The good news is that you have plenty of options. There are probably a hundred apartment complexes scattered around NC State University, with about as many in a 15-minute drive of main campus.
The bad news? Well, it might be hard to narrow down your options! But that’s what this apartment hunting guide is for.
Step 1: Get a Good Idea of Your Wants and Needs
Finding the right apartment usually boils down to three things: price, commute, and amenities.
Just like the whole sleep/good grades/social life balance, you’ll have to pick two out of the three. (For NC State commuter students, price and commute end up being the two priorities.)
From there, it’s all about figuring out what you absolutely need in an off-campus apartment and what would be nice to have. Let’s break it down.
Price: It’s All About Your Monthly Budget
Whether you have a job or monthly allowance, you need to know how much you can actually afford for an apartment, along with costs of utilities and other essentials. Take a look at your bank statement and add up all your necessary monthly spending first, then you can figure out how much you can comfortably afford to pay for off-campus housing.
How to Create a Budget When Apartment-Hunting
A good rule of thumb is that no more than 25% of your monthly take-home pay or allowance should go toward rent. No more than 35% of your money should go to housing-related costs, and ideally no more than 50% should go toward the essentials (you have to built up that savings account, right?).
This isn’t a complete list of essential expenses by any means, but it can help you get a better idea of what to include in your budget:
- Utilities — water, electricity, and Internet/cable TV if they’re not included in your rent
- Fees — trash collection, monthly pet rent, etc.
- Commuting expenses — gas for the car, daily fees for metered parking, etc.
- School expenses — Blue Books, textbooks, printing, etc.
The Commute: From Your Front Door to NC State’s Main Campus
How you get to class (e.g. by car, Wolfline, or bike) is as important as how long it takes to get there.
If you plan to drive, consider taking advantage of NC State’s commuter student benefits. If you don’t qualify for the program but still want to carpool, just split the costs to park on campus.
Want to catch the bus? Since the Wolfline is free, you don’t have to worry about hunting for loose change. NC State also offers perks for taking city buses around town.
Of course, if you’d like to live within walking distance of campus, there are plenty of spots to choose from! Hillsborough Street has lots of new apartments, and there are a fair number around Mission Valley Shopping Center.
Take a look at the map below to see what off-campus apartments are within a 15-minute drive of NC State. This map is a great place to start, but it’s by no means a list of all the apartments around campus. Don’t be afraid to take a look around the area in person for those hidden gems!
If you need them in list form, here are some of the more popular off-campus apartments near NC State.
The Amenities: In-Unit Features and Fun Resident Perks
Is a pet-friendly complex on your must-have list? Do you want to live somewhere with a pool and fitness center? Do you want a washer/dryer in your apartment or would a laundry room work just fine?
This can be the trickiest part of narrowing down apartments. You want to love where you live, of course, but you don’t want to sacrifice the best deal on an apartment because of an amenity you could live without.
Pick just one or two amenities from the following categories so you’ll have an easier time finding the right apartment:
- Apartment layout — number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, square footage
- Apartment features — in-unit washer/dryer, ceiling fans, walk-in closets, storage space, outdoor balcony/patio, pet-friendly building, elevator access
- Community features — online payment options, shuttle to NC State, laundry facilities, trash pickup, dog park, swimming pool, fitness center
- Additional features — lease terms, on-site parking options, nearby shops/restaurants
Use this apartment-hunting checklist to make note of what features you want and need in your next place.
Step 2: Start Apartment-Hunting Early
A few months before a new semester starts, students are scrambling to find an off-campus apartment and sign the lease before anyone else scoops it out from under them. The best way to avoid a last-minute panic is to start as early as possible.
Step 3: Be Picky When Taking Tours
Once you have just a few apartments on your short list, it’s time to get selective. You can eliminate places any way you like, but here are just a few ways to tell whether you’re getting the best living experience possible:
- Consider online reviews. Keep in mind that people who leave reviews typically aren’t happy with their apartment situation, but commonalities (e.g. persistent bug problems, shoddy maintenance, or unresponsive management) can tell you a lot about the complex.
- Visit during the day and night. Is the apartment complex well-lit at all hours? Or would you feel unsafe walking to your car or back from the bus stop at night?
- Ask if the unit you’re touring is available. Sometimes, student apartment complexes will give tours of a model unit, which can look drastically different from the units that are actually available for rent.
If you have lots of apartments on your short list, take photos and detailed notes. After touring several units, you’ll have a hard time distinguishing them!
Get a Complete Guide to Living Off Campus
Living off campus comes with its own challenges (like unexpected traffic) as well as its own perks (like having your own room and bathroom at an apartment).
Luckily, you don’t have to figure it all out for yourself. Check out the latest NC State Student Commuter Guide for everything you need to know!
Have any tips you’d like to share with fellow commuter students? Leave a comment below.