Juniors returning from study abroad and sophomores deciding to stay in Kalamazoo for the year are making many important decisions in these upcoming weeks, one of which is housing.
While it may seem daunting at first, and it certainly was to me last year, finding housing is not as complicated as it sounds, especially if you start early and come prepared.
The first step, before talking to friends or looking through craigslist, is to know your finances.
Be honest with yourself about what you can afford, whether that’s $500 or $300, don’t convince yourself you can just “make it work”. Don’t forget to factor in utilities, heating can get expensive in the winter months in Michigan.
It’s far easier to tell your friends that you can’t afford their dream house than to tell them you can’t pay rent after signing the lease.
After that, think about what is important to you in a house. Are a washer and dryer musts? Plenty of parking space? Or can you live with a 20 minute walk to campus every day?
Make sure you have your priorities straight before you move onto the next step: finding roomies.
Talk to several people about housing, more than you’d think. Don’t set yourself up with two or three people who want to live with you because, from personal experience, people tend to back out and leave you homeless. The more groups of people you are talking with, the better!
That said, make sure the people you are talking with are responsible, especially with rent. If you know one of your friends is a huge impulse buyer and doesn’t follow a budget, be cautious about living with them.
When one roommate doesn’t pay rent, someone else has to pick up the slack for them, which causes lots of tension.
Also make sure the people you are living with have the same values when it comes to partying, cleanliness, and loudness. Nothing is worse than having roommates who always want to have campus parties when you want nothing to do with them, or having housemates who never do their dishes.
Finally, after you find some people you want to room with, look for houses in your price range. I would recommend starting with Zillow and Craigslist, but always be conscious of scams.
It’s also a good idea to look up information on the landlord online, where reviewers may reveal that they never fix work orders, or raise rent after lease signing.
Once you find a few houses, shop around, visit every house before you sign anything, and look around for mold or bugs. Always make sure to talk to the current residents as well, you may find that the house has quirks, such as never staying warm in the winter, or having several break-ins this year.
Finally, make sure all of your housemates are ready to commit and sign the lease, and enjoy knowing that next year you will have a place of your own.