Students often look forward to moving out and being on their own when they start college. The Cal State Fullerton Residence Halls are designed for first-time freshmen while sophomores, juniors and seniors can choose to live in on or off-campus apartments. However, finding a place to live can be difficult when students aren’t sure what to look for.
An apartment or room off campus looks like the cheaper option, but securing roommates is also a potential problem.
When spring semester ended, junior psychology major Linda Alvarado had to find a new place to live because her roommates were graduating. She decided to find a new apartment instead of looking for new roommates. The first place she found turned into a disaster, in what Alvarado described as “one of the worst experiences” she’s had with finding a place.
Alvarado found a group of five other students to share an apartment with, making the rent cheap to split. First, one of the guys decided not to move in with them. Then, a girl backed out at the last minute.
“We all gave the deposit. We all signed the lease, and then this girl never showed up. At the end of the day she was all, ‘You know what? I’m not going to do it. I already signed an apartment lease somewhere else.’ So, I lost the deposit, which was like $250, and then I had to find a new place,” Alvarado said.
A well-known saying is, “When one door closes, another one opens,” and that was the case for Alvarado.
“The new apartment I’m in now is a lot better. It’s less people and I am paying a little bit more, but it is a lot closer to school,” Alvarado said.
Hannah Von Gremp, a fifth-year cinema and television arts major, previously lived on campus but finds off-campus apartments to be a much cheaper option.
“As nice as it is to live on campus at Cal State Fullerton, it’s so expensive. It’s incredibly expensive. Now we live in double apartments, which are the cheapest option, but I believe still the cheapest was like $10,000 to $11,000 for the year, which is ridiculous.”
Living in the dorms on campus also includes a chosen meal plan which is a mandatory cost for on-campus residents. Von Gremp, 22, described living on campus as “living with mom and dad” because it felt like she wasn’t fully living on her own.
Von Gremp had the opposite problem of Alvarado. She was going to move off campus with her roommates, but they had a hard time finding a place to live.
“It was frustrating because we’d want to look into apartments but we didn’t really know where to begin in certain spots. You can look online, but how much can you really find out about a place online,” Von Gremp said.
Students can’t always be sure a housing listing isn’t a scam. Real-estate agent James Bobbett of Bobbett & Associates has some red flags to watch out for and advice for finding a place.
“Definitely go with your gut instinct. If it feels too good to be true, it is too good to be true. If there’s no phone number to contact, it’s just an email, particularly through the likes of Craigslist and other websites like that, that’s another red flag,” Bobbett said.
Getting a response back for an apartment or house is a step in the right direction, but if the seller asks for money before anything else, Bobbett advises against it.
“Of course that should be like a super red flag if you haven’t met anybody or haven’t even walked into the space,” Bobbett said. “I’ve heard stories where people have wired a security deposit thinking they were going to secure a house and they go to move in and of course, it’s a total scam. When they get to the house, the people there are like ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’”
On the CSUF Roommate Needed Database page on Facebook students have an option to take over someone’s lease. When taking over a lease, it’s important to get the new contract in writing by all parties involved, including the landlord.
According to the Law Dictionary, “A written assignment of lease that clearly states the terms and conditions under which you are allowing someone to take over your lease is valuable as evidence in the event of a dispute between you and the new tenant or between you and your landlord.”
It is also important to know that taking over a lease is not the same as a sublease, which is when someone rents a portion of a property to someone else. Bobbett doesn’t recommend signing onto a sublease.
When it comes to the decision between living on campus and renting off campus, money is a huge factor. At CSUF, a single apartment with a five-day continuous meal plan totals nearly $16,000 for the academic school year.
Renting is pretty expensive, but splitting the cost can help. A one-bedroom apartment in Fullerton rents for about $1,700 a month and a two-bedroom apartment goes for around $2,000 a month.
Whatever new home in Fullerton students choose, they need to make sure that it matches their needs and their wallets.