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The Apartment Search: What to look for in College Rentals

Updated: Apr 3

apartment rentals,apartments for rent, college rentals, best place to search for an apartment
Apartment rentals: What you should consider

Learn about finding an apartment. Where to search for an apartment and the "Red Flags" to be aware of when renting

Securing the right apartment during your college years is a critical task. Not only does it need to align with your budget, but it also needs to meet various other criteria such as location, safety, and amenities. This guide provides you with the important questions to consider, things to prioritize, and also flags some red signals you should be wary of.

Where to search for an Apartment

Finding your dream apartment can feel like searching for a needle in a haystack. The options are endless and it can be overwhelming to know where to start. That's why we've curated this all-encompassing guide, featuring both tried-and-true platforms and unique avenues to streamline your search.

The Classic Go-To Websites when searching for an apartment


Known for its wide array of listings and intuitive search options, Zillow should be your first pitstop. They offer comprehensive information, from neighborhood safety scores to estimated utilities costs.

This website's robust filtering tools allow you to narrow down your search to fit your exact criteria, from pet policies to parking options.


While it might seem dated, Craigslist remains a hub for direct listings from landlords, often at competitive prices. But, be cautious of scams and always verify before making any decisions.


With in-depth information on everything from local schools to nearby amenities, Trulia allows you to get a feel for the community, not just the apartment.

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The Handy Mobile Apps

Apartment List

An app designed to understand your needs, Apartment List offers personalized recommendations to make your search less daunting.


This is your go-to app for real-time rental listings, particularly in large cities. The map-centric interface makes navigating urban jungles easier.

The Local Gems

Community Boards

From your local grocery store to community centers, you can often find rental listings on physical bulletin boards. These may offer options not listed online.

Local Newspapers

The classified section in your local paper may still contain some undiscovered gems. Don't overlook this vintage avenue in your modern search.

Social Media and Online Networks

Facebook Groups

Many communities have local Facebook groups dedicated to housing and apartment listings. These are excellent platforms for real-time updates and direct interactions with landlords or current tenants.

Reddit Subs

For the technologically savvy, city-specific Reddit threads can be surprisingly informative, offering everything from new listings to reviews of different neighborhoods.

Professional Help

Real Estate Agents

If you're new to the area or looking to save time, a real estate agent can offer localized expertise and may even negotiate better lease terms for you.

Company Resources

Some companies offer internal bulletin boards or even relocation services. Check your employee benefits!

Direct From The Source

Property Management Websites

Many large complexes and residential buildings list available apartments directly on their websites, potentially cutting out the middleman.

So, whether you're a digital native or prefer pounding the pavement, there's a method to fit your apartment-hunting style. Don't forget to verify any listings and read the lease carefully.

Budget: Be Realistic

Questions to Consider:

  • What is the monthly rent?

  • Is there a security deposit?

  • Are there hidden fees?

  • What's the policy on late payments?

Red Flags:

  • Vague answers about additional costs.

  • Unwillingness to put financial terms in writing.

Location: Proximity Matters

Questions to Consider:

  • How far is the commute to campus?

  • Is public transport readily available?

  • Are essential shops and services nearby?

  • What is the safety reputation of the neighborhood?

Red Flags:

  • High crime rates in the area.

  • Lack of basic services nearby (grocery stores, medical facilities).

Amenities: Prioritize Your Needs

Questions to Consider:

  • Are laundry facilities available?

  • What appliances are included in the unit?

  • Is the apartment furnished?

  • Is pet accommodation an option?

Red Flags:

  • Lack of essential appliances.

  • Restrictions that don't align with your lifestyle (e.g., no pets allowed, but you have a cat).

Lease Terms: Know the Commitment

Questions to Consider:

  • What is the lease duration?

  • Is subletting allowed?

  • How are maintenance issues handled?

  • What are the terms for lease renewal or termination?

Red Flags:

  • A lease that heavily favors the landlord.

  • Unreasonably high penalties for breaking the lease.

Renters Insurance: A Safety Net

Questions to Consider:

  • Is renters insurance required?

  • What does the landlord’s policy cover?

Red Flags:

  • Landlord discourages or dismisses the importance of renters insurance.

Safety Measures: Non-Negotiable

Questions to Consider:

  • Does the unit have functioning smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms?

  • What are the safety features on windows and doors?

  • Is there a secure entry system or on-site security?

Red Flags:

  • Lack of or dysfunctional safety features.

  • Poorly lit or hidden entryways and exits.

Utilities: Account for Additional Costs

Questions to Consider:

  • Are utilities included in the rent?

  • How are utilities billed?

  • What’s the average monthly cost for utilities in this unit?

Red Flags:

  • Vague or unclear policies about utility billing.

  • Landlord unwilling to provide average utility costs.

Final Walkthrough: The Last Step

Before you sign the lease, do a final walkthrough to inspect for any existing damages or maintenance issues.

Red Flags:

  • Signs of pest infestations.

  • Deferred maintenance issues like leaky faucets or peeling paint.

  • A landlord unwilling to fix issues before move-in.

Your college apartment will be your home base for a significant period, and it's crucial to make a well-informed decision. Keep an eye out for any red flags that could signal a problematic living situation. With careful attention to detail, you can secure a place that meets your needs and allows you to focus on your studies and social life.

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