The simple answer is - the sooner, the better! However, the detailed answer is - it can be a bit complicated.
Since all college and university cities are different, a variety of factors exist when trying to determine the best time to start looking for off-campus student housing. So what are these factors?
Two of the most important factors to consider are the availability of off-campus housing and the competitiveness of the rental market in the city where you will attend school. If the city is small and has limited student housing options or a highly competitive rental market, we suggest you search for accommodations 8-12 months in advance. On the other hand, if the city is large and has a multitude of student housing choices or a rental market that isn’t very competitive, you may be able to start searching only 2-6 months in advance.
A key question to consider is whether or not your school is considered a ‘commuter school’. A commuter school is one in which the majority of students live off-campus. These schools tend to have a lot more options for students to live in the community. Keep in mind though, that accommodations tend to also be rented fast, since many students are searching at the same time.
On the other hand, ‘non-commuter campuses’ tend to have a lot more on-campus housing available and fewer students living off-campus. As a result, only a small portion of students will be seeking off-campus accommodations and the competition will be less.
It’s also important to consider when on-campus housing assignments are distributed. Colleges and universities normally cannot accept all the students who apply for on-campus housing. The students who don’t get accepted, will rush to find off-campus housing after they are notified. Ideally, you want to beat this rush; otherwise, you may find that preferred off-campus rentals will become occupied quickly. Another time to avoid is when high school seniors receive their college and university acceptance letters. This would only apply to post-secondary schools where freshmen are allowed to live off-campus.
The final factor to consider is the standard lease dates for student housing in your city. Once again, this varies considerably from city to city. Some leases go from June to June, and other areas are typically September to September. It is important to research the rental market and know when properties are scheduled to become vacant. This can help in determining the best time to start searching. Landlords generally start advertising vacancies a few months in advance. But in highly competitive rental markets, landlords may advertise vacancies up to 8-12 months in advance.
While there is not a definitive across-the-board answer for when the best time is to start searching for off-campus housing accommodations, we have experienced that those who begin early, tend to secure the best and most sought after student rentals.
The Places4Students.com Team