Moving away to college and finding an apartment can be scary, especially if you’re moving to a new state. But with some good guidance, you can find the perfect off campus housing. Just keep these five important dos and don’ts in mind:

  • DO: Start Looking Early
    If you’re looking at off campus apartments, know that there will be lots of other students looking for housing, too. Data from 2013 show that about 6,837,605 students enrolled in four-year colleges in the United States. And while some students might stay at home and only go to school part-time, about 61.7% of all U.S. college students are enrolled full-time. That means you’ll want to start looking for an apartment well in advance so you’re not left with the scraps.
  • DON’T: Rent From Individuals Online
    It’s always best to tour prospective apartments in person before making a decision. If that’s simply not possible, you should at least go through an agency or trusted database, rather than renting from a random person found on Craigslist. There are numerous housing scams that target students in particular.
  • DO: Prioritize Proximity to Campus
    Living on campus isn’t for everyone, but you’ll at least want to be close. That way, you’ll not only have easy access to your classes, but you’ll also be able to take advantage of the services and social events that are a part of campus life.
  • DON’T: Forget the Neighborhood
    When you’re assessing the quality of a prospective apartment, don’t just look at the building itself. Find out about the neighborhood, paying particular attention to safety issues. Also find out if your school or the building offers escorts for walking at night and other security perks.
  • DO: Read the Lease Carefully
    A lease is a legal binding contract, so you’ll want to read it carefully before signing. If you’re renting an apartment that is furnished, make sure all appliances and furniture pieces are noted on the lease (and make sure all the appliances actually work). You’ll also want to make a detailed list of any flaws in the apartment — dings, scratches, carpet stains, etc. — and ensure that it’s kept with the lease so you’re not held responsible for those imperfections when you’re ready to move out.

What other tips on finding an apartment would you share with young adults striking out on their own for the first time? Join the discussion in the comments.

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