College House Hunting 101

By Mimi Ramirez

Just a month ago, I began searching for my first house. I currently live in a university-owned apartment, but decided I was ready to finally move off campus. Luckily for me, three of the four girls I intend to live with next year have already been through this process. We began looking online in mid-September at the different realtors and properties throughout Whitewater. The process took us about a month, beginning with our online research and ending with the signing of our lease.

From what I’ve learned through this process, I believe house hunting can be broken down into seven steps that will help make the process as smooth as possible:

Choose your roommates wisely. Roommate selection could be one of the most important factors to consider when renting your first home or apartment. Be sure the people you intend to live with are all on the same page when it comes to splitting payments and general house rules.

Ask around. If you have friends that have already been through the process of signing a home or apartment, ask them who their realtor is and if they are satisfied with the conditions of the lease and property.

Have a plan. Talk with your roommates and decide what you are looking for in price, location, and overall condition of the house. Create a budget and base your house/apartment search on  your price range and preferences.

Go online. Before you do anything, go online to search for homes that meet your criteria for price and location. Many websites have pictures and information on the house/apartment. But beware, some online pictures can be deceiving and do not include important living conditions including smell, noise and views.

Attend many open houses and showings. This is the best way to compare and contrast pricing and conditions. Be sure the home has the amount of rooms needed to accommodate all roommates. You’ll want to look at the condition of the kitchen and bathrooms first and foremost.

Ask for a copy of the contract. Make sure to go over  your contract with your future roommates and your parents. Make sure the price of the house matches what the realtor told you and pay attention to any other stipulations the realtor lists. You do not want any surprise payments to arise after you have already signed the lease.

Start your search as early as possible. You are NOT the only college student looking for a house or apartment.  Houses and apartments surrounding the UW-Whitewater campus go fast. My advice is to start planning your living arrangements for the upcoming year during the first month or two into school the year prior.