Apartment hunting can be one of the most daunting things for a college student. Will I be able to pay my bills? What will my roommates be like? And first and foremost, how do I find a good apartment to begin with?
Now, I am not an expert, but I have been looking into this for several months at this point, and this is what I have found:
First, have some sort of budget: Microsoft Excel comes with being a University of Louisiana at Lafayette student, and there are several templates that you can download that are specific to budgeting. The one I use is called Simple Budget Spreadsheet. You list your income and all of your expenses, including things like car insurance and groceries, and it tells you what you have leftover. This is how I have figured out the rent that I can afford with all of my added expenses. My suggestion is that you overestimate expenses and underestimate income to avoid going into the negative.
Now that you have your budget figured out, where should you start to look? Most websites have their pros and cons, and there is also the option of driving around Lafayette to see what is available.
Apartments.com and Zillow are two of the most mainstream options. They both allow you to sort by price and amount of beds, but Apartments.com is better if you are looking for student housing; Zillow is better if you are looking to rent a house or find something that might be less mainstream.
Something else to keep in mind is that if you are planning on getting married, student housing is not an option for you. However, if you do tie the knot during the semester, the university will let you out of your housing contract.
“Unfortunately, we do not have a fall only application,” the UL Lafayette Housing Department wrote in an email. “However, if you complete the Academic Year fall 2020/spring 2021 contract and request a release for the spring semester (at the end of the fall semester) it will be approved since you will be married.”
Other options include Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist. These are good options if you are looking to room with people who are already living in an existing household or trying to find a cheaper place to stay. Personally, I feel that Facebook shows more relevant listings that are more legitimate, but this is simply my own experience.
With any of these options, it is important to read the contract thoroughly, walk-through the room or apartment before you buy it, and be wary of scams, particularly on Facebook and Craiglist. These include “Hijacked Ads” and “Phantom Rentals”.
“Some scammers hijack a real rental or real estate listing by changing the email address or other contact information, and placing the modified ad on another site,” the Federal Trade Commission Website reads. “Other rip-off artists make up listings for places that aren’t for rent or don’t exist, and try to lure you in with the promise of low rent, or great amenities.”