Life off campus garners freedom

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    For the first time in her college career, junior Stephanie Chlipala was able to delete the numerous e-mails reminding her to sign up for on-campus housing.

    Like many juniors and seniors, she has made plans to live off campus in the fall.

    The benefits of on-campus housing, such as being part of a tight-knit college community and living within walking distance of classes make some wonder why students would want to move off campus.

    “Beats me,” Craig Allen, director of Residential Services, said followed by a moment of laughter. “I’m kidding. For the record, I do think there is a natural progression that draws students off campus.”

    That natural progression is precisely why Chlipala decided it was time to leave the safety net that on-campus housing provides.

    “It won’t be an easy walk to class anymore,” said Chlipala, an interior design major. “There also won’t be a meal plan, and I won’t constantly be surrounded by a lot of people, but I think you should experience being more independent before you graduate.”

    Chlipala said there are things students don’t have to worry about when living on campus, such as cooking food or buying furniture. These are things students may not think about until they plan to move off campus.

    Mike Kirk, a realtor for Mays Realty Group, a company that often works with TCU students, said off-campus housing provides more freedom and students won’t have the constraints of living in dorms, but he said students should prepare for the difficult process.

    Kirk said the primary issue students face when looking for off-campus housing is having too many roommates. Houses or apartments generally have two or three bedrooms, and finding a fourth bedroom in the TCU area is difficult when expecting a price of about $400 per bedroom, he said.

    Carl Montgomery, owner of Carl Montgomery Realtors on University Drive, said renting a house or duplex near the TCU area will cost about $400 to $600 per bedroom. Apartments will be similar, he said, but can increase in price depending on how many amenities the complex provides.

    But finding a decent price isn’t the only aspect of house hunting students should be aware of, Montgomery said.

    “I have been doing this for 38 years,” he said. “And unless you know the values or what you ought to be paying, it helps to have a realtor or someone who has experience with buying and selling properties.”

    Montgomery said realtors will look over contracts for houses and it’s common for the realtor to notice faults in the contract.

    For students searching on their own, it’s important to read the contract carefully before signing, he said. Montgomery said students should know the lease term, safety and security in the neighborhood and make sure they are comfortable with the location.

    Kirk said he agrees that understanding what is on the contract is the most important thing when buying or leasing housing. In addition, students should be able to find a place they could be happy with for a few years, he said.

    “Don’t be in a hurry to sign any contracts,” he said. “Try to find a place that feels comfortable, safe and a place you know you could show your parents.”

    Meghan Hunt, a senior speech pathology major, said finding a good house to rent was easier than she expected.

    Her method of finding a three-bedroom house was driving through the neighborhoods near TCU and finding houses with “For Rent” signs on the lawn.

    It was a traditional method that seemed to pay off when it came time to leave campus.

    “I recommend that students start early,” said Hunt, who began searching in September for a house for the spring semester. “It’s also good if you get information from friends already living off campus because they may be moving out or may know other people ending their leases. The house could then be available for you.”

    Chlipala said after they completed house searching, her roommates dedicated time to discussing the pros and cons of each house they looked at. Finding a house that each roommate liked and was leased at a good price was difficult, but in the end, there is always a bit of compromise, she said.

    “It’s a huge relief to have the task of renting a house behind us,” Chlipala said. “It’s good to know we don’t have to be homeless college students.”