Balancing The Budget: Off-Campus Student Housing

Monday, July 6, 2015

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When young adults set out to attend college or university, they are often hit with a dose of reality and a hint of sticker shock. After paying their tuition, students are faced with their next largest expense, housing.


When it comes to accommodations, students can go one of two routes; on-campus or off-campus housing. Of these two living arrangements, J Turner Research surveyed over 7,000 students and found that 69% indicated that at their school, it’s cheaper to live off-campus.


While off-campus living is often cheaper, there are certain costs to factor in when creating a budget. Prior to moving off-campus, students should familiarize themselves with some of the costs and fees which are typically incurred. The following are some expenses to plan and budget for, when moving off-campus. 


Application Fee:

This type of fee is more common in apartment buildings and communities. A tenant will be required to pay a fee for an application, before being considered for an apartment. The price varies from region to region, but it can be anywhere from $50 to $150+. This is an administration fee for management to conduct a credit check, background check, employment verification, etc.

First & Last Month’s Rent:

First and last is pretty straightforward; however, students who are first-time renters may be unfamiliar with this common policy. Many landlords and property managers will require a tenant to pay both the first and last month’s rent, before moving in. If the rent is $600/month, the student tenant must provide $1,200 before getting the keys.


Security Deposit:

It’s often a requirement for tenants to pay a refundable (and interest-accruing) security deposit. The rental laws of each region determine the maximum security deposit allowed, but it’s typically about half a month’s rent.


Pet Deposit:

Some landlords and property managers will require another deposit for pet-owners. Much like a security deposit, the amount varies from region to region according to rental laws. Often the deposit will be more for larger dogs, in comparison to a small cat. If a tenant owns a pet, it’s best to seek out a pet-friendly accommodation. Expect to pay anywhere from $100 to a few hundred dollars for a pet deposit.  It is refundable as well, given no damage is caused to the rental unit by the pet.


Utility Deposit:

Student renters may be required to set up their own utility accounts, if utilities are not included in the lease. The process of opening a new utility account will often require the tenant to pay a registration or account set-up fee. These fees are generally fairly small, ranging from $20-$50. But if the new account holders have a limited credit history, they may be required to pay a security deposit to each utility company. These deposits are typically a few hundred dollars, ranging from $100 - $400 and are refundable as well.


Parking Fee:

If student renters have their own car, they will likely need to buy one or two parking passes. The first will be for their college or university; and often costs a few hundred dollars for the full academic year. The second parking pass would only apply to renters who live in areas with limited parking, such as apartment communities.


Renters Insurance:

In most cases, renters insurance is very affordable and can be easily fit within a student’s budget. Typically, a student can find renters insurance for approximately $175 - $300 per year ($15 - $25 per month). While this type of insurance is not mandatory for students, it can be an affordable investment with peace of mind. 

Most of these costs are a one-time payment, many of which are refundable. Even after factoring in these fees, in most cases, off-campus housing is still the more affordable option.


SEE ALSO:  Do Students Need Renters Insurance?

The Team