Tips For Making Housing Decisions
Just a few weeks into the academic year, you start to hear it everywhere: "you need to start signing leases for the next year, or you will be left out." In the rush to find that perfect spot, or perhaps out of fear of being left without choices, many students –especially first and second years—sign leases with people they do not know well, for apartments that may not be nearly as great as they sounded when their friends first told them about them.
Try to acknowledge that you will have to deal with some uncertainty in choosing housing arrangements whether you make them now or later. Consider the trade off inherent in your decision about when to commit and how informed you are able to be about where you will live, who you will live with, and how much it will cost. Your housing choices can really shape your college experience and if made hastily can lead to increased stress, conflictual relationships or poor academic performance, along with the financial strain that likely accompanies an obligation totaling $10,00 or more over the course of next school year.
Here are some more specific tips for choosing wisely. Even when it seems urgent, you can take steps to make thoughtful housing and roommate decisions!
Check out the on and off-Grounds possibilities for yourself, rather than going by word of mouth. This FAQ from Housing and Residence Life is a good place to start, but nothing beats doing the research for yourself!
1. Best friends do not always make the best roommates. Here are some things to consider:
- Sleep schedules – choose someone with similar sleep and rise times
- Cleanliness – compare expectations about tidiness and cleanliness
- Communication – be sure that you feel comfortable communicating your preferences and boundaries with them
- Responsibilities – talk about chores such as paying housing bills, cleaning floors and bathrooms, doing dishes, etc and how you will decide who does what
- Noise tolerance – if you are noise sensitive, find a roommate who will respect that
- Social preferences – it can be hard for an introvert to live with an extrovert
- Temperature – make sure your indoor temperature tolerance is similar
- Don’t settle for any roommate – if possible, choose someone you know and trust. A friend can make a good roommate but there is also risk if rooming together creates conflict between you. A newer friend may be a better balance between knowing them but not feeling too risky. If that is not possible, you may need to choose someone new to you. Meet up with the person several times before deciding and get to know them and their preferences. If they do not feel like a good fit, keep looking. You will spend a lot of time with this person so take your time and choose carefully.
- Multiple roommates – carefully consider how many roommates feels right for you. If you do not feel comfortable in a room/house with a lot of people, you may want to choose to live with only one or two roommates rather than a whole house full.
2. Location – Consider both on and off grounds housing options:
- On grounds housing is mandatory for first years and optional/limited for other students but it tends to be cheaper, does not involve a lease and you will not be charged if you decide to study abroad. If you want to a simpler housing situation and more time to consider roommate options, on grounds housing may be best for you.
- Off grounds housing has serious financial and legal considerations when signing a lease and committing to the monthly rent and utility bills. You can also feel pressured to sign something prematurely but there is plenty of off grounds housing in Charlottesville so know that you have time to find the right place for you.
- Noise – consider train tracks, businesses, sports venues and other sources of noise that could be near to the apartment you are considering
- Transportation – driving to grounds will likely involve parking fees. Consider the proximity of bus routes and Charlottesville city buses in addition to walking distance to grounds.
3. Amenities – What is most important to you?
- Kitchen – this will be important for students who enjoy cooking or have special dietary needs that would best be supported by having a kitchen where you live. If you like to have food prepared for you, on grounds housing and dining are a good option
- Laundry – if you have a lot of laundry to do or if you wash frequently, you may want an apartment with nearby laundry facilities
- Type of housing – there are many options including single homes, townhomes and apartments with multiple levels. Consider what level is most comfortable for you (some like to avoid stairs and live on the ground floor). Also consider how much light the housing unit and specifically your room gets during the day and how important light is for your mood.
- Single bedroom verses sharing a bedroom – consider privacy as well as cost implications
- Safety – It is a good idea to consider security features such as how well lit the off grounds property is and how far it is from grounds. What other security features does it offer?