May 15, 2008
Another Housing Blog...
It's that time of year when incoming students are starting to consider just where they'd like to live in fall. There are already a couple of Admissions Blogs about housing (you can find them here, here, and here). Here's another one, because obtaining multiple perspectives is a vital step in making informed decisions.
If you can, schedule a visit. Some incoming students visit campus in the spring and summer to meet with advisors and get a feel for the campus. If you are already planning a visit, start your housing search early. Although many individual apartments may not be available for viewing this early in the summer, apartment complexes are more likely to do tours year-round and often have a model unit they keep vacant for this purpose. If you are able to visit, make appointments to view any apartments you can to get a feel for what is available and to get a closer look at Ann Arbor's residential neighborhoods. I think that they all have a different feel so it's good to get an idea of which one will be best for you.
Can't come to town until orientation? In this case, you will probably have to do your home shopping by internet. There are a number of resources to consider.
Northwood Community apartments are University housing for graduate students and families. It is on North campus (meaning you will most likely have to take the campus bus to class) and is generally pretty nice. They have furnished and unfurnished units, and start at $746/mo for an unfurnished economy 1-bedroom.
Local apartment communities abound in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, and many are on bus routes that will take you straight downtown (which are free with your student ID). They vary from very nice to not-so-nice, but sites such as apartmentguide.com and others will help you to find complexes in the area and compare rates. Some inexpensive complexes on bus routes include Mill Creek Townhouses, Spicetree Apartments, and Westwood Apartments. Through apartmentguide.com or their own websites, you can usually get a virtual tour of a model unit, and information on rates and size. However, I HIGHLY recommend cross-referencing these names on a review site, such as Apartmentratings.com to get an idea of what the residents actually think, as any problems with maintenance or pests will probably not appear on the complex's website. When you do this, remember that the complex's web site and angry reviews represent two extreme views on these places, the reality is probably somewhere inbetween, so weigh your information accordingly. The upside: they are often cheaper and/or larger than campus housing. The downside: there aren't many affordable complexes within walking distance to campus or campus bus routes, so you will have to depend on city busses or communiting (and campus parking) to get to class.
Renting from smaller companies and individual landlords is a little bit of a gamble but can really pay off if you put your time into finding the right place. Ann Arbor is full of rental housing, and it comes in all forms. I have always had good experiences with renting houses (and sharing with roommates) from individuals instead of larger rental companies. There are a lot of houses/duplexes/apartments for rent in this area, but since they aren't part of a large company they are more accessible through Craigslist or Mlive, local newspaper classifieds, etc. The upside: A more interesting selection of homes, sometimes cheaper and some of them are a much better value and more private than large complexes can offer. The downside: They are harder to find and evaluate from afar, as the real thing might be a lot better or worse than how it is described online. I highly suggest requesting recent photos from the landlord before making any decisions.
Ann Arbor Neighborhoods SI students often populate single houses and apartments just north of the Rackham Building(Ann Street or Catherine Street), in Kerrytown (on Ann or Catherine, but near Main Street), Burns Park (Packard Ave and Stadium Blvd) West of downtown (West of Main Street) or farhter out in the Ypsi-Arbor area (generally along Washtenaw closer to US-23). The West side of town is my personal favorite. It's close enough to downtown and campus that you can walk on a nice day, but there are enough busses through the area that you won't have to. Also, the neighborhoods are generally quiet and filled with families, so it can be a nice escape from school.
When should I start? I would suggest starting your housing research early if you are not familiar with Ann Arbor. I've heard that you should apply for Northwood Apartments early because they often start filling up at the end of the school year, and early research into apartment complexes will allow you to catch any summer move-in specials that may be available. Individual rentals usually run up to six weeks ahead of move-in dates, so there isn't much point in looking into those places until late July, as most landlords won't advertise months in advance, and what you see on Craigslist in May won't be available in August.
Furnishings If you do not already own a bunch of furniture (or can't afford to ship it out to Michigan), there are some great places to find used (cheap) furnishings for your new place. There is a furniture rental store right downtown called Instant Furniture Rental. If this is too pricey for your grad student budget, there are a ton of thrift shops around town. There is a Salvation Army on State Street, A St. Vincent DePaul on Broadway Street, and the Ann Arbor Reuse Center (my personal favorite) in Industrial Blvd. You can also glean used home goods from other students through the UofM Marketplace, which is a classified site strictly for the UofM community. When students leave town or get new stuff, they often sell their old TVs, couches, books, cars, etc. on Marketplace. I've bought and sold TVs, dressers, kitchen appliances and other things there. It's really useful.
Other tips Once you have some areas or companies in mind, use the Incoming Student Facebook or Ctools groups to ask current students and Ann Arbor residents if they are familiar with any of these places. Also, use a mapping site like Google maps or Mapquest to get an idea of how far these places are from campus. You can use the AATA website to find bus routes, so you might find a great deal that is five miles from campus, but right on a bus route. Last but not least, consider roommates. You can save a LOT on rent by sharing a two-bedroom apartment instead of living alone in a one-bedroom. People often use the Facebook and Ctools groups to find roommates, so don't be afraid to put out a call. You can also use the UofM Marketplace to find another student to share your pad.
Posted by messelti at May 15, 2008 01:41 PM
Northwood Community apartments is pretty nice. I had a great time there
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