The off-campus housing leasing period is often one of the last things students want to think about during Autumn Semester; they just moved in to their newest residence and immediately have to begin making plans for next school year, or risk the options for off-campus housing being limited.
That’s what happened to Katherine Weddell, a third-year in marketing who was scrambling to find a residence for the 2018-19 school year when she returned to campus after winter break.
With her two current roommates graduating, classwork piling up and deciding to search for housing by herself strictly online, she had to resort to her business fraternity group chat of 150 members to finally find a vacancy. She signed the lease for it two weeks ago.
“It was more procrastination than anything else,” she said.
Weddell’s situation represents a question many students at Ohio State looking for off-campus housing are forced to answer each year: when to start looking.
Much of the search depends on preferences in price, amenities and location, but understanding the Ohio State off-campus housing market is difficult for those who haven’t had experience searching.
Kyle Weddington, a fourth-year in economics, was looking for an eight- to 10-person house for the 2017-18 school year. Based on his past experiences, he decided to jump on the issue early, in September, well-before the major landlords of campus-area properties began their leasing season.
“The first time I was apartment-hunting, I didn’t start until the second semester of my sophomore year,” Weddington said. “We didn’t have very many places to choose from.”
He began the search by calling real estate companies that owned properties in the campus area and asked for properties that fit the preferences of his party. They viewed two houses a week later and signed a lease that same day.
“I knew houses like that would be in high demand,” he said. “There was kind of a fire under us to get working on this. It was kind of a collective action. The guys that couldn’t pay, they were covered by another guy just briefly until they could get the money in.”
The off-campus housing market isn’t kind to Ohio State students’ schedules. Most of the leasing seasons for companies that own properties in the immediate off-campus area begin in October or the beginning of November. At that time, students are halfway through Autumn Semester, which is about the time the second wave of midterms begins. But most of the work to find a place to live for a school year — which doesn’t begin for at least another eight months, has to be done during that period — or else students are might face limited options.
“I think [beginning to look in] August is a bit aggressive,” Weddell said. “I’d probably say October, November,which is still ridiculously early.”
However, Weddell said that timeline might change a bit. With the university adding in luxury, furnished apartments like the Wellington, the Griff and others, the more sought-after residences could be off the market even sooner.
“I looked at the rates [of the Wellington] and it’s like $1,300 per month and that’s just not affordable for a college student,” she said. “So I think as they continue to build these high-rise luxury apartments, off-campus housing that is affordable, like houses and smaller apartment buildings, will be snatched up quicker.”
When both were asked where students should begin their housing search, they said the first steps are establishing who you are living with and laying out all roommates’ preferences. In Weddington’s situation, there were going to be some compromises met with 10 people, but he said starting with a collective price point was a positive step before the stress of finding a place began.
Weddell said a few things she looks at other than price include location and researching the landlords.
“Some of them have some awful reviews out there, so having a terrible landlord was not something I wanted to deal with,” Weddell said.
Ohio State also offers an off-campus search tool available on the Office of Student Life website under off-campus and commuter students services.
Narrowing the search in the beginning can solve a lot of the problems Weddington and Weddell faced. Weddington even suggested calling landlords to know what units are available because he found that some realtors did not update their websites consistently.
“I guess just keep your options open and start really early so that you can be picky,” he said.