Advice for students seeking to live off-campus
Looking for housing may be a daunting task for incoming transfer students as well as new second-year students who are leaving their Segundo, Tercero or Cuarto spaces. While hunting for a new place to live is a sign of becoming a full-fledged adult, the excitement may wane with all the decisions students must make in order to secure housing.
Rebecca C. Spin, a second-year design major at UC Davis, stressed the importance of securing housing at an early date before dense competition ensues, pressuring new students to find a place to live.
“Definitely do it earlier rather than later — don’t leave it until the last minute,” Spin said. “I know some people have been absolutely left in the cold with that. Choose options that are financially good for you. Realize whether or not you’re going to be in control of the internet, water and power because we did not consider any of those [and] now, we are responsible for those things.”
Shari Houston, the director of site management and resident relations at Tandem Properties, also indicated that starting early is crucial.
“It can be challenging for first-time renters to find the right balance between rushing to sign too soon and waiting too long to start their housing search,” Houston said via email. “It’s important to do your research and connect with your top-choice communities early.”
Lorna Hyatt, the community manager for University Court, mentioned that most students start planning their housing in December, a year before their intended move-in date.
“They probably need to plan on looking starting in December,” Hyatt said. “Most popular properties in Davis would start pre-leasing in December the year before. University Court has no vacancy for a number [of] weeks now. I know that’s the case for a lot of the popular properties, and space can be found at some of the older properties that are further from campus. If you want to live within reasonable biking or walking distance in well-maintained properties that have good management, maintenance and reputation — those fill up quickly.”
Spin also indicated, however, that there are more options outside of apartments for students to live in. For instance, she chose to live in a house.
“In our case, it was because we were living with five people, so [a house] was the most financially reasonable option for the amount of space we needed,” Spin said. “As it stands, it was an affordable and spacious option — really a nice option overall.”
Spin further noted that students are not alone in their journeys to find housing.
“Research, ask parents, ask other college students who have done this already,” Spin said. Also, seek out people who are in control of your apartment or complex. In our case, we actually have a front office that deals with all of our main issues. Just talk to them because they will care for most of the problems—you just have to be able to know who can help you.”
Hyatt emphasized the importance of researching outside of internet sources to get a better feel for housing complexes other than what is claimed online.
“I’ve encountered students who come to Davis and they have not seen it before,” Hyatt said. “They are disappointed by what they are moving into if it doesn’t look like what it looks like online. If you are shopping online, you should try to connect with groups on campus about properties and what they truly are like versus what they look like online.”
Students can access housing resources on the Tandem Properties website, which offers information about the individual lease program option for students who are facing last-minute decisions with housing.
“For last minute housing, it might help to consider communities that offer an individual lease program option,” Houston said via email. “With these programs, you can still obtain the benefit of sharing the cost of living expenses with a larger household, but being on a separate lease ensures each leaseholder is responsible only for their own portion of rent—this is especially beneficial if you are joining a household with roommates you don’t know.”
Spin mentioned that if she had to go back and change her housing experiences, she would consider more about education and research.
“Mostly, I would want to know more about how to take care of the finances because that’s been a very long-lasting journey,” Spin said. “It throws you into caring for yourself really quick, and that was a little too fast for me. Also, … the main thing I would have wanted to know more about [is] how to deal with pest control, drain clogging, water damage and all that stuff that I have to deal with now since I had no prior education. If I had known more about that before any of this, I would have been much more prepared.”
Hyatt indicated that each student has a different background and context when looking for housing, and research remains key because of that.
“It probably depends on where they are coming from,” Hyatt said. “If they are not transferring out of the dorm — and they haven’t lived here in Davis — then I think a lot of the common mistakes are not knowing more about the property that they find the lease at since they have not traveled to Davis. They do not know the area or the neighborhood. Shopping online has its pitfalls since apartments will feature their best photos and perhaps only show a model.”
Written by: Stella Tran — firstname.lastname@example.org