Monday, May 10, 2021

Students reflect on their experiences finding off-campus housing

February 23, 2021
Photo by Hope Ann Flores | The State News

Bombarded by the continuous mail and flashy promotion posters tacked on bulletin boards, first-year students can feel pressured to make a decision on where to live next year, and for many, waiting until the spring seems impossible.

However, for zoology sophomore Sara Froude, it wasn’t. Froude moved into her apartment at The Lodges in February. 

“Honestly, I was expecting it to be more stressful than it was,” Froude said. “You realize how many options there are once you start to ask around.” 

MSU Community Liaison Suchitra Webster notices the stress to find housing in students throughout the year.

“Students feel a lot of pressure, and a lot of that pressure is driven by one another,” Webster said.

In October, there are many promotional events and leasing weeks for apartment complexes like Chandler Crossings. This pushes people to make decisions quickly about the next year. Many leases are signed almost a year in advance, so students can move in before the fall semester.

“We do get the biggest push of people moving in in the fall,” Grace Corbin, leasing and marketing director at The Village at Chandler Crossings, said. “That’s not saying that you can’t move in immediately in the spring, but we definitely do get the biggest push because we do have a set move-in day that people sign ahead for.” 

The housing fair, run by the MSU Department of Student Life, takes place in October as well. Although it is a helpful resource, Webster said it only adds to the constant promotion to choose off-campus housing quickly for next fall. 

“By the time the housing fair happens, there’s some sort of fervor and intensity around finding a place to live,” Webster said. “I just always, always, always caution students and remind them 'you’re in the driver’s seat.'"

Froude lived with her family during the fall semester but wanted to move out in the spring after rushing Sigma Kappa. The Lodges ran a half-off special for the residents’ first month. After getting advice from her dad, she was able to negotiate a shortened contract and moved into one of the empty units.

“With some back and forth emailing with the leasing office, they actually did work out a contract where I moved in the beginning of this month, in February, and my lease is up at the end of May,” Froude said. “It was honestly perfect because now I don’t have to get stuck in the summer trying to sublease out to someone.” 

To alleviate some of the students’ stress, Webster advises students to take the time they need to consider all of their options when it comes to payment, transportation, utilities and amenities. 

Froude is glad she took her time because at The Lodges, she is able to use amenities like the gym and hot tub.

“I love living here,” Froude said. “I wouldn’t have chosen any other way or anything else. I’m glad I looked through all of my options and ended up here.” 

She encourages other students to ask questions and negotiate like she did.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want or be willing to negotiate because it is kind of scary when you’re talking to professionals,” Froude said. “If you’re persistent and polite about it, I feel like they’re always willing to work it out because nothing’s really set in stone until you have your actual lease.”

To secure housing during the semester they prefer, Corbin encourages students to reach out and ask about all of their options.

“Especially with the Chandler properties we have such a huge community,” Corbin said. “We have so many buildings. We have so many different floor plans, so many different options. If you are worried that you can’t find housing in the springtime or if you haven’t signed a lease and you’re looking in a later season, it’s definitely worth asking.” 

Corbin said it is slightly more difficult for students to find properties to move into during the spring.

“It is still possible for people to be immediate move-ins in the springtime,” Corbin said. “It’s a little bit harder, but it’s not unheard of. We do have very good luck with people moving in.” 

Brian Hagan, an agent at Hagan Realty, said the best way to find housing in East Lansing is to plan ahead of time.

“If you’re a prospective tenant and you want something in a particular location, let’s say, a block or two from campus or downtown, the reality is that they do actually rent significantly far in advance,” Hagan said. 

However, that doesn’t mean there will be a lack of available housing in the spring. Hagan said at his company, there are a handful of properties left over for the spring semester.

“People are wanting a particular location,” he said. “There is definitely truth to that, that if you want closer locations you need to rent in advance. I don’t think that has changed. But I don’t think that landlords are in the business of telling people there’s not going to be any housing available because if you look around that’s certainly not the case.” 

Hagan said most students looking for housing far ahead of time, like in October, are well researched. 

“I don’t discount the fact that maybe they feel some pressure to rent in advance,” he said. “However, I don’t think it’s a situation where people are not prepared and are being rushed into the decision because they are very prepared. Their parents are calling us. They’re calling us. They’re showing up at our office. They’re emailing.”

If students are anxious to find housing, he recommends preparing and organizing the information.

“Talking with your prospective roommates, or your parents or both, and just having those discussions in advance as far as knowing your budget, going out and seeing places, getting online, looking at different management companies, websites,” Hagan said. “I think the best thing that has benefited the prospective tenants over the years has been the ability to go online.” 

After doing her own online research, business freshman Bella Ngo moved into her apartment next to the FieldHouse this semester. She said it was harder to find a good location because there were fewer options than during the fall.

She said this made the search experience more frustrating.

“It was stressful just because everything was already booked or people weren’t subleasing something that I was looking for," Ngo said. "It was either too expensive, or they had too many rooms, or the location wasn’t that great, or somebody took it before me and said they would pay a higher price."

Both Ngo and Froude used Facebook groups to find the apartments they live in now. Froude said she tapped into small communities of mutual friends to hear about the best locations and leasing deals as well. 

Ngo recommends anyone searching for housing should keep updated often.

“I wasn’t always checking all the time, and I didn’t have my notifications on for Facebook, so I missed all of these opportunities for apartments,” Ngo said. “Once you do find something, make sure you aren’t indecisive about it.” 

Ngo said she was glad she was sure about her choice. 

“After going for what I have now, thank God I went for it because there wasn’t any other apartment that was up to my standards,” she said. “I think what we found was good because it’s cheap, a good location, good for my time range. I didn’t want to go for it because it didn’t meet all the boxes on my list, but in the end, the things I needed checked all the boxes.”

This article is part of our Spring Housing Guide issue. Read the full issue here.

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