When planning your study in the U.S. you usually have the option to stay in the school’s dormitories or do a homestay. But if neither appeals to you, it falls upon you make your own housing arrangements. Finding an apartment or house to rent is daunting, so here are some pointers to get you started.
Browse community directories, such as www.craigslist.org This is perhaps the easiest and most common way to research housing opportunities in or around major cities. Compare available rentals by location, price, and number of roommates.
Enlist a realtor, www.realtor.com A realtor can help you find a home to rent but find out first who pays their commission, you or the landlord.
Usually landlords require a one-year lease, but some offer month-to-month leases. If you will be in the U.S. for only a few months, consider a sublease. When a renter will not live in their apartment for the entirety of their lease, they try to find someone else to take over the lease short-term so that they do not have to keep paying rent.
Some things to ask when researching a rental:
- Is heat and hot water included in rent? Electricity? Internet?
- Is there laundry in the building?
- Does it come furnished?
When you sign a lease you are usually asked to pay first month’s rent, last month’s rent, and a security deposit. You pay last month’s rent upfront to show your commitment to the lease. If you break your lease (i.e. move out and stop paying rent) then the landlord gets to keep your payment for the last month of your lease even though you won’t live there. When your lease is up, your deposit will be returned to you if you did not cause any major damage to the apartment. If you punched a hole in the wall, however, the landlord takes the cost of repairs from your deposit.
To make sure your deposit isn’t used to repair damage that you did not cause, be diligent in filling out the Condition Report once you’ve moved in. Look for holes in window screens, cracks in walls and ceilings, dents in walls caused by doorknobs, and so on. Make sure you know whom to contact when you need maintenance or repairs.
Finding your own housing is no easy task. Make sure you’re up for it before dismissing the convenience of dormitory living or the benefits of a homestay. That said, the rules are different when you live on your own or with roommates and you could end up with a more positive experience. Whichever you decide, good luck!