July 24, 2009
It's about that time again, when those Craigslist postings start popping up with fall move-in dates. Some of you may have already figure out your housing situation, but for those of you who haven't...
Northwood Community Apartments are University apartments on North Campus. They're generally pretty nice, but not your only option for the price. If you're paying rent/utilities out of a scholarship/loan setup, this takes your money in one neat bundle instead of multiple payments to different parties. Cable and internet are included. Simplicity is nice. Economy 1-bedrooms start in the $700s. Rates are available on the NCA website.
When choosing neighborhood you should take stock of what is important to you: expense, proximity, quiet, etc. My favorite neighborhoods for these features are...
Expense - If money is the #1 thing on your mind, you may want to look a bit farther from campus, in the Ypsi-Arbor area. There are some apartment complexes in East Ann Arbor/West Ypsilanti that run a bit cheaper and are near a bus line to Ann Arbor. Your campus commute will be a bit longer but what you lose in convenience you'll gain in fewer student loans. Recommended for people with cars.
Proximity - If I were to live anywhere near campus or downtown, I would live in Kerrytown (East of Main Street, North of Huron Street). It's nice, somewhat affordable (compared to apartments and houses directly on campus or downtown), separated enough from campus and downtown that parking isn't impossible but close enough that one can live without a car and still have access to the bus station, a farmer's market, a first-class deli or two, and my favorite Sunday brunch location (the Aut Bar in Braun Court, Kerrytown). Of my top neighborhoods list, it is the most expensive, but also the closest to SI-and it will be even closer when North Quad is completed. While it is currently a 15 or so minute walk to SI, it will soon be about as close as you can get when SI moves to North Quad in 2010. Also, the residents are mostly graduate students and Ann Arbor townsfolk, so it's still quiet enough for graduate life.
Quiet - I may be biased, but I love the West side of town (West of Main Street). Though some students live here, it's far enough from campus (a 15+ minute walk, or a convenient bike ride) that prices aren't outrageous and most of your neighbors will be Ann Arbor townsfolk or perhaps graduate students. The houses are a bit nicer, and it's easier to find 1-2 bedroom apartments that aren't part of a 10-bedroom house. When it comes to finding privacy and quiet, the rule I use is this: If I can tell that a neighbor has had a party in the last week, it probably means they won't be considerate about "quiet hours," and it might not be for me.
What to avoid - living really close to campus is nice, but unless you have a benefactor footing your bills and really like the "Red Solo Cups on Lawn (2009)" aesthetic, you may want to avoid houses very close to central campus (especially just South and East of campus). Properties marketed primarily to undergraduate students can be overpriced and under-maintained-so even if you do play well with others you may find that the only way to afford something on East University and Hill is to have 12 roommates.
Of course, the cost of housing will vary widely depending on your luck and standard of living, but a good rule of thumb is this: One bedrooms may start around $500 and go up from there. $600-800 seems to be a good range. Studio apartments may be cheaper, but probably won't go below $400 without some serious concessions. Two-bedroom apartments start closer to $700. If you're moving here with a partner, a one-bedroom may be the obvious choice. If you're on your own, however, you may want to look into getting a roommate. Depending on your comfort with such arrangements, you can try wide-ranging methods like Craigslist, but a good way to go may be to start right here at SI. If you've already met some future classmates (though Visiting Days or Facebook connections, etc.) send them an email. Even if they aren't in need of a roommie, maybe their friends are. You can also put a call out on the new student CTools site (some people have already done this).
Where to look
Craigslist - Good for finding rentals through individuals, the most interesting places, in my opinion. I've had good experiences in the past with this method of house-hunting, but it helps if you have a chance to check them out in real life, or at least ask for updated pictures.
Rental Agencies - They can help you find a place fast and walk you through the process. In this economy there are more "for sale" homes that are "for rent" in the meantime, so realtors are becoming rental agents. However, be wary of places that restrict access to information (such as info on who you are renting from-this can play out poorly when a pipe bursts over a holiday weekend) or appear inflexible about tiny things. Cross-reference these agencies through yelp.com and other review sites.
MLive - Ann Arbor News classified ads online. Similar to Craigslist in scope and function, but without the potential for pictures. Still, worth a try.
Stusview.com - This site can be useful in seeing where grad students live on a University campus. Can give you an idea about location and reputation of certain companies. I get the impression, however, that certain companies are planting posts about their own properties, so take great reviews with a grain of salt. This is a good secondary resource.
Apartmentfinder - This is a good resource for cross-referencing companies. Usually the reviews left are negative, but consider: if all the bad stuff you read is tolerable, then you'll be able to handle the good stuff beautiful. If the words "infestation" or "flood damage" come up, back to the drawing board. This can also help you compare prices of certain apartment complexes around Ann arbor/Ypsilanti to give you direction for your search if you're looking off-campus.
UofM Housing - A good resource if you're considering Northwood or other on-campus options (even rental agencies on campus).
Some other blogs on the topic
I'm not the only one to write on this. In fact, this isn't even my only blog on the topic! Since variety is the spice of life, check out these other student blogs on finding housing:
Posted by messelti at July 24, 2009 07:53 PM