How To Move To Your First Off-Campus Place

You’ve been living in the dorms for two years and you can’t handle any more RA’s, cafeteria food, or generic furniture. You’ve had enough and you’re ready to find your own place. Moving off-campus as an international student can have its challenges. From getting approved to rent a place, to having to buy all new furniture – we will walk you through the process of having a place that feels more like home away from home.

Determine Your Budget. Obviously every city is different. In Nashville, $1,000 a month might get you your own studio. In New York City, $1,000 a month will get you a studio…that you need to share with two other people. Be realistic when it comes to what you can afford and what that budget can actually get you. Once you know exactly what you (or may I say, your parents) are willing to spend on rent per month, you can move into the actual search.

Find Your Dream Apartment/House. The search for a new place can be daunting but thanks to social media, there are several tools that can make the process easier.

  • If you’re looking to live by yourself, you can just do a Google search for all apartment complexes in your area and then apply for one that meets your requirements. You can also drive by the neighborhoods you want to live in and see if there are any “for rent” signs. Old school, yes, but people still do that!
  • If you need to have a roommate, the process might take a little bit more time.
    • Always start by posting that you’re looking for a new place on social media. You’d be surprised the number of people you know that might be on the same boat!
    • If you’re unable to get any responses, try to join communities in your city for people looking for roommates and places to live. For example, Nashville has a Facebook group called Nashville Rooms For Rent.
    • If you’re still not having any luck, you can also go on Craigslist. No – it’s is actually not as scary as everybody thinks!
  • Always make sure you visit the place first and meet the potential new roommates before agreeing to move in (social media stalking is a must as well!). Also, bring a friend. Having someone else’s opinion can sometimes help make tough decisions.

Get Approved. Once you have found the perfect place – it’s time to make sure you get approved to live there.

  • Before you’re approved to move into a new place, you will usually have to complete an application (sometimes online) where your (future) landlord will do a background and credit check to make sure you will be a trustworthy tenant. As an international student, you probably don’t have any credit yet. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t get approved. Some places allow you to get approved with restrictions, meaning you will need to:
    • Make a deposit – which is a lump sum of money, usually the total of one month of rent, that you get back at the end of your rent period unless you cause some damages to the place or
    • Get a co-signor – most US citizens can get away with making their parents co-signors since they have better credit. Unfortunately foreign parents cannot be co-signors unless they have social security numbers so usually this option doesn’t really work for us.
  • If you’re subleasing from someone else (which is when you rent a place from a tenant who already has a lease with the place but for whatever reason will not be living there for a certain period of time), then all you might be asked to do is provide a deposit and maybe sign a sublease agreement that was printed off the internet. Subleasing is great for international students because the person you’re subleasing from will normally leave all their furniture for you to use.

Sign Your Lease. Make sure you read this document carefully before signing. Your rental agreement will determine the length of your lease, what happens if you break your lease, and what your landlord is required to provide (eg. maintenance if something is faulty). Standard lease lengths are about a year but some might be six months. If you sign a one year lease but have to leave before then, you can always find someone to sublease your place. Always keep a copy of your lease so you can reference in if something goes wrong.

Move In. This is the most exciting part. You get to bring all your stuff to this new place and make it your own. Before you start building your IKEA furniture though, make sure you take a good look at the place. Take pictures of everything that’s not great (eg. stains on walls, scratches on hardwood floors, etc.) This will allow you to have proof in case the landlord wants to charge you for damages that happened before you moved in.

We both moved moved off campus after our Sophomore year and although the process was daunting, it was also fun to live outside our school and make a place our own. Good luck!

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