For all students who choose to move out for university, housing is a hot topic, especially because many first years live on residence. Due to a missed deadline, I was put on the residence wait list, and I didn’t get into residence at the end. However, through my learning experiences off campus, I’ll share some of my tips for finding the best affordable place off campus.
My off-campus story started in early June. It was my birthday, so I went out with my family to eat at a pho place, and I completely forgot about there being a residence deposit deadline, which was due the same day. I freaked out when I missed that deadline, because I planned on living in residence first year and didn’t know what to do. I then called a friend who was in upper year and asked her what I should do about residence. She told me to sign up for the waitlist and wait. I waited, and waited throughout the summer. Then came the last week of August. Now I was desperate for I still didn’t know where I was living and I did not want to commute two hours each day to get to school. I started frantically searching for housing. Before school started, I did not know that there was a housing Facebook group for the Waterloo region. I used the OCH website instead to try and find a place. I wish I knew about the Facebook groups instead because it would have made my life so much easier. I ended up choosing a basement, which I regretted a month into living there.
Before I discuss housing any further, let me just put it out there that I strongly do not recommend to live in a basement if you have mild to severe arachnophobia. I can’t tell you how terrified I was to find three spiders in my bathroom two weeks into university. Let’s just say for the rest of the eight months, I was scared to enter my bathroom to face whatever creepy crawlies were in there. Mind you that I am from Toronto, and there are rarely any spiders around, and I admit I do not live in the basement at home. When I lived in the basement at Waterloo though, OMG the spiders were huge, with long legs. It was disgusting. I wanted to move out one month in. Furthermore, I also realized how much I enjoyed sunlight. The only windows in my room were in the laundry room, and they were too far from my room to actually light my room up. I ended up turning on the lights most of the time, which kinda irritated my eyes while I was studying. I admit that I was lacking common sense when it comes to basements with no sunlight and spiders, but I really regretted it after a month. Let’s just say that for the months after that I had trouble maintaining my hygiene, because it took me a lot of time to have the courage to enter the bathroom.
Some things you probably wanna keep in mind in the future is that it’s best to live with your friends, so that you can all get along with each other. It’s pretty inconvenient to live with strangers, as I was forced to do this year because living with friends means that you can do grocery shopping together. From experience, grocery shopping is better done in groups. Otherwise, you can only carry so many items back home. I had to do my groceries mainly by myself this year, which meant that I could only buy things that I could carry home, which was usually three bags. You probably don’t wanna make more than one trip to the grocery store each week because you’ll always have your mind on school, so it’s best to go as a group to get all the shopping done.
If possible, if more than one roommate needs the same item (eg. eggs, milk), I strongly suggest taking turns buying that item, to make everyone’s life easier. Otherwise, you’ll end up having four milks taking a shelf in the fridge, and it takes up space for other items, which you could really be using. Trust me, you’ll want as much room to store a variety of food as possible. Otherwise, you might end up eating a week’s worth of spaghetti, and unless you enjoy spaghetti, it won’t taste too good.
Anyways, the lesson I learned this year is don’t just pick the cheapest place, because it’s cheap for a reason. There are apartments close to Waterloo that are a few hundred more, but they’re convenient, include everything and there’s a lot of people who live there. This fall, I’m gonna be living in an apartment close to university with four other friends and when I checked that apartment out, it looked pretty decent, which is good. I have two windows and a white wall, which means that I’ll finally get to make YouTube videos! They’ll probably be about university life and tips and hacks in Waterloo, but definitely stay tuned for the future.
When you’re picking an apartment to live in, there are several factors you should consider. Is it close to university? Is it near public transportation? Are all utilities included in rent and is it furnished? Students should choose a place as close to the university as possible because there may be emergency times in the future where you overslept on the night of your exam and you need to run to school. Living a block away from school will enable you to sprint to school in time to do your exam. Choosing a place near public transportation will make it more convenient for grocery shopping and other trips you’re gonna make. Lastly, you’ll want to make sure that all utilities are included in rent, so that you don’t have to pay other separate fees, and try to find a furnished place, so that you don’t have to bring your own furniture. Finding a furnished place would be easier to move into.
Another thing to take into consideration is natural lighting. Yes, you may not care for natural lighting at first, but you will realize how important it is to have windows because you don’t wanna live in darkness the entire day and not realize what time of the day it is – lessons learned. You also probably want to wake up seeing sunlight rather than turn on a light and have to force your eyes to adjust. For someone who lived in a place with little to no sunlight, i realized after a while that it really hurt my eyes to have to go from pitch dark to blinding light, so yeah, don’t take the sunshine for granted.
When it comes to leasing companies, be careful not to sign an agreement with a sketchy company. Since there is a surplus of housing in Waterloo, some companies will try to get you to sign as soon as possible, and make you pay a deposit before you sign the lease agreement, so try not to fall into the trap. If you pay before signing the lease, you’re basically stuck with that company. Also make sure to look over the lease agreement, because there may be parts in the contract that are illegal. For example, my lease agreement included a four-year contract that stated that my lease was four years until I terminated it before December 15 of the year before. You would wanna watch out for those traps, or you would be forced to pay extra renting expenses.
Another thing to note when renting an apartment is that on the first day, you should take pictures of the place. This is to ensure that you have proof that your place is in the same condition at the end of your lease agreement as it was when you first moved in, so that the lessor can’t find a random reason to charge you more at the end. Otherwise, you might end up getting fined for no good reason, because the lessor tried to frame you as inflicting damage.
Anyways, that is all I have to share for housing and finding apartments and I hope you find it useful. If you have any tips, feel free to comment them down below.