The Apartment Hunt

April 27, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

By Caroline Arbaugh

As the realtor pulls up in front of another property, junior SMU student Jennifer Traver and her roommate have a good feeling about this apartment. Located on Rosedale Ave. off of Hillcrest, it is walking distance from campus, in a safe and well-tended area, and hits the right spot in their wallets.

“It was the best option because it came in below budget, had a garage, was within walking distance, and was not a dump,” said Traver. “The landlord was very nice and reliable and the apartment was a great find!”

As summer approaches, many SMU students – like Traver – are securing a place to live when they return to school next fall. But with limited budgets and a wide array of options available throughout this metropolitan area, how are students making their selections?

One popular option is to use a realtor as Traver did. But not everyone wants to take the time to ride around looking at apartments. For some students, spending a couple of hours online exploring options is sufficient. Sites like The Apartment Selector show contact information, amenities, and availability of apartments located in the area surrounding campus in University Park and Highland Park.

However, online searches don’t always give the full story. A personal visit is often a good plan too.

“Physically visiting the apartment was a definite factor for me–I did not like the idea of signing a lease without knowing exactly what I was getting,” said Traver.

Additionally, online prices are misleading by often being listed as higher than what you ultimately end up paying; and online prices are not open to negotiation or special deals. But this won’t be evident without a phone call or visit.

Traver said she wasn’t fooled by the high price listings on apartment websites, and knew further in-person investigation would be beneficial. She set out to find something for less than $1000 per month for her share of the apartment, and she was able to come in under budget with her pick.

Before starting the apartment search, evaluate your budget to figure out what you are willing to spend on your portion of rent and utilities per month, and then take into account other important factors. Apartments a little farther away from the SMU campus are more cost-effective, but at the price of a longer commute to class.

Senior Juan Barrientos said he’s looking for something in the $800-$900 price range, utilities included. Coupling this stipulation with his other main deciding factor, distance from school and friends, has defined his search.

“I have to live somewhere I can afford, but I also don’t want to live in the hood,” said Barrientos. “But proximity is somewhat relative, I have a car so an apartment within walking distance isn’t a necessity.”

In fact, Barrientos said anywhere closer than his current 25-30 minute commute from home would be ideal, especially somewhere in Uptown. But he admits finding an apartment is not as easy as it sounds, and encourages others to look early and keep looking.

In comparing a few popular SMU student apartment buildings, Amesbury Parc comes in at one of the lowest prices still within two miles from campus, but for a smaller floor space. However, many places near campus, like The Shelby, fall into similar price ranges and are more up-to-date.

But one thing is certain; the sooner you start the hunt the better.

“Get on top of the apartment search ASAP,” said Traver. “Many of the buildings are going fast!”

An earlier version of this story contained quotes that were misattributed from Gables Residential. The Daily Mustang apologizes for the error.