Everyone at Binghamton University knows fall semester comes with the inevitable stress of finding housing for the following school year. With the on-campus housing deadline approaching in mid-November, we’re forced to figure out where we’re living for the following year before we’ve even taken midterms.

If you’re a freshman, you’ll probably choose to live on campus again next year. That in itself is stressful, since you may have not had a chance to meet a concrete friend group or choose the community you want to live in.

On the other hand, if you decide to join the nearly 9,000 other students who live off campus, a new set of challenges presents itself: You have to figure out who you’re living with, if you want to live in a house, apartment or luxury apartment building, if your potential landlord is trustworthy and if your lease is fair. If you’re a transfer student, you’re barely accustomed to the University, and you have to almost immediately search for a place to live in city you don’t know yet.

It can be incredibly hard to figure all of this out when you’re adjusting to a new school year since there are so many different options from which to choose, and it can feel overwhelming to weigh every option that fits within the timeline the University creates. But, the Editorial Board hopes that you stop to consider the weight of signing a lease and committing to the legal document that determines your living situation; once it’s signed, there’s an extremely restrictive chance to go back on it. We encourage you to use the free resources the University provides in the Off Campus College website along with ones the City of Binghamton does, and hopefully your housing process can be as smooth as possible.

It might seem easier to just sign a lease for the first place you see, but patience is key. A lot of people don’t realize the seriousness of the legal document; when you sign one, you’re committing to live in a place you might not see again for almost a year until you move in. Anything can change over the course of a year and you could end up with a place you didn’t initially sign up for.

The first step is to research your potential landlord or property management company. Keep in mind that the person who shows you the property can and will say anything to get you to sign a lease. A simple Google search should provide you with reviews of the landlord or management company. Take these reviews seriously. There are other landlord registry websites provided by the University that can assist you in your search.

Use your judgment and common sense — you wouldn’t eat at a restaurant that has terrible reviews or failed a health inspection, so don’t sign a lease with a company that doesn’t have positive reviews and legitimate credentials. Don’t let anyone pressure you into making a decision before you have had the chance to do your research.

Take advantage of the City of Binghamton’s free code inspections as well. It’s better to discover a moldy basement or a leaky ceiling before you sign than after you’re forced to live there.

Once you’ve decided on a landlord to sign with, be sure to thoroughly read your lease. It’s best to have a lawyer read it before signing, and the University even offers legal services to students. Take advantage of these services and ask any legal questions you might have. Not many students know that it’s possible to add clauses into your lease to make it more fair and balanced, and this is something with which the University’s legal services can help. Off Campus College also provides a sample lease on their website to compare to the one you might sign.

Finding a place to live off campus has the potential to be a nightmare, and we wish that the University’s housing deadline were later so students would have more time to find the most ideal place to live. However, we must work with what we have. If you do your homework, you can hopefully find a safe place to call home.

Here are some links to check out to help you with your search:

Off-campus housing database

Off-campus housing forms

Who’s your landlord?

Legal services

City of Binghamton housing and property maintenance codes