Off Campus Living Guide
This page is to be used as guide to help you make the best decisions if you choose to live off-campus.
Please note that Sul Ross has a 2 year live on-campus requirement. Without a written appeal from Residential Living you cannot live off-campus until you have spent 4 long semesters (2 fall and 2 spring semesters) in housing or turn 21 years old.
How much does it cost to live off campus?
While living off-campus might initially seem cheaper, there are many unexpected expenses that are easily overlooked. Your choice of off-campus housing has an impact on your upfront and continuing expenses. Here are some aspects to think about before making the decision to live off campus.
These upfront costs are expenses that must be incurred before a student can move into a rental property that are frequently overlooked/underestimated by students.
- Furniture: Unlike on-campus housing, most off-campus accommodations are not fully furnished at move in. If your desired rental property is fully furnished then that additional expense on the part of the landlord is passed on to you. While this furniture list is not comprehensive, it is based on what is currently supplied in our on-campus housing.
- Mattress with frame (between $200-800 depending on size and type of mattress.)
- Coffee table
- Entertainment center
- Table with chairs
- End table(s)
- Desk chair
- Desk lamp
Please note that garage sales and thrift stores do not keep regular inventory so furniture will be available sporadically.
- Cooking appliances and eating utensils: Most likely your rental property will require you to buy the following:
- Full-size refrigerator (Most in town have these but please check before signing a lease)
- Pots & pans
- Flatware (knives, forks, spoons)
- Cooking utensils
- Cookie sheet
- Plates, cups, bowls, serving dishes
- Storage containers
- Housing deposit and rent: Most housing requires a deposit, which can be as little as $200 up to the equivalent of one month’s rent (easily $400-$1,000). There may also be a pet deposit of which some, all or none may be refundable when you move out. The pet deposit may also be based on:
- The size of the pet in pounds
- Number of pets
- Type of pets
Some landlords will also require the first month’s rent and last month’s rent up front before you even step foot in the place. These deposits and rent are usually due immediately upon signing a lease.
- Moving expenses: While friends may be able to help you move, you may still need to get a moving vehicle or hire movers to move your belongings, especially furniture, into your new place. You may also have to compensate your friends for helping you move (e.g. gas, food, etc).
- Utility deposits and hook-up fees: Utilities such as Electricity, Water, Sewer, Gas, Trash pickup normally require a deposit and hookup fee be paid before service is activated at your residence. Some landlords may cover cheaper utilities such as water, sewer and trash, but usually more expensive utilities such as electricity and gas are not covered. If a washer and dryer are not included you will need to either buy new machines, pay an additional fee to the landlord or use the laundromat.
CONTINUING (OR MONTHLY) COSTS
While housing and a meal plan at Sul Ross includes all of the following expenses, when you live off-campus these costs are your responsibility.
Some, but not all of these may be covered by the landlord and built into the rental cost, but frequently all of these utilities are the responsibility of the renter(s). Please note that utilities are only put in one person’s name. You cannot put utilities under multiple people’s names. That person listed on the utility bill is solely responsible for payment regardless of any existing arrangements with any roommate(s).
In addition, utility costs may change based on the time of year (e.g. electrical usage is higher in the summer when air conditioners, which use the majority of electricity in a home, are used most often). It is a good idea to find out the average seasonal costs of these utilities before moving in. Also, if the rates for any of these utilities are not fixed then expect the rates to increase, not decrease, over the course of your stay.
Common utilities are:
- Water, sewer and trash pickup (combined in town onto one statement)
- Natural Gas
Water, sewer and trash pickup are done in town through the City of Alpine Utility Department.
Natural Gas is is through the City of Alpine Gas Department, which is a separate entitiy from utilities.
Electrical companies, including plans and rates, can be found at ChooseTexasPower.org. When choosing an electrical company please know the following before researching and picking a provider:
- Your street address
- If the property has a "smart" meter
- Your estimated electrical start date. This is important for billing and hookup purposes
- Maximum and average number of kilowatt hours used per per month
- Desired length of contract period
- Any additional fees or base costs asociated with the property
- Whether you want a fixed or variable rate for the contract period
- Cable or Satellite TV
- Internet (cable, wired, or satellite)
You may be able to get a package deal when it comes to TV and Internet. Shop around before making a commitment.
This is one of the most grossly underestimated expenses. A good rule of thumb is to look at how much you spend on food in a typical month and calculate a per meal or per day cost. Developing a budget is the key to eating a healthy diet and not overspending!
Before you decide to move off-campus and leave the meal plan, please remember this: On campus the dining center meal plans average $4-$6 per meal for a buffet style setting, while a value meal at a fast food restaurant costs between $7-9 for only a burger, fries and a drink.
