Experts offer students advice on apartment hunting, signing leases

The process of finding an apartment for the first time can be a daunting task.’

To help save students from driving around for hours hunting for the right one, UH Department of Commuter Services held its first Off-Campus Living Fair on Wednesday.

Attendees had direct access to over 46 apartment vendors who set up booths in the University Center’s Houston Room to educate and assist students in the process. ‘

The Department of Commuter Services was founded in July 2008, and coordinator Chalen Jackson said she hopes students took advantage of the opportunities available at the inaugural event.

‘Whether it’s on campus or off, we just want to provide students with options. Whatever their needs are, we want to be able to reach all (students).’ Jackson said.’

She said students searching for off-campus housing are in luck in today’s economy because it’s a buyers’ market.’

‘The properties just want their units filled. Depending on the management company, most of them will be willing to work with students as far as negotiating prices because they’d rather have the unit filled for a little bit less than having an empty unit,’ Jackson said.’

Leasing coordinators are more than willing to work with students to lease their desired apartment said Rodney Pasket, Regional Vice President for JRK Residential. Even students without a rental history can lease.’

‘Students are having trouble getting approved by themselves, so what they’ll do is get a co-signer – their parents or anyone else that can actually co-sign the agreement,’ Pasket said.’ ‘When I was in college, I had to show my bank statement based on my college fund. Part of it was for housing, but they used the whole entire balance that I had in there to approve it.”

Pasket said most apartment complexes also offer flexible student deals, discounts and incentives.’

‘We’re giving them, on top of whatever special there is for that particular property, one or two months free. Because they’re a student, we’re also giving them a 5 percent discount. All they have to do is show their student ID,’ he said.

Price is a leading variable in chemistry graduate student Roderick Pernites’ leasing decisions. He said he budgets based on his stipend.

‘The fair is very helpful and convenient because I can actually compare prices. I want an apartment as close as possible to campus and at the same time at a reasonable price because I’m living by my stipend,’ Pernites said. ‘Of course, I want a place that is safe and conducive for studying.’

For education junior Jade Menard, safety is the highest priority.

‘Security is a big thing for me. I’m going to look at the cars there to make sure that they look kind of decent and also check out the people as well when I get there,’ Menard said.

The Houston Apartment Association partnered with Commuter Services to make the fair possible.’

HAA public affairs specialist Aimee Arrington said students should be cautious when considering lease contracts because not all deals may be as attractive as they seem.

‘Just really carefully read that lease and really understand what it is you’re signing before you turn it in. Make sure you know what kind of application criteria the apartment’s looking for so you don’t waste that deposit,’ said Arrington.

Jackson also warned against some of the common pitfalls of leasing, and said back-up funds can help prevent an adverse rental history.

‘What’s really important as well is that you have some type of reserve, and I think that’s just for everyone in the current economy. You never know what’s going to happen so have something put away just in case something happens,’ Jackson said. ‘And be very careful who you live with.’

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