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Phoenix 101: What to Look for in the Search for an Off-Campus Apartment

Katie Anthony | The PhoenixThe Phoenix shares tips for students looking for off-campus housing.

The end of the spring semester also means the new school year is just a few months away, and with that comes decisions for students about classes, activities and housing. While some students may choose to live in dorms, others are looking to find off-campus housing, but may not know where to start.

Finding an apartment in Rogers Park or the Chicago area may seem daunting, but there are options for everyone. The Phoenix shares tips for finding an off-campus apartment.

Where should I start?

A good place to start looking is apartment-hunting websites such as Apartments.com or Zillow. These websites allow users to choose how many bedrooms they want, what neighborhood they want to be in, and select other factors that allow them to narrow their search.

Loyola also has their own apartment listing page through Places4Students where students can browse local apartments specifically for Loyola Students. 

If students are already in the Rogers Park neighborhood, they should keep an eye out for property management company signs or “For Rent” signs on buildings of interest when walking around.

What specific things should I be thinking about?

When starting to look for apartments it’s beneficial for students to have a clear idea of what they’re looking for. An idea of price range, how many bedrooms, how many bathrooms, and desired location will help narrow down the search. It’s important to consider whether the expense of being close to the lake is worth it as opposed to being a few streets back from Sheridan Avenue and saving money.

It’s also important for students to ask about the length of their lease. Short-term leases are typically about six months or less according to SFGATE, which can be great for students who are going to study abroad or just need a place to live for one semester. However, they are not as common and often cost more according to Rent.com.

Most leases will be for 12 months, although some property managers might agree to something longer or shorter than 12 months. It varies, so students just need to make sure they know this information about the unit. 

Another important thing for students to consider is whether some or all utilities are included in the rent. In some cases, not having utilities included can allow students more control of things such as heat and air conditioning. While having utilities included may simplify bill-paying, it can also mean a higher rent, according to Apartments.com.  

I found an apartment I like, now what do I do?

Once students have done their research, they should start reaching out to landlords or property managers via email or phone. There are also ways to connect with property managers about specific properties through websites such as Apartments.com and Zillow.  

Most property managers and landlords will give more details on the unit over the phone or email, and may also inform them of the other available units in the building. This is an opportunity for students to ask questions and set up a time to tour the apartment.

Anna Grundhoefer, a first-year biology major, said she just signed the lease for an off-campus apartment for the 2021-2022 school year. She said she believes touring units is crucial for students finding the right place for them. 

“Make sure [students] and their roommates go see the apartment together so that they have a good idea of room size and can form a consensus about each place,” Grundhoefer said. 

Now how do I secure an apartment? 

When students are ready to secure an apartment, they’ll need to ask for an application from the property manager. These applications will ask for the personal information of the lessee. Most property managers will also request an application fee, typically per person. This fee is used to run background and credit checks for applicants, according to Apartments.com

To avoid paying multiple application fees, students often apply for one unit at a time.

Applications can also ask about work history and students’ bank information, and in some cases property managers may ask students’ parents to fill out a form as part of their application. The form basically guarantees students will pay their rent.

After students submit their application, they wait to be approved. If they are approved, they will be contacted by the property manager and able to sign the lease. Leases can be very dense and have complex language, so students should take their time to understand it, and ask any questions they may have. 

Property managers may also require students to put down either a move-in fee or security deposit, or first and last month’s rent to secure the apartment. A move-in fee is typically non-refundable while a security deposit is refundable. 

Security deposits are used to ensure renters pay on time, leave the property in good condition and abide by the terms in their lease, according to Apartments.com.

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