Meg Loughman / Gavel Media

To Sign Or Not To Sign: A Guide To Off-Campus Housing

'Tis the season for the sophomore housing scramble.

For many, this is the time of year when eager sophomores race to sign their name on the dotted line for a slew of dilapidated off campus houses. Anxiety has already begun to mount—if you don’t get your group together and sign right now then you’re at risk of missing out on one of the coveted party houses, complete with an unfinished basement and a guaranteed spot on Boston Police’s radar. Even worse, if you don’t sign now you could end up missing out on getting a house altogether, damning you to the off campus version of Greycliff: an apartment.

Hopefully this article will help to calm some of you and make you think twice before making the same mistakes that sophomores in your position have made for years, myself included.

For starters, take a deep breath. The notion that you need to have your group set and ready to sign by July or August or you won’t have anywhere to live isn’t true. According to an Office of Residential Life survey, only 14.2% of students signed their lease a year in advance. Conversely, a whopping 59.2% of students who were surveyed signed their lease in the Spring or Summer before their lease started.

Of the houses that fall into that 14.2%, most, if not all, are the notorious party houses. If your group wants to be one of the party houses, then, by all means, sign that lease. But before you do so, take a few words of advice from those who have been through the process already.

People always say the house you party at isn’t the house you want to live in. That statement holds some truth—the house will be a mess more often than not, there will always be people you don’t know in your house at your parties. If your group isn’t prepared to handle the responsibilities that come with a party house, don’t rent it.

Arguably more important is something that I hadn’t considered but was told on the day I moved in by a burly Boston bike cop: “When you rent the house, you rent the reputation.”

“These boys last year had a bad reputation, so keep that in mind,” he said. The moral of the story is that someone will always throw a party, so have an honest conversation in your group about whether you want that to be you.

Another point of contention is pricing, and a more expensive house is by no means a better house. That same Office of Residential Life survey found that 65% of students surveyed in the Spring of 2017 were found to be paying anywhere between $700 and $1,000 per month. So, if you find a place you like on the lower end of that price point, take it. But if you find yourself paying more than a grand per month, either you need some more roommates to help cut the cost, or you might’ve gone the wrong way and rented in Newton instead of Brookline. If you’re working with a smaller group, there are spacious apartments all around the area that are almost always cheaper than a house.

Finally, a few tips directly from the Office of Residential Life. Finalize your junior year plans, as lots of things can change between now and then, whether that be the going abroad, friend groups, housing appeals, or leaves of absence. Solidify your group and have open and honest conversations about lifestyle expectations, abroad plans, expenses, and types of housing. Do not sign a lease until your group is comfortable and you have gone to see the apartment or house yourself.

Last but not least, don’t stress out—whether you end up living on- or off-campus, in a house or in an apartment, it will still be in your hands to make the most of your third year at BC.

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