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If you’re number 119 on the waitlist for fall housing and the Housing Assignments office says it “doesn’t prefer to use the word ‘guarantee,’” then perhaps it’s time for you to start looking off campus.

Oh, did I mention it’s now the first week in August? And it’s a shame that all of your friends already have their own housing figured out with no room for you. Good luck!

But don’t worry — I was there this past summer and made it work. When my only option seemed to be living with Mom and Dad in the ‘burbs and earning “regular” status on the SEPTA R5, I became my own personal real estate agent.

It’s not so difficult to navigate the West Philadelphia housing options. Here is how I did it in five steps:

1. Ask your friends where the best apartments are. The Radian, Domus, the Hub and Chestnut Hall are probably the answers you’ll get. Keep a list of potential options.

2. Now it’s time to schedule appointments and tours with the leasing agents at all of the best locations. Get the low-down on amenities and rents. Rank the apartments in order of your favorites. Go ahead and collect the agents’ business cards — but you won’t need them.

3. Prepare to stalk Craigslist, Facebook and Van Pelt bathroom stalls. Your best option is going to be subletting for a semester or a year while someone goes abroad or takes a leave of absence. You can find students posting ads on the Internet and around campus pretty easily. Searching “Radian” on Craiglist near the end of the summer will yield you some good options in addition to sending out messages on Facebook. Also, many students will post flyers, particularly in Van Pelt. And don’t forget the classified section on!

4. Meet the potential roomies. Make sure to arrange a meeting with as many of the roommates as possible and see the apartment before you make any commitments.

5. Never pay full price. As a subletter, you can get great deals out of other people’s desperate situations. The apartment’s student owner is in the same boat as you and just wants to get rid of an unnecessary expense.

Follow these steps and you could have a great living situation like mine: I have my own bedroom in a four-bedroom, two-bath apartment with kitchen, living room and all amenities included for $800 per month. It’s cheaper than on-campus housing or signing a year-long lease at full price. Plus, my roommates are much cooler than the random person I might have ended up with.

See more articles in our off-campus guide here or return to the Housing Guide home page

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