9 Off-Campus House Hunting Questions to Ask

By Elizabeth Hilfrank on December 25, 2017

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If you’re thinking about living off-campus, here are some important house hunting questions to consider:

1. Does the house come furnished?

This question means more than you realize. If the place comes furnished, that is less money you have to spend on top of your rent. If the answer is yes, then you should make sure to clarify what exactly the apartment comes with. Some pieces of furniture you see included may be included while others will not.  If the place does not come furnished at all, then you may be able to negotiate the price down. You may also be able to negotiate some furniture into the deal. With this question, you should make sure to ask the exact dimensions of the rooms and space as a whole so that if and when you bring your own furnishings, you know what will fit.

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2. How much is the rent, and what is the first month’s cost?

You should definitely know how much you are paying per month, but you should also know how much the first month is going to cost because it could be different from all the rest. This could be due to a security deposit (you should also ask how much of this can be refunded and how/when you can get this money back), a broker’s fee, or having to pay for both the first month and the last month at the start of the lease. Within this realm you should also be aware of any fees that come with paying your rent late, if you are allowed to pay rent early, if it is in fact monthly, how long you are bound to the lease for, and what the repercussions are for breaking the lease. You should also check to see if utilities are included in that rental cost, and if not, what additional cost you should expect to have for those utilities on top of the rental cost. What’s more, if you are living with roommates, make sure to ask if the lease is individual or collective — that is, do you only pay your part no matter what goes on with the rest of the roommates, or do you all pay at once together? You should also check to see how the landlord wishes to be paid (cash, check, credit…).

3. Is subletting permitted?

If your lease is a year long, but you don’t plan on staying in the area for the summer, make sure to check if subletting is available. If it is, make sure you know all the rules and regulations so that you do not get in trouble.

4. What is the fire safety policy?

Make sure to ask about fire alarms, fire code, carbon monoxide alarms, fire extinguishers, fire escapes and the like. It’s important to know that the place in which you live is up to date on safety code and that the landlord wants to protect you from any harm. This is also a question to ask that will prove your seriousness to the landlord and will make him more likely to want you as a tenant, too.

5. What is the pet policy?

Pet policy does not have to only be in regards to larger pets like cats and dogs, but it can include anything as small as a fish. Even if you do not have a pet at the moment, you never know what could happen as the year progresses. With this policy you should not only see if pets are allowed, but what the fees are having one (if they are allowed) as well.

6. How are maintenance problems handled?

This house hunting question should include not only who to call when problems arise, but how quickly problems are resolved, and if you have to pay anything extra to have problems fixed. You can also ask here about pest patrol and if there is a pest problem you should be concerned about.

7. How is security managed?

Make sure you look at all the locks in the apartment or house and make sure they actually work. Ask about past incidents of insecurity in the area, and, if you are looking at an apartment complex, inquire about how guests are managed and the security regarding the general entrance versus individual room entrance.

8. Personalization Policy?

The personalization policy question involves asking about the landlord’s policy on painting walls, any construction work that you may wish to do while living in the home etc. You can also ask when the most recent renovation was completed so that you have a complete understanding of the history of where you live, and if you will have any renovations coming up that you should be expecting.

9. Parking?

If you own a car, make sure to ask how you can store it while living in the off-campus housing. Do you have a driveway unique to your home, or do you share one with another house? Is street parking available, and if so, do you have to pay for it? Is there a parking garage nearby? Do you need a permit, and if so, what is the cost, and how do you go about paying for it?

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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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