Finding Apartments for Rent in the US



During your stay in the US, you need a place to live. You can choose to live in a dormitory, an apartment, or a house.

In this section we address the various questions about finding suitable housing in the US.

Various housing options in the US

Benefits and drawbacks of staying on-campus

Related Links
  Finding Apartments
  Finding a Roommate
  Getting Furniture
  Moving / Shifting




 

Benefits and drawbacks of staying off-campus

Staying with an American host family

Renting and Sharing an apartment / house

Tips for searching / renting an apartment / house

Signing the lease / contract

List of questions that you should ask before renting an apartment or before signing a lease

FAQ's

I am coming to the US for the first time. I don't know anyone. Can anyone provide me temporary accommodation until I find some place for me?

As an international student, do I have to stay on-campus or off-campus?

How can I search for a house or apartment to rent?

How can find a roommate?

What all things does a typical apartment or a house have?

What all facilities does a typical apartment have?

 

Various housing options in the US

As a student, you can either stay on-campus or off-campus. On-campus means staying within the boundaries of the University or staying in the university property. Off-campus means outside the boundaries of the University.

On-campus housing options include the dormitories, hostels, university apartment, etc., provided by the University. Off-campus housing options include apartments, houses, youth hostels, etc., which are not associated to the University / College.

Most students staying off-campus rent either an apartment or a house. Apartments can be categorized as studios and those with one or more bedrooms. All apartments come with at least one bathroom. A Studio apartment has one big room, which can be used as a living room as well as a bedroom, a small kitchen and a bathroom. A house typically has a living room, kitchen, one or more bedrooms and one or more bathrooms.

If you try to find your housing on-line, some web sites provide you the pictures of some apartments and will also provide you information such as rent, electricity, water, etc.

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Benefits and drawbacks of staying on-campus

The main benefit of staying on-campus is:

  • You are actually staying within the University. This means you are very close to your academic building as well as the labs and libraries. As a result, you don't really need a car or worry about public transportation. Plus, you will have more chance to make a lot of friends.

  • Normally you don't need to pay extra for utilities such as water and heater, and electricity

The main drawbacks of staying on-campus are:

  • Usually staying on-campus is a bit costlier as compared to staying off-campus,

  • Some Universities require you to subscribe for the meal plan from the dormitory's cafetaria. This plan is normally costly and your choice is limited (the menu is fixed by the cafetaria)

  • You will have to follow the schedule of the dormitory (for example, you don't have the option of choosing your roommate. Also, you will have to be in your room by some specific time in the night.)

  • Usually dormitory is empitied during the holiday for maintenance. You have to move somewhere else to during the holiday.

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Benefits and drawbacks of staying off-campus

The main benefits of staying off-campus are:

  • You can choose your own room

  • You can choose your roommates

  • It will most likely be cheaper than living on-campus (depending on the type of the apartment that you choose)

  • You don't have to move somewhere else during the holidays

The main drawbacks of staying off-campus are:

  • You may be far away from your academic building as well as the labs and libraries. As a result, you will need a car or worry about public transportation

  • Along with your rent, you will also have to pay for utilities such as gas, water, electricity, etc., unless it is already included in the rent amount

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Staying with an American host family

Staying with an American host family is the best way of learning and understanding the American culture. Many American families volunteer to host international students for a semester or two. Sometimes, they allow you to stay with them for your entire period of study.

It is a good idea to contact your university’s International Student Office to find about the host family options in your University.Some local social/religious organizations collaborate with universities/colleges to help international students adjust with American life. These organizations will pair the international students with interested American families.

If you desire to do so, you can make a request with the International Student Office to be assigned to a particular host family before you come to the US. These host families will pick you up from the airport and will let you stay at their house usually for a period of 1-3 weeks and help you to find your own apartment. If you’re lucky, some host families are even willing to host you for your entire course of study.

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Renting and Sharing an apartment/house

If you want more privacy and/or have enough money, you can rent an apartment / house for yourself. Usually this option is costlier than sharing an apartment / house, but you can get more privacy.

If you want to save your money, and care a little for privacy, then rent and share an apartment or a house with roommates. Sharing the apartment / house will be cheaper as the rent amount will be distributed among you and your roommates(s). But as mentioned above, your privacy is limited, as usually there will be two or more people staying with you in the house.

Sharing an apartment does not mean that you have to share your room. You can choose an apartment that has more than one bedrooms. You can have your own private bedroom. Your roommate(s) will stay in the other rooms. You will then share the total rent with your roommate(s). But in most cases, you will have to share the kitchen and the bathroom with your roommates(s).

In most apartments (with two or more bedrooms), you will have to find a roommate before you rent the apartment; otherwise you will have to pay for the whole apartment by yourself and then find a roommate and distribute the rent with him later. However this is not always the case; some apartments only require you to pay your share of the apartment, and they will assign a roommate for you if you cannot find one. In that case, be ready to welcome a stranger with whom you may or may not get along.

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Tips for searching / renting an apartment/house

  • Some web sites provide you the pictures of some apartments and will also provide you information such as rent, electricity, water, etc. It is a good idea to find out about this information in advance.

