Are you a junior or senior looking to make a move off campus? Do you have a couple of friends thinking the same thing? Moving off campus can be a daunting task and a stressful one.

As a commuter who’s been renting a house off campus since the summer before my junior year, let me offer some pointers and valuable information about moving into your own place. 

Finding Your People

Your first task may be the most challenging: finding some friends to join you. I say “challenging” not because friends are hard to find, but because they must fulfill certain criteria. They must be willing to go off campus, be eligible, by George Fox’s standards, to move off campus (I’ll get to that later), and be willing to spend the next one to two years with you. 

Keep in mind that if you succeed in finding a house, you’ll be signing a lease with these people that may incur a penalty if you cancel. I moved off campus with five guys – one I had known for five years, another two for two years, and the last two for only one year – and even our group had to find a replacement after one year in the house. Pick people you know well and trust. The more cohesive and tight-knit your group, the better. 

Time for the “I’ll get to that later” part. If you’re a current on-campus student, there are some stipulations to meet to be eligible to move off campus. You must fulfill one of these requirements to become a commuter, according to George Fox.

Visit this Living Off Campus page to learn more.

Keep in mind that both you and all of your friends will have to fill one of these requirements as well. As a result, the most feasible time to move off campus is immediately after your sophomore year and prior to your junior year. 

When you enroll for junior year, in this case, you will also have to declare your intent to be off campus in your yearly housing form. Your whole group will need to do this.

Note: There are instances when you can move off campus even if you’re not eligible based on any of these criteria. You can submit an Off Campus Housing Petition to apply for an exemption from the requirements. However, the George Fox site says that these “petitions are for students facing significant financial difficulty, and most requests that fall outside of university policy are not considered,” so make sure you do not send these petitions without special circumstances that would be helped by moving off campus.

As an example, I have a friend who has acute celiac disease and is extremely allergic to gluten. He applied to move off campus after our freshman year to improve his health and safety.  

Finding a House

The hardest and most anxiety-inducing part of moving off campus is finding a house. There’s dozens of factors to figure out before even looking at listings. Here are a few questions to take into consideration:

I could write out a whole page of questions just like these. But your group will have to discuss all of these before starting to look for a house, because, while the perfect house may not exist, you will need to be aware of the acceptable range the group is looking for. You’re aiming for an experience that is less restrictive, less costly and/or more comfortable than the dorms, because why do it if it's not an improvement?

Once you’ve determined the distance from campus, cost and size of house you want, you’re ready to take on the next set of issues. Firstly, landlords are typically hesitant to rent to college students, especially if you’re only planning to live in that house for a year. And secondly, the majority of houses enter the market during the summer when school is closed and everyone in your group may be scattered across the country. 

Both of these problems can be solved by finding a landlord who wants to or already rents to college students. The ideal scenario is finding a group of seniors who are graduating in the spring and moving out soon after (early May would be preferable). That way the landlord is incentivized to rent to you so he or she doesn’t have to look for someone to take over the house and you can move your stuff in directly from the dorms. You might even be able to get furniture, like desks, beds, tables and couches, from the previous tenants. 

Note: George Fox provides a variety of resources for students looking for houses to rent. They are listed in full detail on the Off-Campus Housing page

So, if you’re thinking of moving off campus, start hunting down seniors who commute and see if you can take over their house after they graduate. If you start renting in spring, you will most assuredly have to pay rent all summer, even if you are not living there. Renting is not like a hotel, when you only pay for the days you’re going to be there. You are agreeing to pay a certain amount every month, to the day, for the length of your lease, not your stay. You could decide to spend a semester abroad and still have to pay rent if you signed a lease.

Rent will most likely be around $2,000 to $3,500 a month depending on the house and its square footage.

Payment Strategies

There are ways to decrease the amount you pay each month. Firstly, If you can split a $2,500 rent payment between five roommates, you’re each only paying $500 a month. That can go down further the more people you have in your house. This is where the benefits of finding your group come in.

The second way is to negotiate for a lower rent payment with your landlord in exchange for something he or she would want. Most likely this would extend the length of your lease to multiple years (from one to two). By saving your landlord the cost of finding new tenants next year, he or she may be willing to lower your rent. 

The last way is one I would be hesitant to recommend. Most houses have a master bedroom and then smaller rooms, rarely having a set of multiple equally sized rooms like a dorm. Your group could agree that whoever gets the best room in the house (the master bedroom) pays slightly more per month than everyone else, lowering rent for the rest of the group while maintaining the same total monthly payment.

I dislike this solution personally, but, if the house you’re going to be renting has unequal rooms, it’s a feasible way to address problems that might arise because of it. 

Overall, a good practice prior to reaching out to a landlord is to talk with a commuter about their experience renting. Ask them for advice, how their experience getting off campus went, or what's living in their own house like. That will help you gain a more well-rounded understanding of what you’re about to embark on (since this guide is written from my own experience, others may have had a worse or better time of it). 

Living in Your House

Living off campus in a house you are paying for with no rules besides your own can be an incredibly freeing experience. However, you should not think that there are no responsibilities because, while you don’t have an RA to enforce rules like quiet hours, you still need to be mindful of your housemates’ needs and the responsibilities that come with living on your own. 

By moving off campus, you’ve traded RAs and building curfews for very similar chores to what you do at home. The trash will need to go out, the dishes need to be done, carpets will need to be vacuumed, and bathrooms scrubbed. Unless you hire a service to do it for you, your group will need to maintain the house you’re all living in. 

The best method I’ve found for this is a chore chart. While structureless equal responsibility for all tasks sounds great, the truth of the matter is that people use different things unequally. One of your roommates might use six plates a day and another might eat chips in the front room and fill the carpet with crumbs. And others might just be busy one day and can’t do the dishes because they’re swamped with final projects.

The method I’d suggest applying is that one person take the responsibility of creating the chore chart and everyone in your group gives them the two or so days that they have the lightest workload or spend the most time at home. Then one to two people should be assigned a day where they are responsible for what chores need to be done that day.

For example, on Wednesdays, one roommate could take out the trash and the cans to the curb and another could wash the dishes and run the dishwasher. Try to keep responsibilities as well defined as possible so that everyone knows what's required of them.  

While this is what I would suggest doing, it's not going to be a cure-all for any chore-based problems in your house. No two groups will be the same, and you should work toward a solution that everyone can agree with. 

In short, communication is key. 

You don’t want to force a solution or responsibility onto anyone; that will only cause problems. Try to find what works for everyone in your house or at least functions moderately well. Not everything will have a perfect solution. 

Final Thoughts

While I could never fully cover everything I think you might need to know about moving off campus, I believe this post is a good starting point for someone considering making the move. Keep in mind that, no matter how hard you try, it won’t be perfect. Something will go wrong, certain things will be difficult, and problems will occur. 

The best thing you can do is approach each problem with a desire for peace and camaraderie in your house.  

Good luck! Now start hunting for your group.

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