Around 38 percent of undergraduates lived off campus last fall, according to Penn’s Office of Institutional Research and Analysis. For many of these students, questions arise during the search for off-campus housing.

Off-Campus Services, a branch of Penn’s Business Services division, serves as a resource for students who are considering living off campus. The office educates students on neighborhoods, average rent and other basic information, Off-Campus and Customer Services Manager Peter Gemmellaro said.

The office can also educate students on signing leases, Business Services Senior Associate Director Nancy McCue said. Many leases last for 12 months, although students may only be at Penn for nine.

In addition to answering students’ questions during business hours, the Off-Campus Services website contains a database of rental listings and holds information sessions at college houses.

Gemmellaro explained the overwhelming question of “how do I begin?” that he faced when he first began the housing search process after graduating from college. “I don’t want students here at Penn to feel the same way.”

Off-Campus Services helps students with “where to begin the search,” he said.

“I think off-campus living is very, very different than living on campus,” Gemmellaro said. “It requires a certain level of responsibility and maturity because you’re responsible for your own living environment.”

One of these differences includes living in a community not just of Penn undergraduates, but of families, graduate students and faculty members, McCue said.

“We want students to really … get educated about the decision,” Business Services spokesperson Barbara Lea-Kruger said, adding “that’s what Off-Campus Services can help them with.”

Penn does not issue recommendations for students to live on or off campus. “We remain fairly neutral on that ground,” Gemmellaro said. “We’re really set up to help them with whatever their option is.”

Although the office does not endorse any specific landlords, realtors or management companies, a landlord survey conducted by the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly rated Chancellor Associates, Rittenhouse Management Corporation, Westminster Associates and the International House as “excellent.” Campus Apartments and University Enterprises received “average” and “fair” ratings, respectively.

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