It’s that time of year again- everyone who is living off campus is starting to look for a place to live! It seems early, but most leases end in April and landlords are looking for tenants.
It can be fun to go house or apartment hunting, but it can also be stressful and complicated. Finding the right place is important, since where you live and who you live with are the backdrop for your entire year!
In case you are new to the house hunt, I’ve made a list of some of the key issues I encountered last year. I even *starred* the ones that I think are the most important! Let me know if you think of any other good tips that I missed.
Kate’s ABC’s of House Hunting
Appliances- What appliances does the house come with? Do they work? Are they properly cleaned and maintained? Think about laundry, dishwasher, stove, fridge, microwave, toaster…
Bugs & other pests?- Are there any troubles with pests, such as ants in the springtime or rodents living in your walls? Often leases will say that pest control problems are the responsibility of the tenant. Yuck.
Cleanliness?- Is the house clean enough for your tastes? Will your landlord clean it for you before you move in? How thoroughly?
Damage or Hazards?- Do you notice any damages or hazards? Will your landlord take care of them? How will you ensure YOU don’t get blamed for them? (Hint- Taking pictures when you first move it could be really helpful!)
Ending the lease- How can you get out of the lease? Can you terminate before the end of your tenancy? What notice do you need to provide at the end of the year?
Furniture?- Does the house come furnished? Does furniture you already own fit in this house?
Grocery store and other amenities?- How close is the nearest grocery store? What about the pharmacy, etc.? Do you have a way to get there?
Heating & Cooling?- Does your house have a well-functioning furnace? What about fans? Air conditioning? How hot does it get in the summer or how cold does it get in the winter?
Insurance?- Do you need to purchase any insurance for your belongings in the house?
*Joint & several lease (and other lease conditions)?- How is the lease signed? Look carefully at the terms and your financial obligations. What if you default on payments? What if one of your roommates doesn’t make a payment- are YOU responsible for it? Do you need to have a guarantor? A credit check?
Keep looking! – Don’t just settle for the very first place you find. Make sure you know what you want, and shop around. Be critical!
*Landlord?- What is your landlord like? What are his/her expectations? Will he/she respond reliably and promptly to your concerns or requests? (Hint: It would probably be helpful to meet with the landlord and also ask for references from current or past tenants.)
Multi-party housing?- How many people are living in this house or apartment? Are you sharing the room, house, or building with other tenants? Even if you and your roommates are well suited, will the other tenants in the house affect you? (e.g. what if they are playing loud music upstairs if you are in a basement apartment?)
Near campus?- Is the house near enough to campus for your taste?
Other considerations? – Do your own thinking about what else you might need to look for- this isn’t a complete list!!
Parking? Is parking offered, and, if so, do you have to pay for it?
Quiet? – Is the house and the surrounding area as quiet as you want it to be?
*Roommates?- Do you want to live with roommates or with your boyfriend/girlfriend? Are you sure you have complimentary living styles? How are you going to live together? How are you going to resolve conflicts? How are you going to deal with issues that require all of your involvement (e.g. splitting the costs of the monthly phone bill). Are your roommates responsible?. What are your preferences for cleanliness? Socializing? Sharing food? Etc.? What happens if you have a big fight with a roommate or your boyfriend/girlfriend? (Hint: Carefully consider your roommates- they are not just supposed to be people you like, but also people you can really live with. Also, I know it sounds cheesy, but sitting down with all your roommates and making up a house agreement that addresses issues like noise, cleaning, and paying bills could be really really helpful.)
Safety?- How safe is this location for you? Do you feel that the house is secure? Are you in a safe neighbourhood? Will you feel comfortable coming home at night?
Transportation?- Do you have access to transportation? Can you walk, bus, or drive to where you need to go? What if transportation breaks down? (e.g. The bus is late or goes on strike.)
Utilities? – Which utilities are include and which aren’t? (Consider hydro, water, phone, internet, cable…) How will you get them set up/pay for them? How will you work this out with your roommates?
Visiting?- Can you see the house in advance? It is definitely worth checking it out in person and asking LOTS of questions.
Water?- Make sure that you will be able to get enough hot water for your shower in the morning!
Xtra space? – Will you have enough storage space? Are there other places in the apartment/house or the garage that you will be able to store things? (e.g. a bike, the vacuum, etc.)
*Your MONEY- How much is rent going to cost? When you factor in other costs (such as utilities or a damage deposit) how much will you REALLY be paying? When do you have to pay it?
Zzz’s: Which bedroom is going to be yours? You might want to consider which room you want and try to negotiate with the landlord or your other roommates. Do you need written consent from your landlord to make cosmetic changes to your room (e.g. painting it or putting a nail in the wall)?