1. Understand Your Lease Before You Sign. Read through the entire lease from your landlord and don’t be afraid to ask questions! Leases are filled with legal jargon that most people don’t readily understand. It’s important that you know everything that you’re agreeing to before you sign your lease.
2. Figure Out the Total Cost of Renting. When comparing prices among housing options, don’t forget to calculate the cost of utilities, parking, maintenance, and transportation. Ask landlords what utilities are included in rent (electricity, gas, heat, trash removal, cable, high-speed internet, local phone, water/sewer), what the average cost is for utilities not included in rent, and if there are additional parking fees. If you’re looking to live in a house or townhouse, don’t forget to ask if you’re responsible for lawn care, shoveling snow, and other outdoor maintenance. If you’ll have to commute to work or school, estimate how much you’ll have to spend on gas, buses or metro fares.
3. Set Expectations with Roommates Before Move-In. Sharing your space can be a great way to save money; but, it can also bring unwanted stress if you don’t set clear expectations from the get-go. Before moving in, meet up with your future roommate(s) over coffee, dinner, or Skype and talk about what a happy, productive living environment looks like to you. Go over your expectations about: kitchen use and food sharing, cleaning responsibilities, noise levels and music, guests/significant others, hosting parties/events, security/locking doors, and any other housing topic that’s important to you and your future roommate. Make notes about what you each agree to so that it will be easier to have a conversation if issues arise down the road.
If you’re looking for housing or a roommate in the Northern Virginia area, you can visit the NVCC Off-Campus Housing website to start your search.