Living Off-Campus: Houses vs. Apartments

By Tamiera Vandegrift on May 28, 2018

The prospect of living off-campus opens the door to another realm of possibility far past the limits of crammed, cinder block dorm rooms and moldy community showers. The benefits to living off-campus seem infinite: freedom, cheaper living expenses, the chance to see what else your college town has to offer, a ton of fun amenities for the taking, and so much more. Living on-campus typically requires students to purchase a meal plan, pay expensive dues, and abide by some frustrating rules (Quiet hours after 9 p.m. — seriously?), so it’s easy to see why living off-campus is the more attractive option for many.

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When you’re considering living off-campus, there are many different options to consider and many difficult decisions you will have to make. One of the first you will have to consider is what type of off-campus living you are seeking. Specifically, should you live in an apartment or a house? Both living styles are great options depending on what is most important to you in terms of off-campus living and personal needs or preferences. While you are considering your options for living off-campus, consider this article to be your personal guide to one of the most important decisions you will make in your college career. Keep reading for everything you need to consider about living off-campus before you decide to rent a house or an apartment.

The key factors to consider when making this decision are: Location, Amenities, Space, and Cost.

Apartments

Renting an apartment is a great option for living off-campus. It is considered to be a rite of passage into adulthood and although it might seem intimidating, the rental process is very simple. By renting an apartment, you are securing a small segment of a larger complex owned by a landlord. The landlord owns the property and rents out spaces to earn a profit. Many college students who choose the lifestyle of living off-campus also choose to rent an apartment. Is apartment life right for you?

Location

Apartments are typically located in urban areas close to college campuses and public transportation. This is especially helpful for students that lack their own means of transportation. The close proximity to dining, entertainment, and more provides tenants with the assurance that there will always be things to do and people to see. Living off-campus in an apartment complex typically means getting to campus easily without having to worry about parking, assuming that the complex is within walking distance or on a public transportation route. While the remote nature of apartments is certainly inviting, especially for those seeking the traditional college experience, it can also mean more noise and less privacy. If you absolutely abhor the sounds of early morning traffic and loud parties down the street, apartment living may not be for you.

Amenities

One of the greatest parts about living off-campus, specifically apartment-style living, is all of the amenities you have at your disposal. Many complexes have pools, clubhouses, fitness centers, game rooms, and other types of entertainment centers for residents to enjoy. These amenities are included in the price of your rent, so you will save money on recreation in the long run. Another amenity that apartments offer is a bigger sense of security. Most apartment complexes are gated or require some sort of special materials (a codeword or a key) for entry, giving residents a greater sense of safety. Apartments are also typically closer to public transportation because they are located in more urban areas, so if you don’t have a vehicle or other means of transportation, the remote nature of apartment-style living would be beneficial.

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Space

One of the drawbacks of apartment-style living is the space. Depending on the individual complex, most apartments are relatively small. The average size of an apartment in the United States is 889 square feet. This is a good choice if you would prefer to live alone or with one other person, but if you want a full house of several chums, an apartment will begin to feel pretty cramped. Another downside is that many apartments hold strict decorating rules, meaning you will not be able to paint or drill holes into your walls. A positive side to this, however, is that the grounds will be maintained by someone else. You will not have to worry about shoveling snow on cold days or trimming hedges on other days. The aesthetic of your complex is purely up to your property manager. However, this also means that garden parties or outdoor barbeques in your backyard are an absolute no-no.

Cost

Depending on the size and style of your apartment, the monthly rent costs will vary tremendously. According to CBS News, the average monthly cost of an apartment is around $1,200, but off-campus student housing companies typically charge anywhere between $300 and $800 monthly. Some apartments include utilities in their rent charges, while others don’t.

Bottom Line

To summarize, apartments are one of the most popular methods of living off-campus. The remote nature of apartments (with close proximity to college campuses and popular areas of interest) along with the wide variety of amenities offered make them ideal for students. However, the spaces are very small and there is limited freedom in regards to customization and personalization when it comes to apartments, as most property managers forbid drastic changes to the individual space. While the average cost of apartment rentals is in the thousands, off-campus student housing is usually different, costing anywhere between $300 and $800 per month.

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Houses

While apartments are traditionally a college student’s first consideration when they begin to think about the transition to living off-campus, houses are now growing in popularity. Research has gone on to draw attention to the many financial benefits and pros of college students entering the housing market early. By renting a house, you are securing an entire property through a single person (typically), not a property manager or larger organization. Renting a house is the epitome of independent living, as more than likely you will be fully responsible for maintaining the appearance and quality of the property. In regards to living off-campus, securing a house can provide space, freedom, and tons of independence. Is renting a house right for you?

