As scary as it is to say, I am finally an upperclassmen! Being a junior at Belmont means I can finally move off campus and I am taking advantage of it. The transition from living in a dorm to living in an off-campus apartment is a huge one and a lot of planning needs to go into it before you actually move. Recently going through this process has taught me a lot. I’ve realized that I can’t be the only one going through this, so here I am to help all of you! Trading Up will be a four part series about how to go from the dorm life to apartment life in a simple and easy way. 

The first step in the process of getting out of your dorm is to start searching for your future home. Before you even start to look at apartments talk to your roommate(s) and agree how much each of you are willing to contribute to rent. This is very important because this will give you an idea of a price range to start looking at. Remember, you don’t need the fanciest apartment out there. It’s all about how you decorate it and make the most of your space that will set it apart from others. 

When I started looking at apartments I would google ‘Nashville apartments for rent’, ‘Apartments near Belmont University’ or things like that. This would turn up a lot of results. Sites like HotPads.com, Apartments.com or Move.com are also great resources for finding apartment buildings near you. 

Looking at apartments for rent is a little different than looking at houses for rent. When looking for a house you’re only going to starting looking about a month before your move in date, because houses for rent don’t come on the market super early. When looking at an apartment the lease office will already know who is planning on moving out a few months in advance, so you can start looking two to three months before your actual move in date. I highly suggest that you start looking early. Apartments can go fast especially in college towns. 

When you find a building that looks nice call the apartment and set up a walk-through. You might not always be touring your exact apartment, but this will allow you to get a feel for the kind of apartment you are looking at, the building and its amenities. 

There are several questions you need to ask the leasing office when you’re touring a building. Make sure you ask if the utilities are included in the rent or not. If they aren’t, try to figure out if they will work in your budget. Also, ask what type of parking is available. Some buildings will give you one parking spot per room (so if there are two bedrooms you will get two parking spots) and these will be included within the rent, but some other buildings make you pay an extra fee for a parking space. Since you are living off-campus and will be driving back and forth to school available parking in your building is a necessity. The last big question to ask is what length of lease options your apartment building offers. Most leases are for a full calendar year, but sometimes apartment complexes will offer 10 month leases. These are great for students especially when you travel home for the summer. The 10 month lease can sometimes be an extra fee, so keep this in mind when budgeting.

Need some more apartment hunting advice or have a question? Leave a comment below or tweet them to me at @karafulgum.  The second  installment of the Trading Up series will be posted next week!