COLUMN: Easing the transition to living off campus

Both of us took a partial leap into adulthood this year by deciding to rent houses off campus. Looking back, there are a few things we wished we’d known going into it. Here’s a bit of friendly advice to make your transition to off-campus housing go smother.

Start early

Think about when you want to start your lease and start looking as far in advance as you can. Waiting until the last minute could leave you with some unneeded stress.

Look at classifieds, call realtors, check Craigslist and ask around. Chances are some of your friends might know places that will be up for rent soon.

Give yourself enough time to look at the house, meet the landlord and find reliable roommates.

Remember, it’s location, location, location

Get your priorities in order when it comes to location. Decide what’s more important: living within walking distance to campus or living somewhere cheaper. Know what you really want out of your future home’s location before you start looking.

Also, head to the local police department or look at local papers to see what kind of crime is happening in your would-be neighborhood. It’s not a bad idea to check out the National Sex Offender Registry at either.

Look out for indicators of road construction, too. You might not want to move into a construction zone.

Get to know your landlord

Does your landlord seem like the kind that will be “just dropping in” all the time? If you have wild parties, you might not want that.

On the other hand, if your landlord seems a bit hands-off, it might be harder to get in touch with them to come over and fix your broken oven.

So it’s important to get a sense of who this person is before you agree to rent a place.

Don’t be afraid to ask previous tenants about their experience with the landlord, either.

Hidden fees

If you’re living in a college-style apartment, your utilities and cable and Internet charges will likely be included with your monthly rent.

But if you’re renting a house, you’ll probably have to put down a deposit for rent and pay start-up fees for utilities, cable, Internet and gas, among other things. You might even have to set all of this up yourself, which will mean some time on the phone with Bowling Green Municipal Utilities, Insight and Atmos Energy.

Oh, and don’t wait until December to turn on your heat. Yes, it saves money, but you will also freeze.

Don’t forget the furniture

It could be up to you and your roommates to furnish your new home, which may seem like a daunting task.

First, make a list of what each of you already has. You’ll need to come up with a couch or two, beds for everyone, and things like a kitchen table, a coffee table and a microwave. And don’t forget about odds and ends like silverware, curtains, etc.

Once you figure out what you still need, divide up the remaining items among your roommates. Walmart and Target have pretty good home sections, but don’t be afraid to try a consignment shop to save money.

Lay some ground rules

By this point, you’ve already lived in a dorm, so you know what it’s like to have to share your personal space.

But off-campus, there’s more pressure to pick roommates you can rely on, especially if you depend on them for rent payments. Make sure everyone has their finances in order before deciding to get a place together.

Between work, class and your social lives, each roommate will probably have a completely different schedule. Try to be respectful of one another. If one roommate has a test the next day, don’t have a bunch of friends over the night before. Also ask about boyfriends and girlfriends – will one roommate have a significant other who basically lives with you? It’s important to sort this stuff out from the beginning so you don’t run into problems down the road.

While this may seem like a lot, we can both guarantee that living off-campus is a blast – well worth the added responsibility. So have fun, and happy hunting.