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…Economical to Extravagant, Apartments Galore
Apartments happen before you know it. Literally. In October of your student’s freshman year, they will most likely tell you that they want to move off-campus the next year and that they have to sign a lease in the next few weeks. This is not a joke. I know you have just about adjusted to having them leave and getting them settled in the dorm, but the good ones go fast and sign-ups really do work this way. Kids will start lining up outside the rental office of the apartment complex of their choice, in the middle of the night, in some cases. My husband equates this to have lined up to buy Grateful Dead tickets many moons ago.
There are many apartment complexes that cater to students; some within walking distance of campus. My first daughter lived with three other girls who were on a strict budget with what they could afford monthly and so they chose a complex a few miles from campus. While I was happy with the price in comparison to the closer apartments, what we paid for in gas and parking tickets based on getting to campus and rarely being able to find a suitable parking spot, may have negated the price difference. Therefore when my son began the search for an off-campus apartment, I encouraged her to be walking distance to campus. The moral of the story is the less extravagant and expensive apartments are further from campus. While we don’t want to deprive our children of some of these amenities, this very well may be a better option. Be sure they are on a bus route if this will be their main mode of transportation.
In Tally there are many and still more constantly being built. Keep your eyes open for the latest and greatest. A word of caution: If your student picks an apartment that is in the process of being built, there is always a chance they will not be ready on time.
Most apartment leases start after August 1st and go through July 31st of the following year. The leases are based on 12 months (even though your student isn’t always living there for 12 months) but many students are only in Tallahassee for two semesters. This means your student will either have to pay for the summer months or they can sublet. Some students charge for others to use their specific room to store. We recommend limiting that to those they know as you do not want to put yourself in a position of being responsible should something happen to another person’s belongings. My daughters did not sublet their rooms but let friends store in their room. Also, note that new residents (not renewals remaining in the same apartment) do not move in until anywhere from a few days to a few weeks after leaving a gap in where to store their belongings. The rationale is that the management company needs to clean the apartment. And, a note of caution, while some apartments let you move in early “as-is,” we strongly discourage you from doing this as the condition of the apartment will most likely be a disaster with rotting food, garbage, and much worse.
We faced this same dilemma and had to move their belongings into storage. This involved hiring a moving and storage company at a large expense.
To Each Their Own
Beyond the price shocker, I was also surprised when my daughter showed me pictures and the layout of the apartment. I was being silly apparently, having lived in an off-campus house with four other girls and sharing one bathroom and thinking we had it pretty nice; I assumed there would be two girls in each room. She laughed. Not only do they each get their own room and bathroom, but the leases are divided that way. There is a lease per occupant, not per apartment. And yes, you will most likely have to co-sign via email/fax/scan.
Then there was the moment we entered our son’s new apartment – also one student per room and bathroom – to find brand new stainless steel appliances and a washer/dryer, granite countertops, a faux-leather couch and chair, a TV and locks on every bedroom door. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the beautiful view of the pool and Doak Stadium, the study rooms, luxurious common areas, and the fabulous fitness center in the building. I won’t mention which of the many complexes either of them lived in because they really all offer just about the same amazing amenities. College living has definitely changed from my perspective.
How much do these apartments cost? Well, generally they range from $675 – $900 a month for 12 months (Check sublet policies for summers. Many students leave for summer A/B and may want to sublet to a third party). Be sure to check if parking is extra and how many spots each apartment gets. If your student is planning on having a pet, he/she should check the rules on that too. Yes, my son and his roommates adopted a puppy this year; that, for the record, as cute as she is, is going home with one of the other boys after graduation.
Some apartments come furnished, but some do not. If not, seniors often sell off their furniture upon graduation. The problem is storing it all summer until the lease begins which is usually mid-August. This storage thing may also come into play if they should decide to change apartments the next year as this can lead to a gap in the leases. Finding a storage unit for the short term is difficult, not impossible, but if you can avoid it, that is best. Remind your student to inspect everything upon moving in and take pictures of any damage so they are not fined for it later.
Get an understanding of what utilities will cost for the apartment. Most places do not include utilities in the rent. For instance, Stadium Center, one of the more popular complexes, requires you to put utilities under one name. It is then your responsibility to collect everyone’s portion from the roommates. We find this is easiest to organize via Venmo. Stadium Center also works with SmartBill and the City of Tallahassee.
Talgov.com provides information for electricity, water, natural gas, and solid waste. When you apply for service make sure to have your address to start services, social security number, driver’s license, services start date, and bank account number ready to go. Set up, transfer, and disconnection are all done through this site.
Worth repeating- Take 100 pictures, then take 20 more time-stamped. You could be charged for damages to the apartment. If you have not documented everything, prepare for those charges.
Find out about renters’ insurance. Your homeowner’s insurance policy may not cover them while they are living off-campus (many will cover if they are living in an on-campus residence at no extra cost). Check the terms of your home insurance policy. Most of the large insurance companies offer separate renters policies at a reasonable rate. You may also want to look at two of the more reputable college student insurance companies, college student insurance, and NSSI.
Finally, be aware that utilities are generally not included so one of the roommates will have to put the utilities in his/her name and collect money for bills monthly or they can pay on their own, which can be more costly. Ask the leasing office which options they offer. There are a few websites to get ideas and reviews of the various options. I tried looking into a few, but my kids already knew where they were interested in before I read much. Check out our blog on students’ favorite apartment rentals. FSU also has a website to help you navigate this as well.
Also, the option of sorority or fraternity living if your son/daughter is a member of one. I am a big proponent of sorority house living as it is drastically more affordable, comes with a house mother, meal plan, doesn’t allow boys in their rooms (old-fashioned, I know), and comes with a bunch of sisters there at all times. Fraternity houses, well let’s just say I can’t get the image of Animal House out of my mind. Sometimes, for either, if your student holds a board position, living in the house may be a requirement.
For those students looking for a place to live just for the summer or next year, they might want to consider joining the Off-Campus Housing Facebook page. Many students who are looking for a roommate or to sub-lease their places post on this page. It may seem like we are getting ahead of ourselves, but you may want to check out some of our thoughts on moving out of that apartment too. It can get tricky.
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