Off-Campus Housing Options: Which Is Best for You?

By Elizabeth Hilfrank on July 15, 2017

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As you enter the upper-levels of undergraduate or graduate school, the time may come when you want to experience life off-campus. This switch provides you with the chance to act like more of a “real adult,” and, for some schools, it may actually be less expensive to move off-campus than it would be to stay on campus (for this reason you should make sure to carefully work through all calculations of costs. Don’t just follow what you are told).

If you decide that the off-campus life is for you, there are many paths you can take. You can choose to rent a house, an apartment, a townhouse or a condo, and there are a lot of aspects to consider with each.

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Apartments

What is it? Renting an apartment means that you are renting one section of a larger complex. One landlord owns the entire complex, and he rents the spaces out for profit.

Apartments are a common off-campus choice, as they are easy to find and can be relatively cheap. Out of the four options listed above, they tend to run on the less-expensive side. An apartment is a good choice if you want to live alone or only with one or two others, as space is usually quite small.

You will be sharing at least one wall with a stranger so you will have to be aware of both your volume and the fact that you may be able to easily hear what is going on in the apartment next door. If you live in a city, apartments tend to be more centrally located, so you should consider that when deciding where to live. More central can mean easier to get to class and more restaurant options, but it can also mean more noise and possibly lesser conditions. You could end up paying more for the location than for the appearance.

It’s very unlikely that you will own any yard space with an apartment. This means two things: 1) no backyard BBQs, and 2) way less maintenance.

Because the apartment is owned by one person who controls the entire complex, you will have to report to him on most things. While this factor means that you will have help with all maintenance problems, it also means that you have to operate on his schedule. So, you have no sense of timing.

Parking may cost extra or be non-existent.

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Houses

What is it? Renting a house means that you are renting an individual property from an individual person. It is not typically through any large organization.

Houses are another popular off-campus choice, as they offer the chance for you to live with a lot of people in one space. Because they take up more area, houses are usually located in the more rural sections of town. If you go to a school in a small town or suburban area, then renting a house is probably the most common option. If you go to school in a city, however, a house may be a little further away from campus and downtown.

Compared to an apartment, a house offers more freedom. The landlord or homeowner may be more laid-back as this house is not his entire income like it is for an apartment landlord. With this factor also brings up the fact that you will be responsible for more maintenance of the area. So, it will be on your time, but it will also be your labor and your money.

Houses offer the opportunity for a lawn, so, again, this means two things 1) backyard BBQs and 2) more maintenance.

A house offers more space both inside and outside, along with more privacy, as you are only sharing walls with your housemates. One thing to consider is that with the cost of houses, you may only be able to afford the older houses with appliances that are not exactly state-of-the-art. If you are looking to be big entertainers, however, then I would put a house in high consideration.

You can park your cars in your own driveway.

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Condo

What is it? Renting a condo means you are renting one building in a larger complex. The building is owned by an individual, and the complex operates under a Home Owners Association.

If you choose the condo route, you will have more direct contact with the landlord. The landlord is only responsible for your building, so contact should be relatively fluid. This will make things like maintenance problems easier, as most maintenance falls under the responsibility of the owner and HOA, but it also means that you will be watched a little more closely.

A condo may have nicer appliances than an apartment, as the individual owner wants to take pride in his place. At the same time, it could go the complete opposite way if the individual does not care. That is why it is important to look at places in person before committing. With a condo, you will also share walls, so again something to consider if you either dislike loud noise or are noisy yourself.

A condo is a wise choice for a small group of people who wish to live together.

Like an apartment, it is unlikely you will have any yard space with a condo. So, 1) no backyard BBQ and 2) way less maintenance. Also like an apartment, the cost is on the lower end of things.

You may be able to have your own parking here.

Picture courtesy of pixabay.com

Townhouse

What is it? Renting a townhouse is similar to renting a condo. You rent from an individual owner, but you are part of a larger complex.

A townhouse is also a strong option for a small group of roommates.

Choosing a townhouse meets the privacy factor in the middle. In one respect you are able to be your own individual as the landlord tends to leave you to your own business while still being present for maintenance issues, but at the same time you share walls with your neighbors, and you have a lot of neighbors. This fact means that the neighbors will watch what you do in the complex streets, but they will also watch out for you so that no mischief happens.

With a townhouse, you have the chance to own some land, but this doesn’t mean you have to maintain it. The Home Owner’s Association is in charge of everything. So, 1) backyard BBQ and 2) low maintenance. With this land, after checking the rules of the complex, you may be able to plant some of your own flowers, but only if you want to.

A townhouse typically has fairly nice amenities to stay with the culture of the area, but at the same time, since they are individually owned, each has its own special characteristics. The complex usually includes some extra shared perks such as a pool, gym, or recreational center. This also means shared parking.

So, now that you have the layout of each housing option, you can pick which is best for you. Make sure to consider the number of people you are living with, how you want to live, and where you want to live when selecting. Happy hunting!

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I'm a junior at Gettysburg College with a self-designed major called Writing and Performing Media, and I am a Spanish minor. When I'm not studying, I'm probably running with the cross country or track team, hanging out with my sorority, Alpha Delta Pi, looking at pictures of my dog or eating (mostly desserts). I love all things journalism, and I have a strong passion for storytelling.

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