How To Inspect Your First Apartment

Now, it’s getting real!

You’ve found what looks to be a great apartment online. But, you have to see the place in person to understand if it’s the right place to live in for an entire year.

Unlike most dorm rooms, each apartment is unique and you need to know the right things to look for and questions to ask when the landlord or agent walks you through.

Here’s the easy way to get up to speed. Watch this video and you’ll transform into a well-seasoned apartment hunter in 4 short minutes.

How To Inspect Your First Apartment - Screengrab

Product Updates

Introducing: The JumpOffCampus Learning Center

We’ve been hard at work on the new JumpOffCampus Learning Center. We built the Learning Center for you, oh, intrepid apartment hunter.

It’s a one-stop-shop to help you search for, inspect, move in to and live in your first apartment.

We’ll be creating lots more videos and checklists to help you along the way.  So if there’s anything you’d like to learn about, just let us know.

Happy hunting!

Learning Center - Sceen Shot

Finances, Housing Advice, JumpOffCampus, Renting, Student Life

Get interest (AKA beer money) back on your security deposit!

Quick description: As a tenant, you’re entitled to interest paid on your deposits to your landlord. 

Why should I care?

As a renter, you probably had to put down a security deposit, right? And maybe last month’s rent, too. So that sucks. But you know what doesn’t suck? Beer. Burritos. And, uhm, books.

So good news: In Massachusetts, you’re entitled to get up to 5% interest on your deposits to your landlord. It’s all thanks to good old Chapter 186, Section 15B of Massachusetts general law.

In plain English

Here’s how it works, without the legal mumbo jumbo (sorry, pre-law geeks):

  • You give your landlord a deposit for last month’s rent and/or security deposit
  • At the end of the rental year, you get back the interest earned (because it’s like the deposit is still your money)
  • Interest can equal up to 5% of the total, or whatever the interest rate is at the bank where your landlord  deposited the money

For instance, if you ponied up $800 in last month’s rent, at the end of the year your slumlord is supposed to cut you a check. Assuming your landlord’s bank pays out 1% interest, that’s $8 you get back. AKA a free lunch. Or 20 lunches, if you count ramen.

Courses of action

What if your landlord doesn’t pay up within 30 days at the end of the year? You have a few options:

  • If you’re staying on as a tenant, you can deduct the amount from your next month’s rent.
  • If you’re done as a tenant, you get 3x the interest earned, plus court costs and attorney fees.

What to keep in mind

At the end of each rental year, keep a lookout for an interest check from your landlord. Or you could be missing out on a little extra cash that’s rightfully yours.



Givin’ it the ol’ college try? Ahem…

Well, the folks over at CollegeAtHome recently posted this incredibly interesting infographic about how (un)prepared college freshman actually are…

As it turns out, an alarming amount simply aren’t! And it’s leading to some really jarring statistics, like the fact that the US ranks 12th internationally in college attainment (40%), or that only 1 in 4 college freshman actually finish their first year. WHAT?!?

On a lighter note, definitely check out CollegeAtHome.com, an awesome resource for those interested in going to college or finishing their education, but that can’t physically attend due to illness, kids, work, etc. They’ll hook you up with an online education program, suited for you!


10 Off-campus Living Essentials

Well, the Mayans were wrong. You’re still here, and it’s time for you to prepare for a successful 2013 off-campus living experience. To avoid an apartment apocalypse, you’re going to need some essentials. You might not know exactly what you will need for the new year in your new place, so we have compiled a list of must-haves, starting with the fundamentals, and finishing with a few exciting add-ons.

1. A Couch
Don’t even bother moving into a place if you don’t have a couch, yet. Seriously. It’s more important than a bed. Your couch doesn’t need to be fancy. It doesn’t even need to seat that many people. It just needs to be there. It is the heart of the college household. Without it, you will be lost, because no one wants to hang out in a living room on lawn chairs.

Tip: Don’t get a “love seat.” They’re a waste of time, unless you’re an old lady.

2. Coffee table
Your couch is nothing without a coffee table. How good can your couch hang session be without somewhere to rest your drink? Try to get one that has storage underneath, that way you can keep some blankets, pillows, or other pass-out supplies in there.

Tip: Get some nice coffee table books to put on display. They always make for good conversation.

3. Iron and Ironing Board
There are ways to iron clothes without these two items, but it makes the chore even more painful than it already is. You’ve just moved into an off-campus apartment. Take advantage of the extra space and get yourself a nice, full-sized ironing set-up. #makemomproud

4. Flashlight
Two things are guaranteed: 1. You’re not a possum, because then you wouldn’t be reading this; 2. Your power will go out at some point. Be prepared to see in the dark by keeping at least one heavy-duty flashlight in your kitchen.