  • You can also find house/apartment ads in local newspapers, campus newspapers, college notice boards, etc.

  • The ads will have contact numbers listed on them. Call those people and take an appointment as to when you can see the house/apartment.

  • Find as many houses/apartments as possible as this will enable you to select the best from different options.

  • Look for a house/apartment that is located near your college/university campus. If your house/apartment is nearby, then you don't have to worry about commuting by bus/train. You won't even need a car.

  • Look for a house/apartment that is located in a safe locality. In the US, some localities are notorious for high crime rate.

  • If you like, look for a house/apartment that has the house heating bill (gas bill) included in the rent amount itself. These are seasonal costs and if your house/apartment is not properly insulated, you will be paying a lot for the gas required for heating your house.

  • If you own or plan to own a car, make sure that your house/apartment has proper parking lots. Sometimes, you will have to pay for the parking.

  • Check about utilities such as water, electricity, etc. In some cases, these utilities are included in the rent amount itself.

  • Find out about facilities such as microwave, refrigerator, TV, cable, internet connection, furniture, etc. In most cases you will have to get these facilities by yourself. However, some apartments do have free furniture, internet connection, etc.

  • Carefully read all the terms and conditions written in the contract, before signing the lease. If you don't understand something, get it clarified with the landlord.

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Signing the lease/contract

Some apartments do require you to sign a six month or a one year lease contract. Sometimes you will also have to pay the first months rent in advance as a security deposit. However, some apartments also have the option of month-to-month pay (you don't need to sign a six month contract or a one year contract). In any case, please read carefully the various terms and conditions in the contract.

If you break your contract before the contract expires, chances are that you will loose your security deposit or pay some penalty fee.

Sub-leasing an apartment means giving the apartment to someone else. The other person will then pay the rent to you and you will then pay it to the landlord. These arrangements can be made. But, we suggest that you check with your landlord about this facility.

When the contract is about to expire, most landlords will check the apartment for any damages to the house or furniture caused by you. If there are any damages, the amount will be deducted from your security deposit. Therefore, before your lease contract expires or before you move somewhere else, make sure that you clean the house/apartment and repair any damages caused by you.

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List of questions that you should ask before renting an apartment or before signing a lease

Some sample question to ask when you’re looking for an apartment:

  • How many bedrooms are in the apartment?

  • How many people can stay in the house?

  • How many people are currently staying in the house?

  • How many bath rooms do you have in one unit?

  • How much is the rent?

  • Is this month-to-month or lease? six months lease or one year lease?

  • Do I need a co-signer?

  • Do I need to have my own roommate or do you assign one for me?

  • Is the utility bill (Heater, Electricity, Water, Gas) included in the rent?

  • Is this a furnished apartment?

  • Do you have air conditioner? Cable-ready?

  • Do you have on-site laundry?

  • Is there any bus stop nearby?

  • Do you have free parking?

  • What is the consequence if I terminate the contract before the contract ends? Can I sub-lease the apartment?

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FAQ's

I am coming to the US for the first time. I don't know anyone. Can anyone provide me
temporary accommodation until I find some place for me?

Yes. Please contact the International Students Office of your university about this. These offices will make temporary housing arrangements for you. Sometimes they will provide you a list of on-campus student associations (such as Indian Students Association, Chinese Students Association, Hispanic Students Association, European Students Association, etc). You will have to contact the officers of these associations and they will then make some arrangements for you (you will probably be provided accommodation at some senior students' houses). Sometimes, some American families may also provide you temporary accommodation.

Free temporary accommodation can be anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks. The hosts will provide you a bed to sleep and also provide you food. You should use this time to complete college formalities and find an apartment / roommates for yourself. We strongly advice you against taking undue advantage of the generosity of your hosts.

In case no one is able to arrange temporary accommodation for you, we suggest that you book a hotel near your University. You can find more information about hotels in the US, in the 'Book a Hotel' section.

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As an international student, do I have to stay on-campus or off-campus?

Some universities require the undergraduate (Freshman year) students to stay on-campus in campus dormitories or campus apartments. If that's the case, you don't have to worry about housing, since the school will take care of that for you. Otherwise , we suggest that you stay in off-campus housing.

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How can I search for a house or apartment to rent?

Check out the various links in the 'Useful Links' section for a list of web sites that provide apartment and room listings. Some web sites will even allow you to see the pictures of these apartments and will also provide you information such as rent, electricity, water, etc.

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How can find a roommate?

Please check out our Finding a Roommate section.

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What all things does a typical apartment or a house have?

Apartments can be categorized as Studios and those with one or more bedrooms. All apartments come with at least one bathroom. A Studio apartment has one big room, which can be used as a living room as well as a bedroom, a small kitchen and a bathroom. A house typically has a living room, kitchen, one or more bedrooms and one or more bathrooms.

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What all facilities does a typical apartment have?

The various facilities include access to electricity, water, gas (fuel) in the kitchen, house heaters, air conditioners, refrigerator, stove and in some cases microwave.

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