When you live off-campus there are a lot of miscellaneous expenses to consider such as:
- Travel to and from campus. Driving costs money for gas and the time spent on the road may not seem like a lot until you add it all up. On average it takes around $10-15 dollars of gas per week and a 20 minute drive per day adds up to more than 3 hours per week of driving. You also have to consider that maintenance and wear and tear on your vehicle (oil change, tires, changing out your fluids, wiper blades, air filters, car washes, etc) will also need to be added into your budget.
- Cleaning supplies such as vacuum, broom, mop, cleaning chemicals, etc.
- Emergency fund. If your car breaks down then you’ll need to get it fixed right away and you’ll need the money up front. This is the same if you own your washer, dryer or refrigerator.
FINDING A PLACE TO LIVE
Finding the best rental property will take time and persistence, and it will be in your best interests to compare prices and where they are located. It is best to get an idea of what you can spend given your budget and then look at what locations fit your budget. Here are some ways that you can find the best place to live in:
- Word-of-mouth: Many times rental properties are found by talking with friends and work colleagues to see if they know of an opening or might know someone who has an available rental property.
- Newspaper classifieds: The local paper, the Alpine Avalanche, has a classifieds section that lists places for rent/lease. This site is updated at the end of the week. Postings are season so expect more postings in the summer and winter than in fall or spring.
- Surfing web sites: Both the Trading Post and Brewster County Swap both list places to rent. Both of these sites are updated daily. Other sites can be found by typing “rent Alpine TX” in the search bar.
- Driving around the area you want to live in: Sometimes private renters, especially people with a spare bedroom or finished apartment above a garage, will just post a sign in their front yard advertising for renters. This is the most time consuming process but you can still find great deals.
- Contacting a rental agency: Some individuals will let a rental agency manage their property. As a resource here are some of the major rental companies in and around Alpine. Please note that the University does not endorse any rental business whatsoever.
This is the most important document you will sign when you live off-campus. It protects both parties and sets up expectations for both the landlord and renter to follow, with penalties incurred for not abiding by the contract. Failure to read the lease carefully (or even at all) could cost you thousands of dollars and ruin your credit for years. Here are some tips to help you review and sign an effective lease agreement.
- Read the lease thoroughly and carefully. Don’t feel rushed, take your time and ask for clarification in writing if you are unsure of anything in the lease. Remember “I didn’t read it” after you sign a lease is not a valid excuse, especially if you have to go to court.
- Get everything in writing. Do absolutely nothing verbally. If there is ever a dispute then a verbal agreement becomes a he said/she said argument. If you have a written agreement then the expectations for both parties are in black and white.
- Communicate in writing: If the landlord says they will fix a broken water heater at no cost to you, and then changes his mind once he sees the cost, what recourse do you have if your agreement was done over the phone? Communicate in writing to protect both parties and to limit misunderstandings.
- Clarify which property you are renting. For instance, you may have seen a “show” apartment when you took a tour. Be sure to examine the actual apartment before you move in and have that building and room number on the lease. Many times there are significant differences between the condition of the show property and the actual place you will be living.
- Document the condition of the unit at the time of move in, especially by taking pictures, and be sure that the landlord has a copy of this information before moving in: If you do not have prior documentation of broken, damaged or missing items then you will have to pay the cost of the repair or replacement.
When reviewing the details of the lease, please make sure it addresses these important points:
- Get the costs up front and in detail. If the rent you are signing up for is an introductory rate, then how much will it go up? When will it go up? What other costs are included?
- Whom should the renter contact in case of an emergency (e.g. water leak, electrical problem, clogged toilet, etc).
- When the landlord can and cannot enter the property.
- What repairs, maintenance, and upkeep the renter is responsible for performing and what the landlord must fix. For instance, if you are responsible for upkeep of the yard what does that entail? Do you need to mow the grass, trim the trees, replant dead bushes, etc.?
- The length of lease (e.g. 6 months, 1 year), including move-in and move-out dates.
- Any options on the lease (e.g. buyout provisions for early termination of lease, renter has to move out within 30 days of the housing unit being sold, sub-letting, etc).
- Restrictions (e.g. no pets over 5lbs, no parking on the street, no cowboy parties, etc)
- What modifications can and cannot be made to the property (e.g. No furniture on the porch, painting restrictions, no major work such as changing the carpet without prior approval, etc)
- If a cosigner, such as a parent, is needed for a renter under a certain age. That cosigner will be financially responsible just as if s/he is living there.
Please note that this web page is only to be used as a guide. If you have any questions then please speak with a rental expert or lawyer that deals in property law before renting anything. This will save you time and trouble in the long run.