By Troy D’Souza

I personally loved living in the dorms my freshman year of college. I had a good roommate, got along with people on my floor, had a meal plan for the campus dining halls and was only a short walk to most of my classes.

But I knew I wanted to move off campus and live in an apartment for the first time. For me one of the most important things was finding good roommates, ones with similar values and personalities. So three guys from my church agreed to live with me and we still do!

The process was super crazy but we moved pretty quick on things. We made a list of five to six places around Columbia and talked about what we wanted in a complex. Anything downtown was ruled out because it was far too expensive and we never really went downtown anyways; we didn’t think the shorter walk to campus was worth the extra hundreds of dollars. We established the absolute maximum we would pay was $600 a month per person, but I don’t think any of us wanted to spend that high.

The biggest thing we did through this process, was actually going to visit the top four places we settled on: one lower tier, two middle ground, and one that was higher class and higher pricetag. We quickly ruled out the cheap option after visiting and decided we didn’t want to dish out the money for the more expensive one. We settled for one of the middle options, which had most of the same amenities.

As far as amenities go, often many complexes will have the same or similar ones, but it is important to keep in mind what you value in an off-campus complex. For me, for example, since I didn’t have a car I needed a shuttle to campus that ran fairly late so I could always have a ride home. The pool and basketball court we honestly didn’t end up using much.

When visiting too, asking questions beyond what they told us on tours was super helpful. Things like if subleasing is allowed (and if there was a fee to do so), are utilities included, how do we pay utilities, are grills or pets allowed, how rent is paid and so much more. I called my older brother and my dad for tips on what questions to ask.

The next beast to tackle was the actual lease which was probably about 30 pages. I scanned most of it especially the key things like amenities, rent price, dates of the lease, things we were and weren’t allowed to do and more. My dad asked for a copy so I sent it to him to make sure I didn’t miss anything important either. My roommates on the other hand, just went ahead and signed them without reading it too much. That still worked out and nothing bad came out of it, but there was no reason not to when it’s such a binding commitment.

While living at the apartment we needed to establish rules for cleaning, dishes, decorating etc. Generally, we all did our own dishes as we used them, cleaned together every so often and worked together to make the living room look pleasant to all of us. For food and groceries, we also mostly bought our own things so there wasn’t any confusion and there were no issues with money or who owed whom.

I think overall the best things for me were to find quality roommates you get along with, tour the places you’re interested in and ask questions, establish rules for things that affect everyone like cleaning and other chores, and have a plan to budget for food and groceries.

Troy D’Souza is studying journalism at the University of Missouri.