Set your sights on the best apartment possible

By Matt Troher, Assistant Features Editor

Lace up your boots. Put on your jacket. Draw out your map and set your sights — it’s hunting season.

Apartment hunting season, that is.

Whether you’re a freshman searching for your first apartment or a junior looking for a great senior pad for next year, apartment hunting can be a daunting task. It’s where you’ll live, after all, and since you’ll be deciding on where you’ll call home for at least the next year, it’s a decision that warrants a little bit of forethought. I spent more time deciding on what bedspread to get than I did on choosing a major.

To help ease the tension, here are some tips on apartment hunting, from choosing the right apartment to making it your own.

It’s not as hard as it looks

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This one is for all the first-time apartment hunters out there. It can seem scary, even downright impossible, to get an apartment for the first time. Let us ease your worries — it’s not that hard.

Campus realtors know they’re doing business with college students, the majority of whom are first-time renters. While this could lead being taken advantage of by realtors (more on this later), it also means the process of applying for and securing an apartment is a lot more controlled than in the open market.

Most landlords will require an application. This is just a short document with a few identification questions, such as your social security number, parent’s contact information and previous residences you have occupied. This application also serves as an authorization for landlords to run a credit check before they offer you an apartment.

While the application can be brutal in non-college-town markets, I have never heard of a student’s application getting denied for an apartment for reasons other than they submitted one too late.

Location is key

The biggest realty cliche in the books, but it’s a cliche for a reason. The area your apartment is in makes just as big of a difference, if not more, than the apartment itself.

The price of parking in this town is insane, so consider how long it will take you to walk to where you need to go if that’s your preferred mode of transportation. Make note of the buildings you spend the most time in, whether that be classes or work, and figure out what the ideal walking time is. There are enough apartments around here that you’ll be sure to find a place at any conceivable distance.

Living close to Green Street (or on it) can be a huge plus if you find yourself going out a lot, or if you want to live close to a large variety of restaurants. Living just off of Springfield or University avenues will come in handy if you’re spending a lot of time on the North Quad or in the Beckman Institute, and the apartments on Lincoln Avenue are a great location if you frequent the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

Know your rights

Although landlords who know they’re working in a college community can tailor their services to first-time renters, they can just as easily exploit this naïveté. The University’s Student Legal Services has an abundance of resources for educating first-time renters on their rights as tenants.

One of the easiest ways to protect yourself as a tenant is to document anything and everything. If you’re leaving your apartment for a long period of time such as for fall or spring break, take pictures of your walls and floors and any important items. That way, in the case that something bad happens to your apartment, the landlord or realty company will have a harder time claiming it’s your fault.

Be diligent in checking what exactly goes into your bills and be on the lookout for any bogus charges added to your tenant portal. I’m not saying it happens often, but if it does, know that you have rights and there are people in the community willing to help you out.

Ditch the “luxury” for something smaller 

Green Street these days is looking more like Chicago with its high-rise apartments. Many of Campustown’s larger residential complexes advertise themselves as “luxury apartments,” but be aware that the word “luxury” is usually nothing more than advertising.

Often, these buildings are managed by national corporations that specialize in developing real estate in college towns. This means there is a broader disconnect between the students living in the building and the building’s management. If a problem comes up — and they often do — students in these large buildings will often have a hard time solving it, for fixing it requires navigating a large web of residential administration.

In another sense, the “luxury” indicated in the description fails to materialize in the apartment itself. Cookie-cutter boxes in the sky can be soul crushing compared to the cozier atmosphere found in some of Campustown’s smaller apartment complexes.

Consider choosing an apartment in a smaller building. They’re often cheaper, cozier and have more tolerable management. Who uses that free pool table in the lobby anyway?


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