5. Plunger
Having a plunger in your bathroom is the best way to avoid a disgusting restroom catastrophe. Plungers may look ugly, but they’re worth the eyesore. Anything is better than an overflowing toilet. If you are concerned about your plunger’s appearance, get a plunger cover (a standard, plastic cover is ideal, since it will probably get dirty).  Holla target.com

6. Fire/CO2 Alarm
Your off-campus castle will be useless if it turns to toast. Protect your health and belongings by installing these, wherever necessary. Also, it’s against the law to go without them.  Yo yo homedepot.com

7. Gas-Powered Blender
This thing will change your life. It’s the monster truck of blenders, and you can use it anywhere: the kitchen, the backyard, the quad, the library (not recommended)—anywhere! The best part about this blender is that your party will be remembered for having great drinks and badass appliances. Do it kegerator.com


8. Nerf Weaponry
Trust us. Build an arsenal of Nerf guns in your home. Nothing gets the blood flowing in the morning like a styrofoam skirmish among housemates. Also, Nerf guns are surprisingly effective for flirtation purposes. Shooting your crush with a Nerf dart is the real-life equivalent of the Facebook “poke,” and it will yield better results.

9. Inflatable Punching Bag
Mad at your professor? Take it out on the bag. They probably sell one that looks like him, too. Also, it’s cheaper than therapy, and way more fun.

10. Gorilla Mask
Any scary mask will do, really. Nothing beats scaring the hell out of your roommate, and there will be plenty of opportunities in 2013.

Live it up #offcampus

New Year's Eve
JumpOffCampus, Student Life

Where to Party New Year’s Eve 2012

Party your way into 2013.
All it takes to have a great New Year’s Eve is close friends, the right attitude and of course, a place to party.  So, JumpOffCampus has got you covered with some party spot ideas in New York City and Boston.

Places to Party in Boston:

  • Hampton Beach: New Hampshire. Fill a car with BFFs, head just a couple of hours of north from the Colleges of the Fenway and checkout a killer fireworks display
  • First Night:  About 1 million partiers hit up this gig. 1,000 artists in 200 performances and exhibits fill 35 indoor and outdoor venues all over Beantown. #legit @FirstNight
  • Foxwood’s Casino: An epic dance party that meets all needs, with one of the clubs inside doing a retro Studio 54 theme for the night, and Shrine, also held within Foxwoods. Touted as “The sexiest dance party in New England”
  • Bright Night in Providence, RI.  Known for being the loudest, encouraging partygoers to make as much noise as possible to bid the year farewell.  Just a stone’s throw from @salveregina and @URINews
  • The Gatsby Mansion: Decedent as it sounds, this party, which harkens back to the themes of the classic book, is all about class and sass. Though expensive to attend, it is said to be wholly unforgettable.  Follow @TheGreatestBar in Boston

Place to Party in New York City:

  • New Year’s Eve party at Webster Hall:  A dance party to end all dance parties, with multiple floors and rooms, undulating with beats and bodies
  • Ball drop in Times Square: Totally the most famous of all the New Year’s Eve parties. The place you have to tell your kids that once went. Heck, maybe your ‘rent will catch you on the tube
  • Lair Lounge: While this scene is more Soho than city, just the fact that you get to party in a lounge that looks like an old, French train, all while hearing the best live sets from local DJ’s, is a one of a kind experience that shouldn’t be missed
  • See Jay Z and Coldplay perform together at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn. These two did a mash up of the Coldplay song Lost, with Jay spitting verses on the song. Expect that and more at the must-attend show
  • The Black and White Masquerade Ball at Soho Grand. About as far on the other spectrum as Times Square, this “masks are mandatory” ball has tons of social media hype

Party hard dudes and dudettes.  Be sure to pre-game.  Then get weird and wild.
New Year’s Day is meant for sleeping off damage.

Apartment Hunting, College Planning

The Skinny on Roomies

Shacking up with roommates can be either as fun as summer camp or as bad as the worst moments of Jersey Shore.  It’s good to lay out the pros and cons of taking on roommates before putting your name on the dotted line.

Pro: Cha-Ching!
The more bodies in the room, the lower everyone pays individually for rent.  You boost your buying power and can live in better digs for a lower price if you get roommates.  The savings just keeps coming, including on utility bills, groceries, furniture, and other apartment-related expenses.  According to the Boston Globe, a two-bedroom apartment in the Back Bay now rents for $2,857 a month; in Jamaica Plain, for $1,536. 

Con: “Dude, I’m broke.  Can you hit me up next week?”
Everybody paying their share sounds great in theory, but in practice you might have to browbeat your roommates to get the bills paid.  Get stuck with a deadbeat roomie and you could end up evicted.  Definitely a bummer!

