like a guy with a plan?"

Here’s our 7 tips for off-campus house hunting:

1. Use the right sites

a cat clears the table in front of him then types furiously on a laptop
Searchforstudenthousing and places4students are websites that can help you find some great leads. They require a small fee from landlords who want to list their houses, so you know that they’re serious postings. You can use these sites to filter by price, rooms, utilities and more! Keep in mind, however, sometimes ads aren’t as accurate as they should be.

2. Know the place before you walk in

a wizard saying "I have no memory of this place"
This one is going to take some memory work, or printing off the ad of the place that you’re visiting. Be sure to know the listed price, rules, landlord’s name, and amenities so that you can bring them up in conversation. Knowing what utilities are paid for in your rent is a must, including internet service and laundry!

3. Know the area

john travolta looking confused on a beach
This one might take a bit of walking, or at least a 10-minute sit-down with the internet. Google Streetview can give you a preview of the street and area, and Walkscore can give you an idea of what your commute will be like. This will help you get a feel for the neighbourhood, as well as its services such as transit and groceries.

4. Ask about the house

robert downey jr. saying "that is an excellent question"
A lot of students feel embarrassed or rude asking questions like this. The reality is that you’ll be paying hundreds of dollars (if not more) for this to be your temporary home. You deserve to know! Not only that, but asking these questions shows that you care about the property. Here’s a checklist of some questions you’ll want to ask, and there’s also a more detailed checklist you’ll want to check out.

  1. Have there been any major repairs recently?
  2. Is there any history of bedbugs or pests?
  3. Do you have any renovations planned?
  4. What specific utilities are included (laundry, water, electricity, internet)?
  5. What speed is the internet (if applicable)?

Being polite and respectful can go a long way when meeting a landlord and asking questions, so put your best foot forward.

5. Take pictures

a photographer takes a picture
Consent is key with this one. Be sure to ask the landlord if they mind, as well as any tenants whose stuff is in the picture. You’re going to want those photos later to compare to other houses, and to the original ad on the website. Be sure to take note of any signs of disrepair or neglect as soon as you walk in, as it might be a sign that the property isn’t closely managed.

6. Talk to the current tenants

ned flanders open the door and says "well howdy strangers what can I do ya for"
This is awesome for getting a feel for your future living situation. While you or your friend asks questions about the place, the other can introduce themselves to a tenant and simply ask, “How do you like living here?” Often times their reply will give you a good read on the place, especially if the landlord is preoccupied.

7. Bring a friend

dr who standing in a doorway saying "come with me"
This is crucial. There’s a few reasons to never go to a house viewing alone, the first being safety! Most often, you’ll be meeting someone for the first time in an area that you aren’t familiar with. The second reason is that friends can give a different perspective on the house that you’re viewing. They might notice details you don’t, and they’ll be able to take pictures for you while you speak with the landlord. Your friend can also boost your confidence, which is necessary for asking the right questions about your new place.

If you’re still deciding on whether or not you should rent, check out what your fellow students said are the pros and cons of renting. What do you think of our list? Are there any additional tips that you would give to your friends during house hunting season? Let us know on Twitter and Instagram @ShareIGNITE, or on Facebook!