What to know when you’re looking for off-campus housing options

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Whether you’re a student actively looking for potential off-campus housing options, or plan to do so in the near future, trying to locate suitable living quarters can be a bit overwhelming. It is for this reason that NSU has contracted the help of professions like licensed Florida real estate agent Jill Silvert.

Silvert who has worked with NSU students for the past 12 years, has provided a few tips

Common misconceptions

Myth 1: College students can’t afford to hire a realtor.

Truth: According to Silvert, there’s no fee for NSU student renters when you work with her. “The person who’s renting the property who pays a commission to the agent. There is no cost to the students looking for a rental.”

Myth 2: Housing units will always be available; there’s no such thing as an opportune time.

Truth: Silvert said that given that Davie isn’t a college town yet,  it can be harder for realtors to find private units months in advance.

“Not all agents think about listing a rental property months in advance, especially that are right around the NSU area, and the landlords don’t understand listing in advance even when you’ve got a tenant [currently] living there to give the student coming in a better opportunity to find more properties,” said Silvert. “So this makes it difficult to know what’s available in July months in advance.”

However, she also mentioned that notifying your realtor as earlier as possible will speed up the process when units do become available.

Myth 3: Listing prices today will be the same tomorrow.

Truth: According to Silvert, prices for apartments change daily based on supply and demand.

“They know when the semester starts when the demand increases so that’s when you really see prices going up,” said Silvert.  

Myth 4: It’s cheaper to find a condominium compared to an apartment.

Truth: Silvert noted that it’s cheaper to move into an apartment as far as moving costs go.

“With an apartment, you’ll have to have first month’s rent and your security deposit — for about $100,” said Silvert. “When you rent a condominium, it’s first, last and security which is paid to the landlord and that’s three month’s rent in advance … so the condominiums will be cheaper and everything is done for you — they’ll even change your lightbulb — whereas with a condominium, the owner expects you to be responsible for everything.”

What will you be required to provide:

Silvert notes that there is a lot of paperwork that goes into renting a home and suggests that students look at the process as a way to paint a picture of who you are on paper for the landlord. She said that renters will likely be required to:

  • Fill out an application
  • Provide information for a background check
  • Provide an acceptance letter from NSU to prove that you are a student at the university
  • Provide a copy your financial aid package; depending if student plans to use funds for that purpose
  • Provide a letter from parents stating financial responsibility if parents will be paying for housing costs
  • Secure a co-signer; especially for those who have little to no credit history
  • Complete an application for the housing association — if there is one — and pay deposit
  • Secure renter’s insurance

Silvert’s tips for renters, for saving money and heartache:

  • If you’re moving from out-of-state or can’t otherwise view the property, ask your realtor or trusted friend to take photographs of the unit as pictures available online may not always show the unit in all of its glory, or may be older images of the property. Videos are even better.
  • Also, make note of things which can’t be detected through pictures like unpleasant smells, cellular service, nearby construction projects and sources of noise pollution.
  • Ensure that when you’re signing a lease, the maintenance fee is small — Silvert suggested about $50 and no more than $100. Otherwise, renters may be on the hook for the full price of larger ticketed items like refrigerators if something breaks or is damaged.
  • Make sure that you have a parking space.
  • If you’re planning to bring a pet, ask about fees. Silvert said that in addition to pet deposits, she increasingly encounters landlords who also charge “pet rent” from anywhere from $15 – $25.
  • Ask how the utilities are paid and what they are to ensure you don’t get stuck paying extra cash for miscellaneous fees like trash pickup or paying for a water bill that’s been split among a building’s tenants.
  • Don’t skimp on renter’s insurance which can prevent you from paying massive amounts of money in the event of a break in or hurricane damage. Silvert said that owners won’t always let renters file a claim on their insurance policies and some don’t even have insurance to begin with.
  • If you have to break your lease, pay the fine and do your best to find a new tenant for the unit so that if you end up in court, you can demonstrate that you took the appropriate steps.
  • Take pictures of the unit before, during and upon leaving the unit. If you notice damage be sure to alert your landlord before signing the lease and during your stay so that they can’t pin costs on you.
  • Ask about your amenities. For example, you’ll need to wash so find out if there are laundry facilities in the complex or locate the nearest laundromat.
  • Educate yourself on county and town ordinances. For example, according to Silvert, there are still some communities in Davie which don’t allow pick-up trucks. So make sure that your vehicle will be accepted. While you’re at it, find out how many cars are allowed on the property so if you have friends over, you won’t have to worry about being towed.
  • Check out the appliances and look for indications that seem like they were well-maintained. Silvert said that his usually gives you a good idea of what you can expect regarding the attitudes and habits of the landlord.
  • Perform your own research on the landlord. Also, look for reviews of the property from previous tenants to inform your decision to rent.

For more information about the renting process or if you are interested in working with Silvert, visit jillsilvert.com or contact her by calling 954-562-0430.

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