Student Off-Campus Housing Guide

Finally making the move out of your parents' place? Or taking a dive into an off campus spot after life in the dorms? Finding that perfect place can be a little overwhelming with new info and terms flying by left and right.

But don’t sweat it. Whatever questions you have on the student housing world, we’ve got you covered. Check out LoftSmart’s list of the most frequently asked questions from our years in the student housing world (and don’t worry about fancy jargon, it’s written for students by students.)

Do you have to be a student to live in off-campus housing?

It definitely depends on the property. If the property is affiliated with the school, all residents are traditionally students. However other off-campus housing generally attracts young professionals and recent grads as well. But don’t worry, you can always ask about the apartment demographics before signing or check out our neighborhood guides to find out where most students are living at your school!

Do you have to be 18 to live in off-campus housing?

Certain complexes have different requirements but for the most part, if a guarantor is cleared to sign then the resident should be good to go.

What is a guarantor?

A guarantor is a third party (traditionally a parent or guardian) who provides security on a signed lease. Basically, they are there to insure that someone is financially able to afford the lease value.

How many residents do off-campus housing complexes have?

The number of residents for off-campus housing is typically between 400-3000 residents. Lots of new neighbors on the way!

What are fully furnished apartments?

Many students come to college not fully ready to make the move to a new place furniture-wise. A fully furnished apartment would be what you're looking for if you're in this situation. These options are available at select complexes for an extra fee and generally include beds, dressers, a desk, etc.

What is luxury student housing?

Luxury student housing is a new trend amongst college campuses that brings the resort lifestyle to student living. From luxury gyms, clubhouses with movie theaters, Jacuzzis, resort style pools, spacious balconies, islands in kitchens, stainless steel appliances, and many other perks.

What is a lease?

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

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 (or your parents’) bank account with automated monthly deposits. It’s always helpful to set this up since in the college lifestyle you have so much else going on anyway!

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.

What do I do if I need to cancel my lease?

In most cases, canceling a lease is very difficult and costly. The lease you sign is finite and traditionally the apartment is very protected from cancellations. An alternative is finding an individual to sublease your apartment to cover costs while you are at a new place of residence. Be sure to discuss with your complex prior to, just to ensure they allow for subleasing.

Do apartments prorate if I move in mid-month?

First off, to prorate means to only pay for the amount of the lease that you would be living in the apartment (from move-in to move-out).

For the most part, the answer is no, though. Off-campus housing utilizes an annual rental fee and divides it by the months leased. For instance, if the total cost for an apartment is $6,000 for 11 months, the monthly rent will be $545/month.

How will the security deposit work? Do I get my deposit back?

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. For the most part, residents do not typically see their deposit back due to wear on the unit, but there are a number of measures you can take to improve the chances that you do. Take detailed notes and photos of any imperfections with the unit when you move in and be sure to share these with management. In addition, be cognizant over your time in the apartment of avoiding potential damages.

Are there ever hidden fees I should be aware of?

There could be. We always advise a thorough read-through of the contract for potential hidden fees upon signing and ask your property manager about extra fees that may be incurred. These can range from application fees to garbage fees, to post-lease cleaning fees.

What does 1/1, 2/2, 3/3, 4/4 stand for?

These numbers actually refer to the number of beds and bathrooms in the unit. So ‘2/2’ means 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms.

What does "sqft" stand for?

Square Feet (typically used to describe the size of your unit).

What does "W/D" stand for?

Washer and dryer - you’re going to need it!

What is the difference between a "kitchenette" and a "kitchen?"

The difference typically comes with the size of your apartment. A kitchenette is generally found in small studios or 1-2 bedroom apartments. These typically come with a smaller size refrigerator and stove, whereas a full kitchen generally contains these in full size plus an added dishwasher.

What is "Renter's Insurance?"

Just to be sure you’re always prepared for the unexpected, renter’s insurance should be in your future. Renter’s insurance is a policy that provides coverage for your property and belongings in your apartment in case an accident or disaster occurs.

What is a "game room?"

Many listings at your school will have a game room in the clubhouse. Be sure to take advantage of these and enjoy a little ping pong, billiards, Xbox, movie theaters and more.

What is a "key fob?"

A key fob is an electronic key that you scan to an electronic sensor to access a passageway. Many complexes are moving towards adding these to grant you access to gates, the clubhouse, and gym.

