There’s a bunch of different ways to look for housing in the area! Ask around, see if any of your friends knows of a place. Explore Bellingham neighborhoods and keep a look out for rental signs. Here are some links that might aid you in your search for a new place to live:
Certain times of the year are better for looking for a place to live. For instance, it’s much easier to find a place in the spring or fall, because other people are also getting ready to move out. It’s best to start out around 9-6 months ahead of when you want to move.
Almost every residential lease in Bellingham expires at some point between late May and September. With the ebb and flow of college students, many renters want to lock in their new apartment before the summer kicks off. Many rental agencies in Bellingham begin pre-leasing in February/March/April for houses/apartments available in Fall. Expect your landlord or property management company to contact you months before your lease is up (it can be as early as late winter or spring) to see if you are going to renew your lease.
THINK ABOUT YOUR COMMUTE
How long does it take to get to school from the place you are looking at? Is it important to you to walk or to be able to take the bus of bike? Where are the closest grocery stores in the neighborhood? Do you own a car? You may need to pay for parking spaces at your place of residence and at your school.
We’ve all been there. You’re out of town, or don’t have time to see a place and so you feel like you should just sign the lease so that you have a place to live. Make sure you see the place before you sign the lease, so you know that it’s safe. Don’t give any deposit or money until you’ve seen the property, and always be sure to get a receipt for payment. Make time to check out the rental and talk with your landlord about utilities, appliances, and the lease. Make a “must have” list or a “no budge” list; what can you live with and what would make a place unlivable? Everyone’s needs are a little different; if you have concerns about the rental property, make sure to ask your property manager or landlord about the issues that are important to YOU and your housemates BEFORE you move in or sign the lease.
Calculate your budget out including rent, utilities, tuition, and food expenses.
Set up a meeting and talk with your roommates about who will be paying for which utility. Make sure you understand the responsibility involved and can afford to pay the whole bill, not just part of it.
CHECK OUT THE NEIGHBORHOOD
Walk around the neighborhood and see how you feel. What is it like midday versus night? What are the noise levels like, is it a party spot or is it a family spot? What is the parking situation like? Is there a bus stop nearby?
TAKE YOUR TIME
While it’s easy to feel excited and rushed when you’re touring a rental, the most important thing is to TAKE YOUR TIME! The initial tour is often the only time that you’ll be able to look at a rental before you sign the lease, and so make sure that you’re asking yourself questions like:
- What shape is the house in/appliances/laundry, exits?
- Are utilities included?
- What is the damage/cleaning deposit?
IS THE PLACE REGISTERED?
All rental units are required to be registered with the City of Bellingham’s Rental Registration and Safety Inspection Program. The landlord is required to post their certificate of registration or to put it in the lease. Make sure to ask your landlord if they are registered BEFORE you sign. If the place is not registered then it is probably not safe!