Though the next academic year is months away, leasing has already begun.
“It definitely is stressful, and also that you have to decide so soon. I remember starting in October probably, and I didn’t know anybody coming here," said Rachel Killen, a second-year business management and hospitality management student. "So, trying to figure out, ‘OK, am I going to live with my roommate again? If I’m not, who am I going to live with? Where am I going to go?’ It is a little bit stressful.”
Whether you're looking for an apartment, house or duplex, rental experts emphasized the importance of starting early, setting a budget and picking good roommates. It is recommended students begin looking for housing as early as the October before the fall they are looking to move in.
While the search starts early, the Office of Off-Campus Living and Neighborhood Relations "recommends taking time before you sign a lease" on its website. The website also includes an FAQ section, a message board to connect students with potential roommates and information on housing locations.
“We always tell students, we understand that it feels like you just stepped foot on campus and you're already being prompted to consider options a year from now, which can be very overwhelming,” assistant director of Off-Campus Living Blair Boozer said.
Before signing a lease, the Office of Off-Campus Living recommends going to student legal services to get a lease review. Students can also schedule a personal consultation with the Office of Off-Campus Living to get questions answered.
“Ultimately, we want students to have all the information they need and all the resources they need to explore the area, look at all of the variety of different apartment communities, houses, duplexes, and at the end of the day just be prepared to make the best decision for them,” Boozer said.
Boozer said it is critical to think about how much you are willing to spend and to discuss that with potential roommates. It is also important to know what you're looking for in a roommate and "what's going to provide you a very safe, comfortable, successful environment."
"Think really about your pet peeves," Boozer said. "We have a common slogan in our office, and it's, 'Your best friends don't always make the best roommates.'"
Location plays a big role in deciding where to live. With so many neighborhood options in Columbia, Mary Twitty with The Shandon Group said students should focus on a particular area to make the search easier.
“Pick your designated area, what area would you like to live in, and I would ride by at night and during the day and make sure that that's the area you want and then focus on that area," said Twitty, a property manager for the company.
The Shandon Group is a local property management company that works with college students on rentals and leases. Students can submit an interest form on the company’s website and the company will reach out as properties that match the students’ descriptions become available.
"What we do is we try and figure out what exactly you're looking for," Twitty said. "If maybe you want to try to find a two-bedroom or a three-bedroom, when we start to see what's coming available for the next year, we start going down that list and giving you a heads up."
Another outlet many students use to find housing is through Facebook groups. Landlords, people looking to sublease and tenants all post in the University of South Carolina Off-Campus Housing & Subleases group. The University of South Carolina (USC) Housing, Sublets & Roommates group is used similarly.
“I know that there’s a lot of Facebook groups out that a lot of students are starting to utilize and online resources that we may not know of, and I would just make sure that you do not give money without looking at a property,” Twitty said.