Location

As more students consider living off-campus as opposed to dorms, more students seek private, quiet areas to set up their collegiate lifestyle. If you prefer to live away from urban, or otherwise busy parts of town, living in a house might be right for you. Since houses are larger and take up more space than apartments, houses are typically on the outskirts of town or in more rural areas. If your university is in a smaller or rural town, you might find that students renting houses is actually pretty common. If your school is in a small or large city, you will probably find that houses are further away from campus and points of interest in your college town.

If privacy is something you value, a house will probably be your best option. Houses grant more space away from neighbors, which means that you will no longer have to worry about your upstairs neighbors crashing in through your ceiling. However, before you fall in love with the quiet life, think about your ideal collegiate lifestyle. Most people who live in houses as opposed to apartments want the peace and tranquility that is lacking near urban areas, so if you plan to throw wild parties on a regular basis, you might want to consider the types of neighbors you would have in a suburb.

Amenities

The amenities offered by houses are largely different than those offered by apartments. First, houses offer a lot more

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Infographic by: Tamiera Vandegrift via Canva

freedom. You will not have to pay for parking, as you will have your own parking space to fill with as many guests as you would like! Also, houses offer fantastic private amenities, such as your own personal washer and dryer. That means that your days of waiting for Todd from Room 504 to finally take his frat tanks out of the dryer are far behind you. Houses provide amenities that will give you a pleasant dose of adulthood. If you have pets or would like to have pets, living in a house will allow you to have that option. Your pets will have ample room to stretch their legs because you will have your own yard space! While you might not have a pool or community center in your neighborhood, you might find yourself lucky enough to have a space with a pool or an entertainment center nearby.

Space

If you’re a communal type of person and you live by “the more, the merrier” mentality, living in a house will be perfect for you. Since houses offer a lot more space than most apartments, you will be able to spend time with more than one roommate without feeling cramped and claustrophobic. If you would prefer to live with three or four roommates, living off-campus in a house would be the best way to establish a little community without feeling as though you’re living on top of your roommates. Another benefit of this space is that because your landlord is not making a profit off of the property, you could potentially have more freedom with decorating.

Also, you will have more space for socials and guests as you won’t have to worry about pesky parking fees or lurking towing companies. While there is more space overall, count on high-traffic areas in the house having, well, high traffic. The laundry room and the kitchen will definitely attract all of the tenants in the house, so you might find yourself with a little less privacy than you bargained for.

Cost

With all of the amenities and benefits associated with living in a house, it seems like a reasonable assumption that this is one of the most expensive methods of living off-campus, right? Well, this isn’t necessarily true. The cost of a house depends entirely on your lifestyle. If you want to live with fewer people, the rent and utilities will be more expensive. If you want to live Full House style, you will be able to save more money because the expenses will be split up among more people.

Before you decide on a house, you need to decide if living in a house is within your budget and if you would be happy with the options that your budget can afford you. You might not be able to afford the newer, cutting-edge houses that are fresh off the market, so you might need to settle for an older home with a gas stove. While these homes have character, they definitely aren’t for everyone. At the same time, houses require more work and time than apartments. A lot of the repair and upkeep costs could fall on you, making the cost of living a little higher for you and your roommates. Take a look at your budget and spending needs before you decide a house is right for you.

Bottom Line 

Houses are definitely growing in popularity for a variety of reasons. The main reasons are space and distance from the buzz of college campuses, so if this is what you’re seeking, living off-campus in a house might be your best option. Houses offer different amenities than apartments, such as outdoor space, features exclusive to your household, and most notably: parking. The costs of living in a house versus living in an apartment can be a little on the pricey end, so it’s important to decide what your ideal lifestyle would be and if a house would give you that.

Now that you have a better understanding of everything both houses and apartments have to offer you, both the positives and the negatives, you will be able to decide which style of living off-campus would best fit your needs, budget, and lifestyle. Both houses and apartments offer an amazing experience for living off-campus, but it’s up to you to decide which one is better for you. 

Tamiera is an alumna of Florida State University, having earned a BA in Editing, Writing & Media and a BA in Digital Media Production. Tamiera is an aspiring novelist and screenwriter, inspired by the works of Lars von Trier, David Fincher, and Darren Aronofsky. Tamiera has previously written for the FSView and Florida Flambeau, College Magazine, and more. She has recently published a creative thesis containing short stories based on mental illnesses in the media. In the future, Tamiera aspires to win "Best Original Screenplay" or "Best Pictures" at the Academy Awards with one of her film projects. Besides writing and storytelling, Tamiera enjoys cooking, traveling, spending time with friends, and geeking out over movie trivia.

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