Moving Off-Campus: What You Need to Know

By Stacy Eden

Moving into your first real apartment or house off-campus is tricky, especially if you spent a year or two in the dorms. For most college students, dorm life is the first time to live without the watchful eye of the parental units. And because you have this experience under your belt, you may be thinking that an apartment is pretty much the same thing, right? Wrong!

Your first apartment or house is a big adjustment, maybe even bigger than adjusting to the dorms. You have roommates, the commute to campus, renters insurance and cooking your own meals to keep you busy when you’re not studying. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here are the essential hacks every new off-campus student needs to make the transition go smoothly:

Prepare for Moving Day

It’s a lot different than moving into the dorms. For one thing, your parents may not be there to help this time. And while your friends are willing to help if you promise to feed them, don’t rely on anyone to show up out of the goodness of their heart. And don’t expect a rented moving truck to be easy to drive either. If you have big or heavy stuff to move, it may be worth it to budget enough cash to hire movers. It may save you a lot of time and frustration in the end.

Take Inventory of Damages

Take pictures on your phone of every dent and ding in the walls, every little blemish and any other damage in your apartment first thing on your move-in date. Email the pictures to yourself with the subject: security deposit. Landlords are notorious for blaming renters at the end of the lease for small flaws that were already there to keep the deposit. If you have photographic proof that the damage was already there (most camera phones have a photo time stamp), you have a better chance of getting your deposit back.

Get Renters Insurance

Odds are you have some pretty valuable stuff in your new place, like your computer, speakers, TV, musical instruments and gaming systems. Don’t risk what you can’t afford to lose. Get renters insurance — You’ll sleep better at night.

But don’t stop there. Make a list in Excel of all your valuables; include the make and the model, and hang on to the receipt if you can. Also take a picture of where each high-ticket item usually is in your house or apartment. This makes it easier to file a report with police and put in a claim with the insurance company if you need to.

Pay Rent on Time

Late fees kill your summer savings. It can be tough to get that check to the front office or in the mail every month when you have classes, tests and a social life to think about. But this is one place where being late doesn’t fly. Talk to your roomies about setting up direct deposit so you’re not waiting on anyone’s share of the rent to make you late.

Also take a look at your lease before you sign to make sure that late fees are in writing and aren’t totally unreasonable. Nolo has a great legal guide to dealing with difficult landlords and excessive late fees in case you do get yourself in hot water.

Plan Your Commute to Campus

Rolling out of bed and trekking across the quad was probably your longest commute to class last year, but now that you’re off campus, be prepared to face the insane traffic that comes with just about every college campus across the country. Plan extra time to get to morning classes, and you might want to reconsider that 8 a.m. class, as it will probably coincide with rush hour traffic. A bicycle is always an option, but make sure it’s the right mode of transportation for you with this list from Fearless and Loathing.

Stacy Eden is a Phoenix, Arizona native with a passion for art, power tools, and historical significance. She draws inspiration from classic cars, ancient mythological sculptures and jewelry designers such as Delfina Delettrez, Shaun Leane, and Dior Jewellery creative director Victoire de Castellane.

Heading off to college?  Start the school year off right with The Secrets of Top Students.

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The Move-In Checklist: How to Transition From Dorm to Apartment

By Brian Wilkins

Graduating from college means getting your first real job, buying your own medical insurance and, of course, getting your first real home. Whether you choose to live in an apartment or rent a house, you can prevent any major hurdles with the proper planning. These three tips will ensure the smoothest transition possible.

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Credit Report

Your payment history and amounts owed on any credit cards and other revolving accounts make up 65 percent of your aggregate FICO score, according to myFICO. If you currently owe on your credit cards, you should prioritize paying them down, particularly if they are close to being maxed out. You also should consider getting a secured card because these types of accounts will minimize the hit your FICO score takes for opening new credit and protect you from potential default.

You need at least six months of on-time payment history to be considered “established” by the credit bureaus and most landlords. Keep in mind, move-in expenses can get pricey, particularly for places that require first and last month’s rent and a deposit. Therefore, now is the time to start saving.

Scouting Report

Just like pictures of restaurant burgers always look better than the actual product, photos of apartments and homes advertised for rent look better than the actual property.

Don’t move into a place based solely on pictures. When visiting potential new homes, check for cracks in the floors walls, and inside kitchen cupboards. These are sure signs of pests like cockroaches or mice. Ask about the neighbors above you and next to you. The longer they’ve lived there, the better. Especially if you want a quiet place, avoid moving into a place with upstairs neighbors with kids or who have had noise violations. You also may want to request a unit on the top floor to avoid some of the noise.

Know your rights as a tenant. Every state has a tenant rights handbook that spells out the limits of landlord access to your place and their handling of maintenance issues.

Moving Checklist

Once you find and visit your new place and sign the papers, it’s time to prepare to move in. Call the local utility company to ensure power is on the day you move in. You also should call your Internet and cable provider ahead of time if you don’t want a delay in service.

Since this is your first place, you probably will need to build up your furniture over time. To start, determine the overall style you want your place to have. Smaller apartments can feel extremely cramped if you buy bulky furniture meant for a house, so you may want to take the floor plan or dimensions with you when buying furniture.

Pierre Josselin, a designer for the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, told fashion website Divine Caroline that first-time renters should splurge on one piece of furniture they love to be the staple of their new place. Whether this is a couch, armoire or something else, this centerpiece can then be complimented with less expensive furniture. A throw rug and new drapes may provide that touch of home and posh feel. Furthermore, think about adding a couple of indoor plants to add a little life to your new place.

The move to a first apartment doesn’t have to be stressful. Keep it simple, stay organized and everything else will take care of itself.

Brian Wilkins is an Arizona State University journalism grad who has worked as a radio broadcaster and banking industry professional. He is an independent journalist, blogger and small business owner who loves life. He lives off-the-grid and has not owned a TV in more than six years.