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How to Find Student Accommodation in the USA

College students often find themselves in a dilemma when choosing student accommodation. Many of them cannot decide whether to live outside the school and face the big bad world living in a student house or live in the student dorms. While living on campus keeps you close to the school, a life off-campus can be more viable. It allows you to save money, become more responsible and get more space to study and do what you love the rest of the time. Here are a few tips on how to choose a good house while in college and save money at the same time. We've also included some useful questions, to either ask yourself or to ask the real estate agent when looking at student accommodation to rent.

Consider the Rent

"Can I afford this accommodation? Do I want to live on campus or off-site in the town/city?"

Unless you have significant financial backing from your family, it is not wise to misuse your college education loan by going for an expensive house that costs over $500 per month. If you go to such a house, you are likely to run out of the loaned money after six months, therefore, it's important that you choose a house that you can afford. Ask the real estate agent if there is anything included in the rent. You should also take into account the number of utilities associated with the house and their monthly charges. Write down the estimated monthly cost of water, heating equipment, electricity and gas - if you don't factor these in costs, you may get a nasty surprise a couple of months down the line with an unexpected bill.

Evaluate Your Options Carefully

"Do I want a private room with en-suite or am I happy with shared facilities?"

Not every student house near a college is equal in value. If you want to save some money, consider the cheapest housing options available. You can only have a private room with a bathroom if you have so much money to throw around as a student. A shared room with a community bathroom is a comfortable and an economical option. The truth is that you will graduate with a full bank account if you are willing to persevere with a cheap house while in college. The advantage of communal bathroom facilities is that they will usually be maintained for you, whereas you will have to look after your own facilities including buying things like toilet paper and cleaning your own shower. 

Consider the Neighborhood

"What is the neighborhood like? Do many other students live nearby?"

You should do a comprehensive profile audit of the neighborhood before you settle on an area to move to. Don’t go for a house located in a noisy neighborhood if you know that you will need quiet to do your work or a place that does not have proper security if this is a concern for you (this is particularly a concern for international students who may not be familiar with the language or local culture). Make sure you chose a place that is near the school so that you don’t have to walk for a long distance, or if you are looking to move a bit further away from campus, make sure that there are reliable and affordable public transportation options available. It's also useful to know if the neighborhood has food joints and grocery stores that offer food at subsidized prices. Schools such as Utah State University have private apartments located in a quiet and beautiful environment to allow students to study without distractions. The university offers real estate options to the students and the local residents under its USU family housing program.

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Ask Questions

"Are pets allowed in the accommodation?"

You need to ask a lot of questions to avoid problems that arise after you settle. For instance, you need to know whether the housing agent allows pets if you are planning on getting a dog, cat or other small animal - you will also likely want a garden if you are planning on having a cat or dog. However, this entirely depends on whether you love pets or not. If they allow pets, determine whether there are additional fees. You must also know whether the fee applies for both dogs and cats. This way, you can evaluate your financial situation and make a wise decision in the end.

Determine the Type of Amenities Available

"Are there laundry & parking facilities?"

As a student, you must live in a conducive environment that allows you to study well and get good grades. The house and its surroundings should have the amenities required for a comfortable stay. It should have working and energy efficient air conditioners for the hotter months of the year. It should also have a good laundry section and machines - you can use launderettes if there are not facilities in the accommodation, but this will take time and cost extra money. Ask whether you will share some amenities such as the laundry machines and washrooms with the entire building. Also, determine whether there is a cost incurred when you use the facilities. If you drive, ensure the place has a parking space. Ask the agent if there are additional costs due to parking.

Go For Energy Efficient House

"How energy efficient is the house?"

Having an energy efficient house can help to save you money over the length of your tenancy. The house should have a good amount of natural light to prevent you needing to have the lights on all day, which would make your electricity bills soar. Ensure the windows and the doors allow free circulation of air to limit the amount of power consumed by the air conditioner.

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The techniques discussed will help you solve constant problems associated with college housing. If you have doubts, you can talk with a real estate agent near you or speak to the student housing office at the institution which you are planning to attend. They will almost certainly have a list of local real estate agents that they work with directly, or the university may own some off-campus private accommodation.

For international students in particular, many colleges will offer guaranteed accommodation on-campus for at least the first year of your course, so if you do not have any time to arrange viewings of private accommodation before arriving in the country, campus housing may be best for the first year or semester before you have time to take the above steps to properly research where you would like to live. Student accommodation decisions should not be taken lightly and the more research you do before you move in, the more likely you are to be happy with your student accommodation in the long run. Best of luck with your search!

Article submitted by Lizzy Weakley, a freelance writer based in Colombo, OH.