Off campus housing: Rent smart

For some, the transition from living in a residence hall on campus to living in an off-campus residence can be overwhelming. All students will eventually have to deal with this and many turn to Brookings rental companies for help.

Students looking for off campus housing have a lot of things to take under consideration, including whether they want an apartment or a house, who their roommates are going to be and the location, said Jessica Hardt, marketing director for Mills Property Management.

“It seems like every year it’s a little bit different. Some years it’s Internet, some years its location, some years everyone wants a one bedroom, the next year everyone wants a four bedroom,” Hardt said.

However, location seems to be the common denominator for what people are looking for in housing, Hardt said.

In Brookings, the locations closer to campus seem more popular, as many students would rather walk to campus than use their cars, according to Hardt. This has become more common since the SDSU started to implement the idea of a “walking campus,” Hardt said.

When students are hunting for a place to live, Shawn Storhaug with Brookings Property Management said students need to carefully consider what amenities they want and who their landlord is.

“Keep in mind that it’s a two way interview—the landlord is asking them questions about whether or not they will be a good tenant but they need to ask questions of the landlord too,” Storhaug said. 

According to Storhaug, tenants need to make sure their landlord will be willing to work with them and be available for issues regarding the residence.

When choosing a place to live off campus, sophomore Nutrition and Spanish major Taylor Donnelly said she chose a townhouse based on a recommendation from a friend. The landlord that owns the residence is easy to work with and trustable, Donnelly said.

Generally students have two options for off-campus housing, either a rental house or an apartment. Both Hardt and Storhaug suggested that both houses and apartments have their own benefits.

According to Hardt, while apartments are often noisier and tenants need to take neighbors under consideration, they often have cheaper utilities.

Houses provide more freedom and space as far as a yard but can come with expensive utilities and more upkeep, such as snow removal, Storhaug said.

“We’re about half in half. We see a pretty even mix of people looking for houses and apartments,” Storhaug said.

Making sure to ask a lot of questions can help renters to avoid any surprises down the road, Hardt said.

“Do your homework, ask questions. If you’re looking for something and your property manager is not answering your questions, look somewhere else…,” Hardt said.

According to Hardt, some renters are more concerned about price and how much utilities will cost, etc. whereas others want to know about snow removal or what will happen when smoke detectors need new batteries.

“There are no dumb questions. Get all of the information that you need,” Hardt said.

The biggest thing students need to realize when it comes to moving off campus is that signing a lease is a legal agreement, Storhaug said.

“A lease is a legal binding contract and they need to know what they are getting into,” Storhaug said. Ensuring that they pick roommates that they can live with for a full year is the most important thing students need to make sure to do when moving off campus, Storhaug said.

Choosing roommates that can be trusted and that they have a relationship with is vital in avoiding roommate issues, Hardt said. Since a lease is a legal contract, if one roommate decides to leave the remaining tenants are responsible for making the payments for the rental property, Hardt said.

“When looking for a roommate, I based my choice off of people that are down to earth because I don’t like drama,” Donnelly said.

Typically, the amount of tenants in a residence determines the cost of rent. The rule of no more than three unrelated tenants can cause problems for larger groups of students looking for a house, Storhaug said.

“We wanted a place that was nice enough to call home. Dorm life was fun but I’m definitely ready to have a place of my own,” Donnelly said.