Will my apartment charge for utilities?

Utilities are handled differently across apartment complexes, but for the most part, you’ll have two structures that will be established in your lease. The first structure is typically with a ‘utility cap.’ This means that your utility costs (e.g. refrigerator, 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 don’t typically 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 typical utility charges of other residents.

Will my apartment have a washer/dryer?

Not all do, so make sure to check! Those that don’t will likely have a central washer and dryer station (or laundromat) on their property.

Are there ever miscalculations of utility overages?

Unfortunately, there are often miscalculations in utilities, and oftentimes, there’s not an immediate solution. Since the utility companies provide the utility bills, your complex is often just the messenger. A few variables affect your utility costs and bring about these inconsistencies including neighboring utility use, building and appliance age, and the time of year. The best way to prevent these is just to be considerate of your utility usage.

What is a good sized apartment in square feet?

Sizes definitely vary but for the most part, our listings show a studio traditionally at 500-700 sqft, 1/1 is typically 700-900 sqft, 2/2 is typically 900-1100 sqft, 3/3 is traditionally 1100-1400 sqft, and 4/4 is 1400-1600 sqft. Of course, these are all approximations and will differ from market to market.

Do apartments usually have carpets or wood floors?

Most of the newer model apartments actually have hardwood laminate flooring since it’s easy to replace and maintain. Older complexes are transitioning into this flooring also, but you may have a few with carpet still intact.

Will my apartment have any computers, wifi or printers I can use?

Many of them do actually! Most clubhouses offer all of the above on-top of great study spaces if you ever find the library too crowded or are looking for a place to take a study group.

How old are kitchen appliances in student apartments?

Most all properties have appliances that are within a few years old. Generally, you shouldn’t worry about the age of appliances as performance across the generational versions is fairly strong.

What is a "coffee bar" in a clubhouse?

The one thing that pairs best with studying is coffee. So many complexes are there to help you out with a coffee bar in their clubhouse. This typically consists of a fully stocked Keurig or a good old-fashioned pot always ready.

What is the difference between a "fitness center" and a "full purpose gym"?

The freshman 15 can happen to anyone! Your complex may help out by offering a fitness center or gym. Fitness centers generally describe cardio equipment: treadmills, ellipticals, bikes, etc, whereas full purpose gyms cater to both the cardio goers as well as weight lifters.

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.

What if I can’t find my own roommate?

All student housing complexes allow for you to request your own roommates. But if you don’t have one lined up, don’t sweat it! Many apartment complexes have amazing roommate matching systems and will set you up with a roommate before move-in. This typical consists of a brief survey to match you and a potential roommate based on your major, hobbies, habits and more. It is always possible to search in groups via social media to find potential roommates as well. We recommend checking for Facebook groups for your school and class year, it’s your best bet!

What do I do if I have a maintenance request?

Most properties will supply you with a maintenance phone number, many of which take requests 24 hours a day, though, they tend to respond to requests on a priority basis. Maintenance requests typically range from plumbing issues, malfunctioned appliances, lost keys, and anything in between.

Do I have my own parking spot? Is it covered?

Parking availability varies from complex to complex. Many complexes will charge an additional fee for a parking sticker (around $15-$20) or a little more for a reserved parking spot. Depending on the complex, they may also offer covered parking options for your vehicle for an additional charge. In most cases, these are the only options available for parking, though you may encounter an apartment here and there that offers personal garage parking.

Will these apartments allow me to have my pet?

Pet-friendly apartments, again, come on a case by case basis. For the most part, apartments will allow them (check their LoftSmart listing and search for their ‘pet-friendly’ listing) if they are under a certain weight or will charge a small fee (typically $50-$300) to allow for them.

What are some common security measures for off-campus housing?

Though it does depend on the neighborhood and area you’re selecting (be sure to check out our helpful neighborhood guides for your school!), security measures will vary across apartment complexes. Most will have a combination of patrol vehicles, security guards, gates, key fobs and cameras to keep you safe. Feel free to check out our extensive reviews before selecting a property as well if you’d like to see if previous residents had any security concerns.

Do you need renter's insurance for off-campus student housing?

Though many places do not require it, it is always recommended. Better safe than sorry.

Got more questions on the student housing world? Leave us a comment below and a rep will to reach out and answer any of your questions!

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