College is a time where, truly, you only live once. Live it up, as they say, live it up. This means go out and enjoy your first year(s) of living on your own, experiencing new things, and making new friends. By all means, that’s accurate, but we’re here to shift your focus to the real concept at hand: living. Not even 3 weeks into the school year, UW-Milwaukee students begin to scope out who they want to live with next year, and where they want to live.
With school officially underway and the first midterm approaching, students don’t need extra stress, but for most UWM students, especially freshmen and sophomores, finding a place to live for the next year of school adds that extra, unwelcome stress. How can I avoid this, you ask? We’ve put together a list of 4 easy steps that can help make finding your first college home easy!
Step 1: When to Search
A good time to begin searching is late September – December. The earlier you begin searching, the better housing options you will find. A lot of UWM students will typically start looking for their homes in October once they know who they’re living with. You can definitely still search for your house or apartment after December, but the longer you wait, the greater the chance you won’t find what you want. Another downside about waiting is that all of your friends will have likely already made living arrangements with other people.
Step 2: Roommates
In what should be the most fun aspect of finding a place to live is finding your roommates! For most apartments and houses, 2-4 people is typically a good size (depending on the type of housing). You’ll need to decide how many people you want to live with, and once this is determined, you’ll need to decide on the living arrangements (i.e.: sharing bedrooms). When determining who to live with, you should take into account responsibility. This is extremely important when you pay the electric bill, and especially rent. Roommates who fail to pay rent can put you in jeopardy (based on your lease).
Step 3: Location
This can either be an easy or hard aspect to consider. For example, if you’re living with a group of people who like to party a lot, you might wanna look at certain streets like Maryland, Farwell, Frederick, and Murray Avenues. Whereas, if you don’t like to party as much and you don’t wanna live on the party streets, you might look elsewhere.
Before deciding where to live, though, you should always research the area you’re going to be living in. It’s important to feel safe and comfortable in your neighborhood, especially at night. If you haven’t yet, sign up for UWM safety alerts to stay in the know about current happenings around campus. It’s free and takes 30 seconds to setup, so you have no excuse! Signup here for alerts.
Also take into consideration the amenities around you, such as grocery stores, laundromats, and banks. Remember, you’re not in the dorms anymore, so you’re on your own for food and laundry! Lastly, always consider transportation and distance to campus. If you’re looking to live off-campus, make sure you’re aware of possible ways to get to places, including campus, such as the bus, biking, and walking.
Step 4: Rent
This should be your biggest area of concern. Rent is the amount of money you owe the landlord each month. It is EXTREMELY important to pay rent on time. Rent will likely be due the first day of each month, and is either mailed in, submitted online, or dropped off to the landlord. Failing to turn your rent in on time will cause major problems between you and your landlord.
It is important to live within reason, that is, don’t exceed your budget. Before even searching for homes, talk to your roommates about how much you want to pay, whether that be overall rent or rent per month. This will give you an idea of what to look for, and what you can afford. Failure to do this could leave you in a pickle!
The next biggest area of concern should be amenities and utilities. Depending on the landlord, certain amenities and utilities are or aren’t included in rent. Amenities include: laundry, parking, air conditioning, and storage. Utilities may include: heat, water, electric, internet, and cable. Most times utilities will not be included in rent, which means you will have to pay extra for those certain utilities. But again, it depends on the landlord and where you live.
If you’re looking for a pet-friendly place, those are a bit more difficult to find because landlords are more picky. Geographically speaking, a lot of pet-friendly homes are further away from campus.
Extra Advice – Apartment Showings
When attending an apartment or house showing, act professionally and look the part. Don’t show up looking like a slob who doesn’t know anything about college housing. Take the initiative to learn about how renting a home goes, and continuously think of questions to ask the landlord; you should always have questions. The more professional and educated you are about this stuff, the more likely the landlord will trust you and see you as reliable, responsible tenants.
When searching for your first college home, there are a lot of bumps in the road. Now, depending on your luck that might not be true, but this is a learning process. Going through something like this with friends (roommates) is a great thing for everyone. Chances are, you and your roommates have never lived on your own before. Learning how to deal with all this stuff together is the best way possible. If the first five houses you look at don’t work out, it’s ok; learn from your mistakes. There are plenty of housing options on and around the UWM campus. Whether you’re searching for it or not, you’ll find the perfect home!
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