Your guide to finding that perfect off-campus pad

Even though the semester has just started, savvy apartment hunters will start looking early for next year’s perfect off-campus real estate.

Here are some of our tips for snagging your dream pad.

When should I start my search?

Many Foggy Bottom apartment complexes have already begun leasing apartments to students but are still looking to fill vacancies.

Local landlords at four different apartments, including The President and Winston House, said students should stop by in the spring if they’re interested in a lease that would begin in August. Staff at Columbia Plaza, The Savoy and Carriage House said students can come in 30 days before they need the lease – at the latest – to find an apartment.

Michael Sun, the executive director at the Winston House on 22nd and L streets, said any time is a good time to start searching, though most students start looking in the spring. Sun said Winston House staff begin the process of filling apartments by looking at current leases so “we know exactly who’s moving out and moving in.”

He estimated that about 40 percent of Winston House residents are GW students.

But to lease an apartment at the Residences on The Avenue, located at 22nd and I streets, students need to sign on the dotted line by the end of March, concierge Nidia Mendez said. Mendez said students have already come by to ask about apartments.

What should I keep in mind before I sign my lease?

Many students sign year-long leases with the option for an extension.

Adam Hunter, a tenant lawyer who has worked with students in D.C., said it’s important to read a lease beginning to end so you’re not surprised later. “In the end, a lease is a contract,” he said.

Hunter said students should also consider how to end their leases and whether it’s legal for them to sublet their apartments over the summer.

“It depends from landlord to landlord. Sometimes you want someone to sublease, but the landlord says, ‘I get to have approval on who is a tenant,’” Hunter said.

As for rent, it’s a good idea to talk about how you’ll make your payments with family members or others who have experience renting an apartment.

Junior Anabelle Suitor found a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in Park Georgetown that she split with four roommates. Suitor and her roommates had planned to put student loans toward rent payments, but later learned that her rent would be due a month before those loans were processed.

“There was a point when we all had $20 in a bank account,” Suitor said, adding that they also had no furniture for the first few weeks, until they had enough money to cover the cost.

What else should I expect to pay?

Living off campus has a lot of perks, but it also comes with month-to-month costs that you wouldn’t have to worry about in a residence hall – such as utilities, like heat and air conditioning, and WiFi. Many apartments will also have additional fees that are processed when you sign a lease.

Kelsey Lopez, a senior living in an apartment building off Washington Circle, said the cost of her utilities usually totals $200 in the summer when she needs air conditioning.

And junior Tal Solovey, who lives in a house in the Southwest Waterfront neighborhood, has to include transportation fees in his monthly budget. But it’s still cheaper to live near the L’Enfant Metro station and travel six stops to Foggy Bottom for class, he said. He pays about $2 per trip using a SmarTrip card, which saves him the added $1 charge of buying a paper ticket.

Solovey said he prefers to take the Metro instead of driving to avoid paying for parking. And living farther away from Foggy Bottom saves him money for other expenses, like groceries.

Who else can help me?

Students with townhouses in the prime neighborhood near 24th and I streets say vigilantly checking sites like Craigslist and Apartment Finder is crucial to scoring the perfect off-campus place. When a new listing is posted, students act quickly, so be ready.

Though some students may find their apartments on websites like Craigslist, the University also offers resources for students who want to move off campus. Potential apartments are listed on the Center for Student Engagement’s website, and CSE staff are trained to help students over the phone or during in-person meetings.

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