Living off-campus can be a huge change, especially when transitioning from on-campus housing to off-campus housing. Fairfax County has an abundance of housing options, and with the proper information available, the student can make that transition with ease. The following is an interview with Amit Katti and Christopher Nesseth, two Mason students who recently moved from on-campus to off-campus housing.
1. What made you decide to live off-campus?
Amit: “I am a grad student and on-campus housing was not available when I came to Mason in Fall 2012, so I decided to go for the cheaper option and chose to live off-campus near campus.”
Christopher: “I found a cheap room not far from campus, which gave me some freedoms not available in a dorm. I have more space than I generally would have in a dorm on campus.”
2. What have been some of the benefits of living off-campus? What are some of the inconveniences?
Amit: “For one, living off-campus is generally less expensive than on-campus housing. I love to cook, so with my townhouse, I have a full kitchen with more room to cook. The housing rules on campus tend to be strict, but in living off-campus, there are not too many rules. It is also a little more realistic in that when I graduate, I will have to go through the same processes I did when filling out rental agreements. It helps me prepare for what to expect in finding housing when I graduate.”
Christopher: “It’s nice to not have to pay for a meal plan or worry about parking across campus from my room. I like having a yard and garage. It is not always fun trying to get on campus at the beginning of a new term when parking is a nightmare. After a while, I was able to figure out the parking situation on campus and planned accordingly.”
3. What are some of the documents and processes that were involved in this transition?
Amit: I would have had to pay a huge amount of security deposit as I did at my previous apartment, but since I had established a credit history in the 6 months, we just paid a deposit of $250 split amongst the roommates. The property manager was lenient with us since we are students.
Christopher: I needed first and last month’s rent and a $200 deposit, and a signed lease for a year with provision for month-to-month rent after. The landlady typed up standard, house rules, quiet hours, and rental agreements in a clear format.
4. How did you divide the costs of the apartment/townhouse/house among your roommates?
Amit: We split the rent, utilities and internet bills equally. We usually use www.wesplit.it and once the bills are added, we do online bank transfers before the due date and one of us pays the bills.
Christopher: The house is owned by a landlady who set the rents for each room, including utilities. Each month, she divides the utilities among the roommates and adds those costs into our rent bills that month.
5. What were some of the resources available to you when making the transition? What advice would you give to students who are deciding whether or not they want to live off-campus?
Amit: I like off-campus because it is like living in your own house, except we’re paying rent. I used the George Mason University Off-Campus Housing Service and set up a profile to begin my search. Once I used the search engines to say what kind of place I was looking for, I found a property that fit my specific needs.
Christopher: I found the room through the Mason housing finder site. I would suggest looking at what is available, but make sure you include some extra money when calculating your budget. The other resources that I used were the Tenant/Landlord Handbook under the Resources Tab under the site. The George Mason Housing Information Session was also useful in helping me learn how to sign a lease and how to budget for monthly expenses.
For more information on off-campus housing and how to begin your search, check out the George Mason University Off-Campus Housing Service at och.gmu.edu. Also, come check out the Off-Campus Housing Fair on May 6th, from 2:00-5:00pm in Dewberry Hall Lobby at the Johnson Center! Off-Campus Student Programs and Services will have information about what to expect when transitioning to off-campus housing and up to twenty apartment and housing communities on site to distribute housing information to Mason students.
Rachel Steiner, Off-Campus Advisor