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If a student is thinking about adding a furry friend in the upcoming year, they need to make sure to check with the complex on its pet policy.

It’s that time of year again — the time when local off-campus housing complexes pounce on students to get them to start signing leases for the following school year. It can be a stressful time for those trying to figure out where to live and who to live with. These are some helpful tips to keep in mind when deciding where to live.  

1. Number of rooms 

The number of rooms a student desires could affect which housing complexes to tour. Most complexes offer four or fewer rooms. It’s important to keep in mind that the fewer roommates one has, the more expensive rent may be. If a student wants to room with more than four people, they should look at houses in downtown Harrisonburg.

2. Partying and proximity to campus 

While the city of Harrisonburg might not feel too big, when it comes to making it to an 8 a.m. class, living further down Port Republic can be an inconvenience. Proximity to campus may also affect the number of parties thrown in a complex. If noise is an issue, places like Forest Hills won’t be a good fit.

3. Pets 

Freshman year is sadly deprived of any pets in the dorm, except for the occasional betta fish. If a student is thinking about adding a furry friend in the upcoming year, they need to make sure to check with the complex on its pet policy. Some complexes charge an additional deposit for pets, and others don’t allow pets at all. 

4. Co-signer

When signing a lease, an important thing to consider is who to ask to be your co-signer or guarantor. A co-signer is another person who signs the lease and takes responsibility for payments to the complex in the event that the student on the lease doesn’t pay the rent. Leasing offices will require students to have a co-signer to protect themselves from losing money. A good person to ask to be a co-signer is a parent or relative. 

5. Furnishings

Many complexes like Pheasant Run Townhomes and Mountain View Heights come already furnished with the basics like couches, dressers and bed frames. Places available downtown — like 61 Court Square — rarely come furnished. It all depends on how much money a student is willing to pay for extra furniture. Places with furniture are generally more expensive than those without.

6. Security deposit  

A great place to do research on security deposits is the JMU Parents Off-Campus Housing Forum. Parents create detailed posts outlining their experience with a certain complex. If one searches the name of a complex, there will be dozens of posts explaining security deposits for various complexes and how much one received back at the end of the year. Some complexes have a reputation for being picky about the condition rooms are left in. Additionally, some complexes may take out community fees for the use of a pool or clubhouse.

7. Sublets

On occasion, some students will change their mind about JMU and decide it’s no longer a good fit for them, or they might decide to study abroad or take a semester off. In these cases, former students who have already signed a year-long lease may attempt to sublet their room. This process involves another student living in the room instead and making payments to the former student. The lease is still in the former student’s name, so exercise caution when dealing with sublets. 

8. Roommates 

Who a student decides to live with can be one of the most important decisions they will make, since roommates can make or break a living situation. Even if one lives in the nicest apartment in Harrisonburg, it’ll feel terrible when paired with the wrong people. Don’t rush this process because things could drastically change between friends by the end of the year.  

9. Visitor parking 

Say a student wants a friend to come to JMU for a visit. Most complexes require a parking pass for residents, which puts visitors in a pickle. Take note of how many visitor spaces a complex has, or ask the leasing office what the policy is for visitors.

Overall, an important thing to remember is not to stress about signing a lease right away. There will always be opportunities throughout the school year and summer to find the perfect home.  

Allison Baxter is junior media arts & design and communication studies double major. Contact Allison at baxte2ae@dukes.jmu.edu.