As an unprecedented number of students were placed on the Penn Residential Services waitlist for on-campus housing, The Daily Pennsylvanian asked four current seniors what they wished they knew before living off-campus.
Under a policy implemented for the Class of 2024, all undergraduate students are required to live on-campus for four semesters. Seniors offered advice ranging from researching amenities to having conversations with past tenants.
Wharton senior Gabi Garity – who currently lives near 40th and Locust Streets – suggested calling Philadelphia housing companies in University City and asking to be put on their email lists. From there, she recommended looking for available listings and tour the ones near campus.
Garity suggested that students searching for housing keep their options open and begin the process early.
“Don’t just fall in love with one place and immediately take it, because you can probably get better value for your money if you look at different options,” Garity said. “Doing so will also give buyers a better sense of rent prices in the area, preventing them from being ripped off at any one place.”
Similarly, College senior Sena Kim – who lives in Evo on 30th and Chestnut Streets – highly advised touring the area beforehand to better understand the dimensions of the room. His process of finding housing was largely through other friends or upperclassmen.
“I learned of average prices of different locations, and that let me create my own ‘database’ of reference points that I utilized,” Kim said. “A red flag is definitely if they don’t have a good review.”
College senior Michael Tu – a resident of Chestnut Hall, located at 39th and Chestnut Streets – also suggested talking with graduating students to pick up their leases, as buyers will often be able to get credit towards rent. He stated that various GroupMe groups or community Slack channels often contain announcements about upperclassmen looking to pass down leases.
Tu also said that — while apartments tend to be cheaper if they are from campus — areas closer to campus tend to be safer. While he also said that houses are a viable option, he said that they are more difficult to rent due to a need for larger housing groups.
Tu also emphasized the importance of setting expectations correctly while trying to get a good deal.
“It’s pretty difficult if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for and aren’t completely aligned with your friends,” Tu said.
Tu also mentioned that he wished he had paid more attention to utility costs during his housing search. He recommended asking about expected additional costs beyond the listing price, as well as complimentary amenities.
Wharton senior Blake Han – who lives on Chestnut St. – advocated for reading online reviews and talking to previous residents. Han’s search began in August, and he secured housing five days later — a process which he said worked for him, though it didn’t leave much time for negotiation.
“For certain people, this [experience] wouldn’t necessarily be the case. They might need more time to pick an apartment,” Han said.
In addition to talking with current students living off-campus, the seniors recommended selecting housing within previously popular college student residences. These buildings include Chestnut Hall, Hamilton Court Apartments, 3737 Chestnut, and the Hub on Chestnut.