International Students' Top College Housing Questions

International Students' Top College Housing Questions by Logan LeBouef

You’ve received your acceptance letter to your new university in the US and are ready to take on the next step in your big move.

First off, CONGRATULATIONS! The decision to study abroad is a big one, and we know you’ll love your time here in the US.

But with the move comes many questions, and if you've gotten this far, we're sure you have a few questions on the college housing market and how it all works. Don’t worry at all! Whatever questions you have on US student housing, we’ve got you covered. Check out LoftSmart’s list of the most frequently asked questions we've gotten from international students from our vast experience in the student housing industry.

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What is a lease?

A lease is the contract signed by you and your US apartment complex detailing the cost of rent, how long you'll be renting, as well as additional contract terms.

What documents will I need when leasing an apartment?

Required documentation for international students differs from property to property, but below is a comprehensive list of documentation that your property manager may ask for you to provide prior to move in.

  • Passport or Visa
  • Verification of your Acceptance to the University
  • Completed I-20 Form
  • Previous Paystubs or Additional Income Verification

What is a guarantor?

A guarantor is a third party (traditionally a parent or guardian) who provides security on a signed lease based on their ability to financially afford the lease value.

Do I need a guarantor to sign a lease in the US?

Generally, a guarantor is needed to sign a lease in the US. However, if you are an international student, it is common that the complex will waive the guarantor on your lease and ask that you instead pay a higher deposit fee upfront.

If an alternative method for having a guarantor is not available, does my guarantor have to be a US resident?

In most cases when a guarantor is required, the guarantor must must be a US Citizen. Traditionally, this makes the application process fairly difficult for international students. However, your dedicated personal concierge will work with you on finding a viable guarantor so that you can complete your application and sign your lease seamlessly.

How do security deposits work?

It’s very common that when you sign your lease, a security deposit will be included. Most deposits are around a half of the first month’s rent, but often times less. The deposit is used to cover potential damages (like paint chips, malfunctioned appliances, etc) that will be assessed once you move out.

Do most apartments charge for utilities?

Utilities are handled differently across apartment complexes, but for the most part, there are two structures that will be established in your lease. The first structure is typically with a ‘utility cap’. This means that the utility costs (e.g. refrigeration, electricity, heating, etc) are included in your rent with the ‘cap’ being a limit to the amount of utilities you can use. The majority of residents typically do not have any issues staying within the cap, barring extreme electricity usage. The other option is through a more traditional utility payment structure. In this format, you’ll pay based on usage that month. In these situations, you can typically ask the property manager for the month-to-month utility charges of other residents.

What are fully furnished apartments?

Many international students enter their new university without the initial furniture necessities to move into their new apartment. A fully furnished apartment would likely be the best option in this situation. These options are available at select complexes for an extra fee and generally include beds, dressers, a desk, etc.

What if I don’t have a roommate?

Many apartment complexes have amazing roommate matching systems and will set you up with a roommate before move-in. This process typically consists of a brief survey to match you and your potential roommate based on your major, hobbies, habits and more.

Are there any leases shorter than 1 year?

Depending on the market and school you’re in, you’ll likely find very few student housing apartments that offer leases shorter than a year. You're welcomed to discuss with the property manager to see what options are available as a few may be flexible depending on their occupancy rate, or reach out to your personal concierge beforehand for the best options available.

Are there buses to get to and from campus?

Most major universities listed on LoftSmart offer free shuttles to their students for getting around campus and the most popular spots around town. Be sure to check in on your school’s shuttle website to check route details and see if the bus meets at your complex.

How do you find out about the surrounding neighborhood/community?

The best resource can actually be found right on LoftSmart! Go to your school’s page on the site and view our helpful neighborhood guides that will tell you all about the neighborhood and its perks or downsides.

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What happens after I sign-up?

Once you’re all signed up, you’re ready to start your search for your new apartment in the US! With your new LoftSmart account, you’ll now have the ability to fully search for a place you love, apply to that place, and share all the documentation and payments necessary to complete your lease, all online.

Your account grants you access to your own personal dashboard, where you can find any applications or inquiries being processed, properties you’ve wishlisted, open communications you have with property managers, and more.

For a full breakdown of how LoftSmart works, click here!

What if I don’t know where to start?

There are two ways we recommend getting started.

  1. After you sign up, use the homepage search bar to navigate to your university’s listings page. Once there, you can browse all available apartments and view pricing, photos, amenities, and reviews for each property. Then when you’re ready, you can apply to the property you love the most!
  2. Or if you’re not quite sure what you’re looking for and need a bit more assistance, reach out to your personal concierge via the chat feature in the bottom right-hand corner of your screen. Your personal concierge will be there to provide all the best recommendations based on what you’re looking for and will be there throughout the entire leasing process to walk you through each step.

I found an apartment I am interested in, now what?

Once you find an apartment you’d potentially like to move into, simply click the “Apply Now” button and select the unit you’d like to apply to. From there, you will be redirected to your dashboard where you can complete your application then and there, all online.

What happens after I submit an application?

Upon your application submission, the property manager will generally take 12-24 hours to review and accept or decline your application, all based on the time your app was submitted. Once your app is accepted, the property manager will send over necessary docs for you to complete which can take anywhere from 10 minutes to as long as you may need to finalize the contract and payments. Throughout the process, feel free to follow up with both the property manager or your personal concierge with your status or any questions you may have at all.

When do you suggest I start applying?

We typically recommend applying to the property you’d like to live as soon as you’ve received your acceptance letter and are approved for your move to the US. Most leases can be completed within 48 hours, but in anticipation of any unforeseen holdups, we always recommend getting started as soon as possible. In addition, many of the top apartment complexes that you may be applying to could be near capacity, so to ensure your spot, apply as early as possible.

How do I know my information is secure on LoftSmart?

Rest assured that we take our users' information protection very seriously. All information entered for your application is only shared with you and the Property Manager of the property via HelloSign. LoftSmart does not store any of your personal information, but rather uses a secure and encrypted communication layer to communicate with HelloSign. In other words, our security protection is comparable to the likes of the largest Fortune 500 companies around, so you're in good hands.

Worried about payment via Stripe or Plaid? Fear not. Stripe has a robust security layer that keeps all of your information safe. But if you're interested in more information, you can always learn more here.

Are there fees for signing my lease online? Paying rent online?

Signing your lease through LoftSmart adds absolutely no fees to your lease, all you get is added convenience. Most apartments actually utilize online rent payment as the most efficient way to pay without checks or money orders. This set-up allows a free connection to your bank account with automated monthly deposits.

Have a few more questions on the student housing in the US? Feel free to reach out to your personal concierge anytime via the chat in the bottom right-hand corner, email, or text/call!

Ready to find your apartment in the US?