Whether you have no idea where to begin your housing search or you just need assistance choosing housing that is right for you, Off-Campus Life is here to help. Our office offers House Hunters Services which can provide you with help in each step of searching for housing, from determining what you are looking for all the way to lease signing. Here is an outline of how the House Hunters Services in our office work, and feel free to contact our office for help in any of these areas. Click here to access our housing website!
Stage 1: Determining What You Want and Need in Housing
If you don’t know where to start looking for housing, Off-Campus Life suggests identifying for yourself what you need and want in student housing. This might include the number of bedrooms and bathrooms you are looking for in the apartment, the proximity to campus, whether or not utilities are included, and amenities offered such as a gym, pool, or the ability to have pets. You can go to our Living Priorities Rubric to help you identify important things you are looking for in off campus housing. You can also come to our office or contact us by phone, email, or through this website for help figuring out your living needs and preferences. Some areas to focus your thoughts on, however, are:
- Consider Your Living Expenses: There is more to pay than just the rent. To live off campus you will be responsible for utilities, groceries, trash pick-up, parking, internet and cable options, possibly even oil used for heating. You’ll want to consider the costs of these additional expenses in order to accurately estimate what you can afford for monthly rent.
- Consider the Location: You will have to get back and forth from classes to your housing. You’ll need to consider the following questions:
- Can you get to campus?
- Do you feel safe in the neighborhood you have chosen? (Make sure to visit the area at night as well as during the day).
- Is the neighborhood conducive to your lifestyle?
- Consider the Condition of the Apartment or House:
- Don’t sign a lease without 1st inspecting the facility.
- Check for safety and security.
- Ask neighbors and previous renters if they have had any problems with the facility or landlord.
Identifying Your Top Three Criteria
Once you have really spent some time thinking about what you need and want in off-campus housing, our office recommends that you identify the top 3 things that you have to have in terms of housing. Then you can start searching for properties that meet all 3 of these criteria. *As there are a number of student housing options around Harrisonburg, this can help narrow down the number of properties to explore in finding housing.*
Stage 2: Beginning the Search
When you know what you are looking for in housing, you will be able to begin your search. One resource that can help you with this search is the Off-Campus Life Housing Guide. This guide provides a list of various off-campus housing locations in the community and information about what each has to offer. Our Housing Guide 2017-2018 lists: various property management companies in the area, contact information for each of these companies, a map of where various student housing corporations are located around JMU, and a list of complexes with what they have to offer in terms of bedroom and bathroom options and amenities. If you would like a hard copy of this guide, you can stop by our office in the Festival Conference and Student Center to pick one up.
Another resource that can help with the off campus housing search is our Off Campus Partners, LLC listing website. This website allows you to search online for available student housing based on your preferences. You can search by monthly rent amount, pet policy, and much more. The website also shows pictures of the available property, lists amenities, provides contact information for the property owner or manager, and may have links to online rental applications. If you are having any difficulty navigating this website or have questions, feel free to contact our office for additional help and assistance.
When looking for housing, it is also always a good idea to attend an Off-Campus Life Housing Fair. We host these fairs every fall and spring, and our next scheduled Housing Fair is Wednesday October 4, 2017 in the Festival Grand Ballroom. These fairs offer students the opportunity to see what student housing options exist in the area and meet property managers for these locations in a one-stop shop experience.
Stage 3: Identifying your Top Housing Options
After you have searched for housing through the means listed above, it’s time to narrow down the options that are right for you. We suggest you talk through the housing options you have seen with your parents and potential roommates to decide on the top three housing options that could provide a living environment off campus that would promote your ongoing growth and development and support your role as a JMU student. If you need more information on the housing options to help you narrow down choices, the Off-Campus Life office has marketing materials like flyers and brochures on most student housing options. You can come by our office in the Festival Conference and Student Center to pick up brochures and flyers about housing options that interest you. In addition, Off-Campus Life recommends that after you have chosen the top three places you would like to live next year, that you visit each of these housing options personally. This will allow you to get a feel for the living environment, to check out safety conditions, to assess the general maintenance and upkeep of the property, to ask any specific questions of leasing agents on site, and to pick up information and a copy of the lease to read and review. You should also ask the landlord or leasing consultant if he or she has a handbook for tenants and ask to have a copy. Often these handbooks will have additional rules and regulations that you will be held to as a resident.
Stage 4: Making a Final Decision
Once you have seen the properties which would fit your housing needs and preferences and have asked about any questions or concerns you might have, it is time to make a decision about the off campus housing location that is the best fit for you. This is a very important decision, and our office encourages students to talk with their parents about this decision, as well as friends and acquaintances who currently live at the off campus housing locations they are considering. Ask about how they like living at this location, if they feel safe living here, about the noise level at different times of the day, or the responsiveness of maintenance staff. Reports from current residents about their current living experience can be invaluable. Consider all this information and read your lease agreement in full before signing. Also, it’s important to know when to look and sign a lease. Comparative shopping takes time.
*Off-Campus Life suggests that you start investigating housing options during the fall prior to the year you want to live off campus, but that you don’t sign any leases at least until after winter break. There is a surplus of student housing in Harrisonburg, so not signing a lease in the fall will not result in inability to find housing. Though there are some specific locations that fill spots quickly, most student housing properties have availability into the summer prior to classes.*