The Daily Illini

Little details that make a huge difference when looking for an apartment

By Elizabeth Dye

For many students, apartment hunting is an unbelievably daunting task, especially when added to the host of obligations they may already be struggling to complete, such as homework assignments, daily quizzes and devoting the near impossible free time to study for important exams.

All of this alone can be extremely overwhelming, and may cause a desperate apartment-searching student to overlook important aspects of their potential new home. But choosing an apartment is so much more than just a decision of where and whom to live with. Every aspect of an apartment can affect a student’s school and private life in more ways than he or she could imagine, which is why so much importance should be placed on the decision of which building to live in.

Thankfully, (albeit a bit unfortunately), apartment-searching students can learn from those before them and avoid blindly signing a lease by paying attention to aspects beyond just the price and proximity of the building to campus.

Below are the sometimes overlooked aspects of apartment living. Take these into consideration when looking for an apartment:

Will you be living in your apartment for the duration of the lease?

If a student plans on spending a good percentage of their lease residing somewhere other than their apartment due to an internship, study abroad opportunity or just to go home for the summer, it is crucial that the student makes sure subleasing is allowed. Additionally, be aware of the costs of subletting through the apartment’s leasing agency. Subleasing fees can vary greatly depending on the leasing agency.

Ryan Jepson, junior in LAS, made his apartment decision after learning that the apartment he was looking to rent had steep subleasing fees.

“I don’t plan on living in my apartment during most breaks and especially during the summer,” Jepson said. “If I subleased the apartment I almost decided to lease this year, I would have lost money even if I subleased my place to someone.”

Where is the majority of your time spent?

Where a student spends his or her time during the school year impacts one’s wallet more than it does almost any aspect of apartment living. If students plan on spending most of their nights at their significant other’s or friends’ apartments, it makes little sense to rent one of the most expensive apartments on campus while having to pay for utilities they’re not even there to use.

Who are the neighbors?

Before signing the lease to a seemingly awesome apartment, check out the residents who are already living in the apartment, and ask their opinions on how they enjoy living there. Students may be able to find out more about the apartment through a resident’s perspective than through any research online. Students can also get a feel for how their potential neighbors may affect their living environment.

Who else will live in the apartment?

While choosing a roommate may seem like the easiest part of the process, what to consider in a potential roommate may not be a simple task. Before choosing someone to live with, students should consider what they want in the person they are living with. Students should look for someone who is responsible, reliable and honest to prevent mistrust, late utility payments and stolen items. If living with a good friend is a top priority, then students may end up sacrificing a living arrangement with someone who is more compatible, but less fun to spend time with. Additionally, students must weigh how many people they plan to live with in order to calculate how the utilities and other amenities will be split.

Zach Lee, junior in Engineering, said he roomed with friends and did not think about how living with them would cause him to actually lose money and trust in them just by becoming their roommate.

“My roommates are constantly using my things and eating my food,” Lee said. “It’s the fact that they’re my friends that I don’t push them to replace my things.”

How much money will be spent every month?

Budgeting for monthly rent may be fairly simple, but the real work is determining how much money will be spent on other costs, such as food, clothes, social gatherings, etc. Going out to eat every other day can add up, and push an expected budget over the edge. Students should prepare for the cost of all living expenses when determining monthly costs. An expensive lifestyle may translate to having to rent a cheaper apartment.

What’s included in the rent?

Close attention should be paid to what is included in monthly rental costs. Some apartments include utilities in the rent, but many apartments let their lessor pay for utilities on their own. Additionally, some apartments include extra costs in monthly fees for amenities available for residents, like access to tanning beds and gym services in the apartment building.

What’s the location and layout of the bedroom?

A bedroom may look nice at first glance, but overlooked factors such as window location, bedroom location, closet space and accessibility could be detrimental to the living environment. A bedroom located right behind the living room, for example, may wreak havoc on someone who likes to have a quiet environment.

Catherine Zhou, sophomore in Engineering, cannot stress this enough. She said she regrets not taking this factor into consideration, since a fraternity is positioned just outside her bedroom window.

“I wish I had thought of the vicinity to fraternities and their noise levels,” Zhou said. “Now I’m stuck listening to the screams of frat bros on a daily, if not hourly, basis.”

What’s the age and condition of the apartment?

New apartments and older apartments have varying degrees of rules and regulations that potential renters should take into consideration. Many new apartments have strict rules on smoking within the building, no-pet policies and higher fines to replace appliances or furniture. In contrast, many older apartments may be cheaper to rent, but may have worn and torn furniture and older appliances.

Elizabeth can be reached at [email protected]

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