So you’re a sophomore or junior and on-campus housing just isn’t what you’re looking for. Maybe you want to save money next year or experience a little more independence, and you feel ready to move off-campus. Well, before you naively traipse into the jungle of apartment hunting, here are some things to keep in mind:
Figure out your budget. How much are you and your potential housemates willing to spend? Apartments around Duquesne can vary greatly in price, and it is always cheaper to split costs amongst three people. Keep in mind that while many landlords will rent to groups larger than three, it is actually illegal for four or more unrelated people to rent a house together in Pittsburgh. Also consider the costs of your security deposit. This is an amount of money (usually equal to one month’s rent) that you pay your landlord before you move in. If nothing breaks or goes wrong, you get the money back when you move out. Make sure you can afford a security deposit and your first month’s rent before signing anything.
Consider your utilities. Utility payments can add up quickly, and you want to make sure you factor them into your budget. Will your landlord pay for trash pick-up and sewage? Will you pay for gas, electricity, water, wi-fi and cable? All those fees split among three people can cost as much as $100 per month, per person.
How will you get around? Transportation is a huge part of living off-campus. If you think an apartment is close enough to walk to campus, try it first. Sometimes what seems like a short walk can be surprisingly tiring, and you have to consider what it will be like to walk to your 9 a.m. class in the middle of February. If you have a car, consider where you will park it and whether you can afford a campus parking pass.
Make a food budget. You might be very excited to have your own kitchen for the first time, but the cost of groceries is something to consider. How close is the nearest grocery store to your apartment? Also determine whether or not you are willing to pack your lunch every day or if you want to buy food on campus. If your scholarships and financial aid cover a commuter meal plan, that’s one way to save money when you eat on campus.
Read your lease! Signing a lease is a pretty big deal, and you do not want to be surprised by hidden costs or responsibilities after you signed over all your money for your deposit. If you violate the lease, you and your co-signers can be on the hook for thousands of dollars. If the lease says no pets, do not try to sneak in any stray cats, no matter how adorable they might appear. If the lease says you have to pay to clean the carpets before you move out, do it — or you could be forced to forfeit your security deposit.
Now that you’ve been a real grown-up and thought about all these boring, necessary things, go forth! Have fun! Pay your rent on time!