Op-ed

The haunting of house hunting

Photo: Jay Blacks via Unsplash.

It’s that time of year: spooky season! Witches are roaming about, a chill is in the air and scariest of all, housing decisions. These past few weeks have been prime time for students to decide if they want to migrate off campus for the next school year. Is renting a place off-campus right for you? Well, you’ve come to the right place to help decide!

One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard from students is how difficult it is to find off-campus rentals. Many apartments and houses have a “no students policy,” majorly limiting the number of available properties. Due to this policy, the market is extremely competitive. On our last tour, my roommates and I fell in love with an adorable townhouse just outside of campus. Upon telling the realtor we were interested, he said to apply and make a deposit within the hour. It was the house’s first day on the market, and eight groups had already scheduled a tour. He explained that student rentals only stay on the market for a few days max. We snagged four applications and put our money down. For first-time renters, we were extremely overwhelmed. The competitive process is stressful and allows for little time to consider your options.

The lifestyle of living on and off-campus is completely different. Renting allows for students to get real-world experience with housing and encourages independence. As stressful as the house-hunting process was, it was a necessary lesson in ‘adulting.’

My advice? Start looking for rentals as soon as the semester begins. It may seem unnecessary but the longer you wait, the more competition for leasing grows. If at this point in the semester you still haven’t started touring, stop reading this article and get to it now.

Alternatively, the registration for on-campus housing is relatively stress-free. I have lived in USH for the past two years and applaud their straightforward process with roommate and dorm selection. USH directs students to a portal where they can set up a housing profile featuring questions about lifestyle choices and suite-style preferences. From there, the system plays matchmaker! Once roommates are chosen, you’ll be given a time slot for selecting room numbers. In some cases, room slots can become filled, and a roommate group may not receive their desired suite-style or building.

Although I have never lived in traditional housing, it’s my understanding the process is similar. Don’t slack on registering for on-campus housing, though. Dorms have overflowed in the past, resulting in forced tripling of roos only intended for two occupants. Those who registered late often do not receive their preferences.

Finding a place to live is only the beginning, now you have to pay rent! Off-campus housing could be cheaper or more expensive than dorms. Generally, rentals are more money than traditional dorms and equal to or less than affiliated dorms. That being said, take the terms and conditions of a rental into consideration. Most homes and apartments don’t include utilities, so pricing is misleadingly cheap. It’s also important to remember that most leases are 12 months, whereas on-campus housing only lasts while classes are in session. Right now (in the dorms), I share a room and have five suitemates. Next year (off-campus), I will have my own room, three housemates and kitchen/ living room access. The pricing, including utilities, is equal for both living situations. Personally, the off-campus pricing is far preferable.

The lifestyle of living on and off-campus is completely different. Renting allows for students to get real-world experience with housing and encourages independence. As stressful as the house-hunting process was, it was a necessary lesson in “adulting.”

Off-campus housing also tasks students with the responsibility of paying utility bills and makes them more conscious of money management. What’s more, when a student is off-campus, they don’t have to comply with dorm rules. Don’t want to sign a guest in after eight p.m.? You don’t have to! Don’t want to go to floor meetings? They don’t exist! Oh, and don’t forget that you’ll have easy access to a kitchen and living room! Plus, there’s more opportunity to make your space personalized.

On the downside, living off-campus can make students feel isolated. Living in the dorms, you’ll naturally meet fellow students in lounges, at floor events or in the dining hall. Some of my closest friends on campus I met because they lived a few doors down. Living off-campus, you won’t encounter as many people and will have to work far harder to make friends. Depending on how far you are from campus, you’ll also have to deal with a hefty walk to your classes. That won’t be fun in the freezing cold or while you’re waking up even earlier to get to your eight a.m. In many cases, living on campus is simply more convenient for getting around.

At the end of the day, choosing whether to live on or off-campus is not a decision to be taken lightly. Keep in mind that everyone has their personal preferences and just because living off-campus works best for others may not mean it’s the right choice for you. Be timely in your decision about off-campus housing, but be sure to weigh the pros and cons of your choices before rushing into anything.

Happy house hunting!

Samantha Batty is a second-year student English writings major. SB908125@wcupa.edu

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