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Friday, December 08, 2023 — Houston, TX

Housing guide: How to get a house

Illustrated by Katherine Hu

By Anna Ta     2/26/20 12:14am

Congrats! You’re going off campus! Even if you’re not actually amped about this decision (or had the choice taken from you), look on the bright side: it’s (likely) cheaper, you’ll actually get to know the city you’ve been living in and no one will ever declare a fire drill, come into your house and throw out your candles. 

Nevertheless, this can be a daunting journey (it was for me) so here’s how to get through it all without a real estate agent and not end up moving into a spare room at Hanszen College. 

one. finding prospective housing

Once you figure out who you’re living with (do this first for obvious reasons), start looking for potential properties that can fit all of your needs and hearts’ desires. One of the easiest ways to get housing is to get it from another Rice student who’s already off campus and about to come back on campus. Ask around and see if any of your friends (advisors, acquaintances, that kid you had a group project with one time) who are currently off campus and see if they need someone to take over their lease or know of anyone who does. Almost all rentable properties around Rice are typically rented by Rice students anyway. Even if you don’t know someone personally, plenty of people post options on the Facebook groups Rice Students Selling Stuff or Rice University Housing, Sublets & Roommates. Keep in mind that if you had dreamed of taking one of the extra large Bolsover Street houses, you’re actually likely too late to the game. Most of those houses will probably have already been handed down from current residents to their friends for next year. But again, don’t stress, there’s still plenty of housing to go around. 

If no one you know has an available property that you’re interested in leasing for the next year, your next steps are just doing things the old-fashioned way: checking on real estate websites (Zillow, for example). You can also look up nearby apartment complexes. Some places go actually old fashioned and don’t list online at all — you can drive around neighborhoods you’re interested in renting in and look for For Rent signs and the numbers attached to them as well. 

Things to keep in mind:

  • Rent: Is it affordable? Is it worth it? How will I split it among my room/housemates?
  • Space: Do I want to live in a house or an apartment complex? Are there enough rooms? Will anyone in my group have to share a room and is that something we’re okay with?
  • Parking: how many spots do I get? Is it street parking or private? Do I need to pay for a street pass or does my landlord? (PS: street passes are only about $30 each for an entire year in Houston)
  • Utilities: Are they included? Do I need to set them up myself?
  • Is this place furnished?
  • How far away is it from campus? How will I get to campus?
  • Is there an in unit washer/dryer? If not, how annoying is it to get there and will it cost money?

two. I’m interested in this house. now what?

Cold call the real estate agents listed on properties you’re interested in. For most socially anxious people, this is objectively the worst part of the process (except for the crushing fear that you will never find a house and you will be forced to live in your residential college’s basement for the next year). But don’t worry — just let them know you’re interested in the property and ask to make an appointment to see it. Make sure to show up on time and try to look fairly respectable. At the appointment, just look around the space, imagine yourself in it and ask any questions you have, like, is this place prone to flooding? Did it flood during Harvey? What’s the parking situation? How can I start the process of applying for this property and signing a lease? Do I need someone to co-sign it with me? 

Hopefully, the real estate agent likes you, you get there before any other interested groups and they agree to lease the property to you. You might have to go through a few properties before you can get to this stage. You may have to submit an application for the property, but the property’s real estate agent can walk you through that. In my case, the agent/landlord agreed to lease the house to us only if one of my housemates’ dad co-signed our lease (given that none of us made enough income to cover the rent individually). 

Before you sign the lease, have someone you trust look over it all, whether that be a parent or someone with an actual law degree. There are plenty of concerns to watch out for (read our interview with someone with an actual law degree about these concerns) and it’s important to remember that this is an extremely important document for the next year of your life. 

Again, you might have to see several properties or cold call a few agents before you find The One. Don’t stress too much, it’ll all work out. And worst comes to worst, you can always move into Hanszen.

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