Moving Off-Campus

Bland food made for mass consumption. Showering with sandals adjacent to another person who hits all the wrong notes while singing Britney Spears’ “Toxic.” Listening to drunk freshmen talk about high school and how easy it all seems now while you try to get some much needed sleep before the following day’s exam. These are the things college students living on campus must confront on a daily basis, so when the time comes to move off campus, one might be liable to settle for any abode with a private bathroom. After having experienced this adventure myself the past few months, I know how hard a final decision can be after looking at a dozen apartments with cranky, strangely accented landlords, and I am here to break the process down for you.

What to Look For:

Paid Utilities; As a student living on-campus, you didn’t have to worry about this, but now that you’re leaving dorm life this will be your chief concern. Like sneaker waves in the ocean, electricity and water bills can surprise anyone willing to venture into them alone. Depending on how resourceful or wasteful one is, these bills can be an additional third or half of your monthly rent, so if you’re willing to go it alone because you figure you have found a sweet pad and don’t want to risk giving it up to another newbie, then do the math ahead of time to make sure you will be able to keep up with the payments and won’t find yourself living on an inflatable mattress underneath the nearest bridge after the first month. Those with enough intelligence will invest themselves in the idea that one’s first apartment should be as little hassle as possible. Filtering out apartments by those whose landlords pay all the utilities will not only save you valuable apartment-hunting time but save you from additional monthly bills as well. Make sure that you read the fine print closely, however. Not all landlords are willing to pay all utilities. If the ad reads “most utitilities paid,” find out what utilities aren’t paid and judge for yourself what utilities you will be able to pay on your own and what utilities you will not.

Full Kitchen; Ever wake up in the middle of the night with a craving for spaghetti only to remind yourself that campus dining is closed, and even if it were open, would serve you sticky noodles with orange colored marinara? Those of you who nodded yes will want to examine the descriptions of kitchens carefully. Partial kitchens are not what you want. Often times these will be the corner of one room with a counter that, while acting as host to a microwave, looks more like a slab of wood. Most importantly, these partial kitchens will not have ovens or stove tops. Goodbye, spaghetti. If you’re loaded and you can not only afford to go out most nights for dinner but eat only microwavable foods when necessary, then a full kitchen probably isn’t the greatest loss in the world, but for the rest of us, you’re going to want this little slice of heaven, and those of you who chose to pay utilities on your own, heaven could become hell pretty quickly if your desires don’t match the thickness of your wallet.

Working Bathroom; I am no germaphobe, but after braving public bathrooms in campus residence halls for three years, I knew that relaxing my ass on a clean toilet seat to the sound of my own jeans hitting my knees and nothing else would be like one sweet, neverending symphony. I was right. It IS one sweet symphony. However, every orchestrated event has its problems, and you might want to take a look around you before your tush meets toilet. Does the toilet flush properly? Is there a history of plumbing issues? Can one take a shower without receiving jets of nearly freezing water after two minutes? I don’t want to ruin your imaginary vacation, but there are worse things than waking up and walking over to your residence hall bathroom to find that half of the toilets are covered in vomit from last night’s kegger. You could wake up and walk over to your private bathroom to find that not only is your one toilet covered in the result of last night’s kegger, but it’s also not wanting to flush.

Friendly Landlord; While apartment-hunting in Pasadena, I stopped at a scheduled appointment ten minutes away from campus only to be greeted by a gruff voice on the phone informing me that I was a whopping five minutes late but I could be showed the place anyway. When we shook hands, the landlord gave me a grip that I translated as “meaning business.” This set the tone for the rest of the appointment, as I felt totally uncomfortable asking this grump questions about the apartment, which was a shame because it turned out to be a really nice place. By the time we said goodbye, which put our conversation count to ten words total, I knew I had to pass. Who could live under a landlord like that? When you’re looking at places on your own, don’t be afraid to ask the landlord questions about his or her history with past tenants and what his or her guidelines for you would be if you were to rent. Remember that you’re ultimately going to have to answer to a higher power every once in a while and that you might want room for negotiation. If you can’t communicate comfortably with your landlord, you will live under one hell of an awkward silence.

That’s a wrap for Moving Off-Campus 101. If at all possible, find yourself a friendly landlord willing to pay all utilities in an apartment with a full kitchen and working bathroom. Above all, remember that although you won’t have to suffer through another semester of trudging through campus dining or waiting for janitorial staff to clean up someone else’s puke in the bathroom, you will have to cook for and clean up after yourself. With greater freedom comes greater responsibility.

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