For many Binghamton University students, hunting for off-campus housing is a hassle, especially if it’s your first time. It can be tough to navigate both the city of Binghamton and the housing process if you don’t know where to start. One of the main aspects of off-campus housing is signing a lease — an agreement between you and your landlord to live in the allotted property for an agreed upon period of time. Some landlords may try and take advantage of unsuspecting students, so here’s a list of things to keep in mind before signing your lease.

1. Know what’s included in your rent

Some properties will include the cost of utilities in the rent payment, while others may not. Utilities can cover a variety of things — water, gas, electricity, sewer and trash services, so make sure you know what you’re responsible for. Make sure to check if Wi-Fi is included in your rent. Some properties come with appliances, like microwaves and refrigerators, so you don’t have to worry about bringing those items from home.

2. Amenities

For students without cars, make sure the property is a walkable distance to the nearest Broome County Transit or Off Campus College Transport (OCCT) bus stop — and know the schedules. If you have a car, look for a house or apartment that comes with a garage, driveway or accessible street parking. Students that ride bicycles should look for a bike rack nearby. For laundry, make sure an in-unit washer and dryer is included or that there is a laundromat nearby. Some popular student housing complexes, like UClub and Twin River Commons, cater their amenities — including private gyms, outdoor spaces and study lounges for the student population.

3. Inspect your property

Tour the property and document any damages throughout. Communicate them to your landlord with a paper trail, in order to retain your security deposit, as landlords can charge you for damages at the end of your lease period. Common things to look out for include mold, broken appliances and damaged walls.

4. Be willing to compromise

Be specific with what you need because it might be difficult to find the perfect home with a long list of wants, especially if you’re on a tight budget. Having multiple roommates can help ease costs and make finding off-campus housing easier. Know what you value and stick to it — maybe you don’t need that at-home pinball machine.

5. Location Location Location

Be mindful about where you’re looking for housing. Some areas of Binghamton are more saturated with students than others, so if that’s a priority, look in Downtown Binghamton or on the West Side. Take your safety into account by making sure you feel comfortable with where you want to live. If you enjoy sampling restaurants or shopping Downtown, look for a house or apartment that’s near a commercial district or has an easy bus route there.

6. Ask Questions

Landlords may not list everything you want to know online, so ask questions about the property guidelines, important dates or any hypothetical situations. Some helpful questions to ask are “when is rent due?” or “how soon will repairs be made?” Asking questions helps you familiarize yourself with the home and landlord, so you know what to expect.

The biggest tip for off-campus housing? Start looking for places to rent now! The longer you wait, the more limited your options can be. Make sure you have a solid group of roommates who know how much they are willing to pay and be prepared to pay a security deposit and the first month’s rent when you officially sign the lease. Good luck with the housing process!