Embarking on your fist co-op experience can be very intimidating. First of all, there's the issue of dealing with your current living situation: if you're like most off-campus students, you are probably locked into a yearly lease arrangement at your current apartment. That means you're legally obligated to pay your monthly rent regardless of whether or not you temporarily move out of town for your co-op opportunity.
Additionally, there's the stress of figuring out the best possible living situation while you're temporarily completing your co-op. Here are three tips to make your first co-op opportunity as stress-free as possible, both financially and emotionally.
Consider Your Options for Your Current Apartment
You have a number of options. If your lease expires within the next couple of months, your best bet is probably to just bite the bullet and pay off the remainder of your rent. However, if you have three or more months remaining on your lease, it's probably more financially viable for you to sublet your apartment to a new tenant.
With a sublet, a new resident will move in and take your place in the apartment. That way you won't lose loads of money paying for a place you aren't even living in. Luckily, the Internet has made it easier than ever to rent your apartment out to a new tenant. Websites such as Airbnb, FlipKey, HomeAway, HouseTrip, and a multitude of others allow you to easily list your apartment for rent to people looking for a temporary place to stay.
Subletting your apartment to temporary tenants should cover most or all of your monthly rent obligations so you can save your money for more important things while completing your co-op.
Take Care of Your Belongings
Regardless of whether or not you rent out your apartment, you'll want to take care of all your possessions before you leave town. If you decide to pay off the remainder of your lease, you don't want to have to travel back home to move your stuff out when your lease is up. If you sublet your apartment to temporary tenants, you don't want to leave your most important possessions at risk of being tampered with or stolen.
Hire a local moving company to take care of all your important belongings. That way you can focus on your studies instead of worrying about moving. If you have trusted family or friends that live locally, see if they'll allow you to store your possessions at their homes while you're completing your co-op. If not, have the movers take your things to a reputable local storage center. A storage unit costs much less than an apartment. Even if you have to pay monthly rent for the unit, you'll still be saving a lot of money compared to the amount you'd be spending on an unoccupied apartment.
Choose the Best New Housing Situation
Once you have your apartment set up as a sublet and your belongings are safe and sound, it's time to focus on where you'll be living for your co-op. Since you'll only be there temporarily, it's best to consider a sublet situation so you're not locked into a long-term lease. If your co-op only lasts a month or two, it may also be be financially viable to temporarily stay in someone else's apartment via one of the aforementioned rental platforms.
Before you decide on a place, extensively research the neighborhoods in your new city. Use localized Facebook groups, CityData, Reddit, and other local forums to communicate with people who live in the city that you'll be moving to. Find a neighborhood that's safe while offering an abundance of local nightlife and culture so you can get the most out of your co-op adventure when you're not working or studying.
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