One of the first and most important items to figure out before you begin your search for off-campus housing is determining what your budget is. This will help you narrow your search, especially in terms of location, amenities, and parking. Think about rent as well as other costs such as monthly utility fees.
- How much can and do you want to pay each month for rent?
- How much can you afford to pay in utilities each month? (cable/internet, electric, water/sewer, gas, parking)
- What is more important -- rent price or certain amenities?
- What other monthly expenses do you need to consider?
Now that you have determined what your monthly budget is, you can decide in which part(s) of Indianapolis to search. While the downtown market is close to campus, it tends to be more expensive. Some downtown apartments may be more reasonable, but these tend to be rented out quickly. If downtown isn’t realistically in your price range, there are other areas of the city that will have more affordable options.
- What area(s) of town will you narrow your search to? Rank them.
- If you can’t find something in your most desired location within your price range, are you willing to increase the budget, or will you go to your next location option?
- Is it better to live farther away from campus and pay less each month, or is it better to live closer to campus and spend more?
- If you live farther away, what are your transportation options and related expenses?
Safety and Security
Think about the safety and security features that are important to you. Check the property’s surrounding area. A great resource is indy.safetown.org. If you are able to do so, drive by the property at night and in a few blocks in all directions to see if you feel comfortable with the surroundings. No one can tell you what a “safe” area is or if one location is safer than another. Crime happens everywhere and does not have a zip code. Do your best to prepare for the environment you would like to live in.
- Do you want an on-site security guard? If so, is it just on the weekends or 24/7?
- Would you prefer to have security cameras?
- Do you want locked building entry 24/7? Would you prefer a key fob or a standard key to open your building/apartment?
- Is having a fence surrounding the property important?
- Do you want emergency lights in the parking areas that connect to the police?
Properties offer a wide range of amenities from the most high-end features to older and lower end. More modern amenities typically cost more. What is important to you- a washer/dryer, dishwasher, gym, or green space?
What appliances are available at the property? Do you care if they are stainless steel and brand new, or can they be older?
- Does the property have a washer/dryer in the unit, are there hook-ups, or are they available down the hall? Will you have to leave your building to access laundry facilities?
- Do you need access to a gym? If so, what are the hours of the gym, and what kind of equipment is provided?
- What types of animals are allowed? Is there a weight limit or breed restriction? Is there green space/dog park available? Is there a pet fee?
Transportation is an important aspect of living off campus that is often overlooked. You may need to have access to a car, live within walking/biking distance, or use public transportation such as the IndyGo bus system.
- If you have access to a car, where will you park it at home and on campus? What happens if your car breaks down?
- If walkingor riding your bike, do you feel comfortable traveling to campus if you are by yourself? What if you have to walk or ride at night? • Where is the nearest IndyGo bus stop to your living option? Is there a route that goes to campus? What times does it run? How much will this cost you daily/weekly/monthly?
Many students want to have a roommate but don’t have someone in mind. The university does not offer a roommate matching service; however, there is a classifieds section on One.IU you can access once you have an IU login and password. To access this section, search “classifieds” at One.IU, then select “Roommates & Sublets” in the navigation on the left. You will find a list of people looking for a roommate or sublet option, or who have other housing-related requests.
When picking a roommate, be sure to find out about their living preferences and habits. Some questions to ask someone you are considering rooming with include:
- How much and when do they like to sleep?
- How clean are they?
- What are their study habits?
- Do they like to have friends over?
- Do they listen to loud music?
After you have found a roommate, it is beneficial to complete a roommate agreement as a contract between each party. This helps establish guidelines on topics such as rent payment, pets, and kitchen use and clean-up. A sample roommate agreement (Appendix D) is included in this guide.
Acquiring an apartment comes with many upfront costs in addition to the monthly rent. There are typically application fees, security deposits, administrative fees, and upfront pro-rated rent expenses. Some properties waive application fees for students with a university-issued ID card. Typical general fee amounts are listed below. Be sure to account for these additional fees when planning your budget.
- Application fee - $15 and up
- Security deposit - $100 and up
- Administrative fee - $50 and up
Most properties require a 12-month lease, but some do offer shorter-term leases. Even if you are leaving campus during the summer months, you will still be required to pay for your apartment if you are on a 12-month lease. Some properties may allow subleasing, but each company has different rules. Be sure to contact the leasing office for leasing policies.
- How long is the lease term?
- Will you be living in the apartment during the full lease term? If not, are you able to sublease your unit to someone else? Does the apartment company help you find a sublease?
- What happens if you need to get out of your lease before it ends? Can you cancel your lease before the term ends, and will there be fees associated with early lease termination?
Are you required to find a sublease in order to get out of your lease?
After considering these questions, use the other resources in this guide to help navigate off-campus living. These resources include a budget sheet, damage checklist, sample sublease and roommate agreements, landlord-tenant information sheet, and general tips for commuter students.