How to Find Housing in the USA: A Practical Guide

For hours, I stared at my computer screen, dozens of websites open and bookmarked. I knew I was moving to San Francisco, but I didn’t know where, or when, or who I would live with once I arrived. I was frantically trying to find roommates and apartments, researching every detail.

Finding housing can sometimes be stressful, even scary. Especially when you are trying to find a place while in a different country! But, in my experience, everything usually works out just fine.

And I have a lot of experience. In fact, in the past 8 years, I have moved 10 times! I have been fortunate in all the places I have lived to experience good neighborhoods with great people. I hope that as you begin your search, you are as blessed as I have been. So here are a few tips as you navigate the internet in hopes of finding the perfect place to live while you study in the U.S.

Top Tips For Finding Housing in the U.S.

Start looking as soon as possible. Fall might seem far away, but it will come quicker than you think. Most students look for housing during the Spring Semester, which means you will have fewer choices.

Start by finding your university on Google Maps. Explore the surrounding neighborhoods. If you will not have a car during your time in America, look for public transportation routes that will take you to campus and other convenient locations like grocery stores.

On Campus or Off Campus? The first thing to decide is if you want to live on or off campus. Many universities offer dormitories for international students. Living on campus can be very convenient, and easier than finding an apartment nearby. But sometimes it might be more costly than living off campus. Also, not every school has space available for all students.

Use Facebook (or other social media) After you’ve done some research, it is time to try to find roommates. Roommates are a great way to lower your cost of living while studying in the States. You will be able to split rent and other bills to save money. Use social media to reach out to people who might be able to connect you to their friends in America.

You can also use Facebook to connect to different groups that can help you. Most schools have Facebook groups dedicated to helping students find roommates and housing. Try searching the name of your school with the word “housing” at the end to see if you can find a group. This is a great way to connect with others that will be students at the same school.

If you are coming to America through an exchange program, reach out to others in your program to see if anyone is interested in living together.

Be prepared before you sign a contract. Once you have found roommates, you can start finding a house or apartment near campus! There are many different websites you can use to find housing that is available. However, it is important to be cautious about giving away personal information or money. If possible, have a friend look at the place before you agree to sign a lease. Ask for pictures or proof that the person you are talking to has the right to rent out the property.

Here are a few other important questions to ask:

  • How long is the rental agreement? A rental agreement can last one month, while a lease usually lasts six to twelve months. Ask how many months the lease lasts, and make sure you can commit.
  • How is rent paid every month? Some people like to receive checks, others accept cards.
  • Are utilities included? It is important to find out if the rent includes the cost of the water, energy, and internet.
  • Is the deposit refundable? Most landlord will ask for a security deposit to pay for any damages that might happen.

Generally, landlords will want a few documents from you to ensure that you will be able to pay the rent on time. Don’t be surprised if potential landlords ask for personal information. Be prepared to give your landlord copies of your passport, an acceptance letter from the school and proof that you are able to pay your rent.

Relax! My last tip is to relax. Finding housing can be stressful, but worrying isn’t going to solve the problem. Jesus once said: “Can you add even one hour to your life by worrying?”

Good luck! May God bless your new home!


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