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Sunday, April 14, 2024

How To House: Tips for first-years looking for off-campus housing

People who have lived off-campus share their experiences and tips

Winter Quarter comes with constant questions about housing options, specifically for first-year students and those looking to live off-campus for the first time. There are a number of options, including houses, townhouses, apartments and second-year housing through UC Davis.

First-year students filled the ARC Pavilion on Jan. 24 at the ASUCD Housing Day and flipped through the “Davis Housing” magazine put in the mailbox of every on-campus resident. For current first-year students, top priorities vary greatly: for some, it’s whether or not Wi-Fi is provided with the rent; for others, it’s the people they want to live with. Sometimes, it’s proximity to campus or Unitrans bus stops, but for many, price is the deciding factor. “Davis Housing” even lists apartments by lease term, how many minutes from campus, internet availability, size and location.

“For me, the number one priority was to be as close to campus as possible and to be in a place where I’m around other students of UC Davis,” said first-year computer engineering major Prajwal Singh after Housing Day. “The other thing was: was it furnished or not, because I don’t want to pay extra for furnishing.”

Third-year psychology major Breanna Rodriguez is a Resident Advisor (RA) this year, but unlike other RAs on campus, she lived off-campus her second year, which she often discusses with her residents.

“I’ve been trying to be as vocal as possible with it, which may seem annoying if I’m pushing it too much,” Rodriguez said. “But yeah, I feel like it’s something that not a lot of people can get from their RAs, because a lot of RAs have been RAs or living in the dorms their entire time. I’ve just been trying to like, be as helpful as possible with my experience.”

Rodriguez picked her roommate and housemates in Fall Quarter of her first year, and the next step in their process was to settle on how much they were willing to pay. She and her friends stuck to the lowest amount that any of the four of them wanted to pay. Over winter break, the group did some searching based on established criteria, and once they got back, they started making lists of all of the places that they liked and individually ranked them. Using these lists, they narrowed it down to five options. Rodriguez and her friends ended up touring three of those places and picked a two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment.

“Something that I’ve been trying to preach to my residents is to not get one single bathroom if there’s going to be like, four or more people,” Rodriguez said. “And also when it comes to a bathroom, make sure that your bathroom has windows and not just vents. Mine had just vents and we got mold like, every single week.”

In addition to her advice about bathrooms, Rodriguez discussed other important things to ask management about — particularly what additional payments are on top of rent, including gas, laundry, electricity, water and WiFi. She also recommends that students look at recent Yelp reviews to get a better idea of what other students think of a place and its management.

Most significantly though, Rodriguez said that it’s important that first-year students like the place they pick, given their priorities. Second-year neurobiology, physiology and behavior major Taylor Phan agrees with this.

“Make sure you like the apartment,” Phan said. “Don’t settle. There’s a lot of apartments in Davis, so I don’t think there should be a reason that students go settle for something that they hate.”

Phan went through the process of searching for housing after her first year and is currently searching for a new place to live. Last year, she and her roommates and housemates signed a lease in late January, and she described how her mentality back then is quite similar to her housing mentality this year.

“Even though Davis has ample housing, it’s really up to [what everyone does],” Phan said. “There are always a few apartments that are really good that everyone likes, you know […] You also have to take into account the lottery system, first-come, first-serve system, waitlisting, stuff like that.”

Phan thinks that she should have looked earlier when she was a first-year because by the time she began to search, there was already limited availability. This year, however, she and her housemates are working together to call every apartment complex they’re interested in. She thinks it is “crazy” that apartments are placing people on waitlists as early as January.

Phan advised that first-year students take a look at everything the apartment offers — WiFi, garbage services, electricity and printing. Like Rodriguez, she urges students to explore Yelp reviews.

There’s also the issue of roommates. While some students know who they want to live with and go from there, Phan said students should remember there’s always the option of figuring out other priorities, and then using Facebook to connect to other students who are looking for roommates. Rodriguez recommended that no matter who students choose to live with, some sort of routine in terms of chores should be established so that everyone is responsible for maintaining a clean environment.

According to Rodriguez, location is what a lot of first-year students worry a lot about, but she thinks that there’s no need to be overly concerned.

“I wouldn’t worry too much about location,” Rodriguez said. “I know most people are super used to living on campus and biking everywhere, but Unitrans is awesome, and it will get you where you need to get at the right time […] It’s not as hard as you think.”

Written by: Anjini Venugopal — features@theaggie.org


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