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Lessons Learned: what I would change about my first time living off-campus

Renting off-campus for the first time is a significant milestone in a student's life. It marks the beginning of newfound independence, adventure and responsibility. However, looking back, there are some steps I would do differently and some I wouldn't change.

1. Better Research and Planning:

As a result of speedily selecting my first rental, I was stuck with a 10-minute walk to the nearest bus stop for any trip around town. I'm one of many students who wish they had invested more time and effort into researching and planning their first rental experience. This means thoroughly exploring different neighborhoods, transportation options, and understanding the local rental market. By knowing what more neighborhoods offer and setting realistic expectations, you can make better informed decisions when choosing your off-campus accommodation.

2. Setting a Realistic Budget:

Renting comes with financial responsibilities beyond the monthly rent. Budget wisely to ensure you can afford utility bills, internet fees, groceries, transportation and other essential expenses. Try to set aside a portion of your income for unexpected repairs or emergencies each month. Creating a comprehensive budget and accounting for these additional costs from the start can help avoid financial stress down the road, which helped me when parking fees were increased.

3. Seeking Advice and Guidance:

In hindsight, seeking advice from others who went through the rental process before helped me learn which areas of the city were safe and to immediately communicate with property managers I was interested in. Connecting with peers, older students, family members, or even online communities (Reddit, Facebook, Quora) can provide valuable insights and tips you may not know are important. Learning from the experiences of others will help you anticipate challenges, avoid common mistakes, and make more informed decisions.

4. Understanding the Lease Agreement:

The legalities and intricacies of lease agreements can be overwhelming for first-time renters. I wish I had read the terms and conditions of the lease fully before signing, otherwise I would have known that I could have a pet for a small additional fee🥲. Taking the time to carefully read and clarify any ambiguities in the agreement can help you know your responsibilities and ensure both parties are on the same page.

5. Building Strong Communication with Landlords:

Establish a strong line of communication from the beginning and develop a professional and respectful relationship with your landlord/ property manager so that you have a healthy tenant-landlord dynamic. Effective communication made my rental experience easy, with maintenance issues being fixed quickly and me knowing that my concerns would always be taken seriously.

6. Learning Basic Maintenance Skills:

While landlords or property management may handle major repairs, I learned that having basic maintenance skills was invaluable. Learn how to handle minor fixes like changing light bulbs, unclogging drains, keeping appliances clean or troubleshooting common issues like knowing where the breaker panel is. This knowledge will empower you to handle small problems efficiently and save time waiting for assistance.

7. Documenting Move-In and Move-Out Conditions and Conduct Regular Inspections:

This one is a common mistake and one that I made; not thoroughly documenting the condition of the rental unit during my move-in and move-out. Taking photos, making note of damages, and discussing them with the landlord can prevent disputes and loss of your security deposit. Conducting regular inspections of the property throughout your tenancy will help you identify and report any maintenance issues promptly. Overall, a well-documented record of the property's condition protects both you and the landlord.

8. Taking Advantage of Renter's Insurance:

This helped my when my upstairs neighbor left the tap running, which led to a major leak in my ceiling. Consider obtaining renter's insurance to protect your personal belongings in case of theft, damage, or accidents. Renter's insurance provides financial coverage to ensure that you can replace your belongings if the unexpected occurs. Shop around for the best coverage options that suit your needs and budget, especially with options that start as low as $12 per month.

By learning from my lessons, hopefully your first-time renting off-campus will be met with greater confidence and preparedness. Find available room and home options here🏠.

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