As a new graduate student, choosing which school you want to attend and accepting their offer is just the first of a series of decisions you need to make. I personally love moving and house/apartment hunting, but most people find it more stressful than fun. Since moving to Ann Arbor, I have navigated both the apartment and rental house markets. From this process, I have learned some tips and found resources that make moving much easier. In this post, I will detail a few pointers you should know before renting in Ann Arbor, as well as my three favorite websites for finding the perfect living arrangements.
First, what should you consider before apartment/house hunting?
1. When do you need to move in? Once you know what date you want the keys to your new place, plan to be looking for places at least three months prior to that. Many apartment complexes in Ann Arbor pre-lease. This means you have to be placed on a waiting list for an apartment whose lease starts at your preferred moving time. The earlier you are placed on that list, the more likely you are to get the exact apartment you want on the moving day you want. However, if you want to rent a house, this market works completely differently. In Ann Arbor, most houses listed for rent are immediately available, so landlords are looking for someone who can move in within days of its online posting. If this is the route you want to go, it is a good idea to have a standard rental application already filled out, references ready, and your credit report printed so you can give the landlord everything they need to know about you as a tenant at the get-go.
2. How are you going to get to work? Parking on campus is rather difficult. There are student lots available, but they require that you pay for a parking pass. Additionally, these lots are not conveniently located to main campus areas where your building may be. Luckily, the public transportation in Ann Arbor is pretty darn good. City buses are free if you use your student ID, and there are tracking apps to determine exactly when your bus will arrive. Thus, it may be important to find a rental either within walking distance to your campus building or that’s near a convenient bus line. Luckily, there are dozens of city bus lines that go right to central campus, the hospital, and north campus.
3. Do you have or want to have pets? There are a lot of apartments and houses that allow small pets and up to two cats. There are about half as many that allow dogs. There are even fewer that allow multiple dogs, and even fewer yet that allow dogs over 50lbs. Most apartments will also have breed restrictions, which makes it very difficult if you have a breed which falls on that list. Thus if you have, or want to have, pets, you will need to look for a rental early, as your choices are limited. Moving to Ann Arbor with one cat and a 55lb dog was simple enough for me because I looked at places and got on a waitlist 4 months before my desired move-in date. It’s definitely doable to find a nice place close to campus that will allow your pets. (If you have your pet for service or support reasons, with the proper documentation, no rental property can turn you away regardless of their pet policies.)
4. What is your budget? It’s pretty obvious that you need to choose a rental whose rent is within your budget, but also be sure to ask what utilities (if any) are included in that rent. Also ask if there are any additional fees, like pet fees or parking fees. I always suggest choosing a place that includes heat in your rent because the winters here are long and cold. If heat is included at a flat rate, you can keep your apartment as cozy as you want without having to worry about an expensive bill at the end of the month. If you don’t think you can afford to live in your own apartment, there are a lot of resources to find roommates, including the university’s off campus housing site.
So, now that you have all of your needs and wants figured out, what are some good websites for finding your new place?
1. For apartments: While there are many options online, my favorite website is apartments.com, which shows apartments from all of the different rental companies in Ann Arbor and surrounding areas. The website has a lot of filters so you can choose exactly what you want in your future home and see only the results that match. You can look at images of the apartments and the community, as well as floor plans. Sometimes you can even take virtual tours of different available options. The website tells you whether the apartments include utilities, have extra fees, or provide extra services. This is an excellent first place to look.
2. For houses: It may seem weird to look for a house for graduate school, but they are actually very common and affordable options if you have friends or partners to share with. My favorite website for this is Trulia. It works similarly to apartments.com because you can specify exactly what you want in a house, and it will show you the results that match your criteria. The website often has many pictures of the house and its interior, as well as descriptions of the floor plan and square footage. You can also contact the landlord directly and submit rental applications through the website. While there are many house-related websites, I’ve found that Trulia is the most up-to-date.
3. For either: Lastly, the University of Michigan has options for graduate student housing, and a website that is useful for finding off-campus housing. These are excellent websites if being very close to campus is important to you, and the rentals they list are often accustomed to working with graduate students from U-M. These are also sites that you can use to find roommates if that is something you want or need.
I hope this post will help you navigate the rental market of Ann Arbor and surrounding areas and make your moving experience more fun!