Scouting for housing: Where to look

Hilary Dickinson

Searching for housing can be a daunting task.

“It takes a lot of time,” said Rachel Huss, a first-year journalism student.”It’s frustrating because there’s so many things to think about, like location, price, if it’s near a bus route.”

Huss said she’s surprised that many students are already starting to look at places, and she doesn’t know how soon to start looking. She’s leaving the country for the summer and feels pressure to find a place early instead of waiting until she gets back.

Now is actually a good time for students to rent because there are more places to rent than there are renters, said Kendre Turonie, the coordinator for student and community relations in the Office of Student Affairs, and Bill Dane, a University Student Legal Service attorney.

Huss said she has been looking at classifieds and Craigslist so far, but she is wary of description alone.

“I would always love more resources because how can you trust the landlord’s description because, of course, they want to sell the place?” she said.

To help you in your search, here are some popular sources students use when looking for off-campus housing.

>>MSA RENTERS’ SURVEY

The Minnesota Student Association annually compiles students’ surveys on its Web site. Students can look up a property they are interested in, and it gives the opinions of students who have rented there, based on a scale of one (horrible) to five (excellent).

Dane said he recommends thesurvey because it is complete, and it rates everything from the condition of the property at move-in time to if the renter got their security deposit back upon moving out.

“It’s beneficial because it’s always a good route for students to talk to people who have lived places,” said Laurie McLaughlin, director of housing and residential life at the University, said.

>>’U’ HOUSING WEB SITE

On the University’s off-campus housing Web site, students select factors such as unit type, monthly rent range and number of bedrooms and are given a list of matching properties.

McLaughlin said the University doesn’t own, operate, inspect or endorse any of the properties. Landlords list their properties on the listing service for a charge, she said.

But Turonie said the University removes landlords from the listing service if University Student Legal Service has three or more unresolved tenant complaints against the property owner in the previous 12 months.

Dane said it can be a red flag if a property isn’t listed on the site, and students should look into why the property is not listed.

>>’U’ HOUSING FAIR

At the University’s annual off-campus housing fair, which will be held this year from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on March 4 in Coffman Union’s Great Hall, property owners provide information on their rental properties in one central location (The Daily is one of the event’s sponsors).

McLaughlin said most of the landlords who come are from the apartment complexes that rent primarily to students.

>>NEWSPAPER ADS

Turonie said some common newspapers to look at are The Minnesota Daily, The Bridge, The Bugle and other local neighborhood newspapers near the University. She warned, however, that ads anywhere could misrepresent the property – it is “buyer beware.”

>>CRAIGSLIST: USE WITH CAUTION

Turonie said Craigslist can be a great resource, but there are some scams.

Dane said while he knows lots of students use Craigslist, there have been scams attempted against a number of University students.

He warns students not to send or accept money from people they don’t know.

Dane said scams are common on Craigslist because it’s worldwide, so he recommends using local sources because then you can meet a real person.

>>WORD OF MOUTH

Dane, McLaughlin and Turonie recommend talking to other people about their experiences.

“It’s not always evident what the full range of factors in a decision is but talking to people can help,” Dane said.

Dane said while many sources seem reputable, some students put their trust in the Web site, newspaper or campus office they are using without checking it out for themselves.

Turonie also offered a final few pieces of advice.

Students can call 311 to see if complaints have been filed against a landlord, and talk to University Student Legal Service to see if they have dealt with complaints.

NOT SURE IF YOU WANT TO RENT A HOUSE OR AN APARTMENT?

Here are some factors that could help decide, said Kendre Turonie, the coordinator for student and community relations in the Office of Student Affairs:

>>YARD CARE: Sometimes house renters are responsible for the yard care, whereas apartment renters are not.

>>PARKING: Apartment renters should find out if parking is included and what are the towing policies. House renters should know about parking ordinances, which side of the street to park on and if residents need a parking permit.

>>NOISE: House renters should know that they could be disturbing long-term neighbors with loud noise, and the police can be called. Apartment renters are usually disturbing other students.

>>OCCUPANCY: Most apartment landlords abide by occupancy policies, whereas house landlords may rent to more people to get more money.