Guide to off-campus housing: Survive, thrive while learning ropes of leasing

Get ready for your off-campus home away from home with lists, organization, research and thoroughness in your preparation. Graphic illustration by Grace Everett | Photo Editor

By Sarah Wang | Staff Writer

If you’re moving out of residence halls and feeling excited for life off campus, spend some time reading through this guide. You’ll be glad when you’re enjoying your new home with your friends, not suffering over utilities or worrying about subleasing.

Ask yourself: Am I more fit for on-campus housing or off-campus housing?

Compare the pros and cons for both on-campus housing and off-campus housing. Living off campus may mean fewer dorm restrictions — more freedom, choice and space.

Freshmen living through their first year’s mandatory housing have also suggested many benefits of living on campus: living next to dining halls, meeting more people and having less commuting to classrooms. For students who do not have a vehicle, living on campus is definitely a better choice with regard to convenience.

Browse your list for things you should look for in your new home

Now it’s time for browsing apartments. Admittedly, fancy pictures and prices play a gigantic part for future residents, but don’t get trapped in the appearances.

Among the top concerns of students living off campus should be location. Again, you do not want to spend more than 30 minutes commuting between your home and campus. If you have a vehicle, things will work out more easily. If you don’t, an apartment with a shuttle should be your top priority.

Choose a location that makes it possible to walk to campus in case there’s a day your vehicle cannot drive or the shuttle is off duty.

Look for the list of utilities on an apartment’s information page

Pay attention to an in-unit washer and dryer if you are not used to a communal laundry room. If you have pets, also check to see if they are allowed in the units and how much you need to pay monthly for them.

Wi-Fi and air conditioners are necessities; also check with apartment offices if a water and electricity bill is included in your unit. Whether or not the unit comes with furniture is also a very important aspect for student renters to consider.

Go see your apartment in person, not virtually

Even if they can only show you how the sample houses look, you will find that sometimes pictures and the real houses are not the same thing. If you know anyone who lives in that apartment, ask about how they feel and make a visit.

More often than not, if many residents feel the same toward a certain aspect of your dream apartment, it’s a persistent problem.

Find the cheapest way to get your furniture organized

Fact: Units without furniture can be cheaper than apartments with furniture, even if you need to get a bunch of stuff ready. Apart from buying new furniture from Amazon or IKEA, Facebook Marketplace is a great resource where you can connect with other local people who want to sell their items at a good price.

They may not be fancy or fresh enough for people who are making Waco their
home, but it is the most cost-efficient way to get furniture for out-of-state and international students who temporarily stay in Waco and want to live off campus.

Know your lease: a practical way to protect yourself legally

The best way to protect your rights as a student renter is to read — not browse over — your lease, understanding your responsibilities and having a sense of what to expect when living at this apartment. Check with the apartment office to see if your security deposit is refundable. Baylor also offers off-campus orientation for students to understand renter responsibilities.

Safety concerns: Lock your door every time you leave your apartment

In comparison with on-campus residence halls, where there are residence hall directors and other Baylor staff who keep things in order and keep students safe, it may not be the same living off campus.

Apartments that require ID or access cards are comparatively safer than those that are open to the streets. Either way, though, the priority is still to keep security measures in mind, with the first being locking your door every time you leave your unit.

Now it’s time to get excited for a new world.