Pro: Pitching in
Nothing sounds sweeter than realizing it’s not your turn to do the dishes.  If everyone does their bit, there’s more time to play.  And when you bring someone home, you can blame the dirty dishes on your roommate, so you don’t look like a complete slob.

Con: “There’s mold on your dishes, man.”
Your roomie might have been raised in a barn, and have a problem with keeping things clean.  You might find yourself fuming while you’re scrubbing a roommate’s breakfast bowl before you can have dinner.

Pro: Instant Party?
No more lonely Friday nights.  You always got someone to watch a show with, or complain to.

Con: “Dude, privacy, please?  I’m in the bathroom.”
With a roomie, you are never alone.  Things can get awkward quick if they’re bringing someone home every night while you’re cramming for a Pre-Calc. exam.  With a roommate, you lose your fortress of solitude forever.   But then again, how much privacy do you have in a dorm like Warren Towers at BU?

The Lowdown:
Picking the right roomie makes all the difference.  Make sure you get someone who’s responsible and compatible before you start to find an apartment.

Housing Advice, Renting, Student Life

The Off-Campus Student Toolbox

You really don’t realize how important it is to have some miscellaneous tools around until you need to tighten a screw or hang up a picture.  This is why we’ve put together a quick list of some tools that will make sure you aren’t left in the lurch when it comes to hanging some of your favorite photos.

  • Hammer
  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Phillip’s head screwdriver
  • Measuring tape
  • Assorted screws
  • Assorted nails
  • Stud finder
  • Level

It’s a good idea to keep a small tool kit around your apartment that contains just a few basic items. However, you should always notify your landlord before doing anything major around your apartment.  This doesn’t include changing a lightbulb or tightening a screw here or there, but it will include things like fixing a door.  It’s always best to let your landlord know before you fix anything yourself; you should not take matters into your own hands unless you know what you are doing and you’ve gotten permission.

Having a really basic toolbox is a really great thing to have in any apartment you rent; it will definitely come in really handy whenever you need to fix something small.  Just be sure that before you do anything major, you check with your landlord first.

Housing Advice, Renting, Student Life

When Should I Start Looking for Off-Campus Housing for the Next Academic Year?

One of the biggest questions for many students, especially those moving off-campus for the first time, is just when should they start looking for housing.  The best answer depends on the area in which your school is situated.  If your school is in area where off-campus housing is limited, you may want to start a little earlier, maybe in November or December.  If you live in an area where housing is pretty plentiful, you may be able to wait until January or even February.  However, the idea is to start looking as soon as possible.

Before you start looking, you may want to get a group of people together to house with, or you may want to look on your own.  However, that is one decision you will want to make before you start looking.  You will also want to identify some of your main criteria for what you want in your housing, including things like location and amenities.  Figure out the things that you can live with, and what you can’t live without.  You can use our apartment checklist to ensure that you’re making the right decision for you once you’ve started your search.

All in all, it’s best to start looking for off-campus housing as soon as you can.  Before you go, just be sure to know what you want from your housing.


Renting, Student Life

Shopping for Renter’s Insurance

As we’ve mentioned in our previous posts, renter’s insurance is a great way to make sure the unexpected is covered.  However, it can be a little overwhelming figuring out where to start.  It’s doesn’t have to be too hard, though.  All you have to do is shop smart and find a policy that fits what you need.

The first thing to do before you even start searching for the right policy is to inventory your place.  You should put together a list of all the things you have in your place (at least those things that you would want covered by insurance), including their values and serial numbers.  This will help you figure out how much coverage you will need.  You also want to take photos of the items and of your place as it is now.  You may even want to videotape a tour of what your pad looks like.  This way you will have visual evidence as to the current condition and items you have.

You may also want to consider how much you want to pay per month and what your deductible should be.  Your deductible will be the amount you pay before your insurance company will contribute money to fix the damages or replace any items.  You want to make sure that the amounts you choose are those that are right for you.

After you’ve done your prep work, the next step is to start looking at some quotes that include the parameters you would like to have met.  If the quotes you are getting are a little off, you want to figure out if that is something you could live with or not.  You want to check around with a few different places too.  The idea is not pick the first number you see.

When looking at different plans and insurance companies, it is also a good idea to look at the terms they have for their policies.  You want to make sure that they will cover what you need and on terms that are acceptable to you.

After you’ve gathered all of your information, it is then time to compare the prices and the terms; figure out what will be best for you.  After all, this is an investment.  You may even want to talk to a representative (if you haven’t already) to clarify what they cover and how it all works.  It’s also a good idea to talk to your landlord to get their input before making your final decision.

When looking for renter’s insurance, it can be a little overwhelming.  However, it doesn’t have to be too hard, as long as you shop smart and choose the plan that is right for you, you won’t lose out.



“How to Buy Renter’s Insurance” by Apartments.com