As I’ve been getting further along in my college career, one word has changed in my mind from an exciting one to a scary one: internship. Sure, many internships are extremely competitive and offer low or no pay, but perhaps the hardest thing about internships is that if you have to do a short stint in a new city, housing can be a problem. Finding a short-term rental at a price you can afford is anything but easy.
My first experience with searching for a three-month, furnished, and affordable apartment was last summer, when I interned at CNN in Atlanta.
I had NO idea what I was doing. To boot, my parents weren’t crazy about the idea of my living by myself in a completely new city. I began to search for apartment options and actually was able to do it really affordably. Since then, I’ve done the same type of search one more time (in Miami), and feel like I can give some pretty good advice for finding short-term rental housing during an internship or other short period of time.
Tap into college networks
My best secret for finding affordable housing during the summer (or other short period of time) is to search near whatever colleges are in that city.
Most likely, students will need a subletter for just the amount of time you’ll be there. Some dorms on campuses even have special internship housing programs that are easy to sign up for. Two of my fellow interns in Atlanta did that, and they paid just over $800 a month. It wasn’t exactly cheap, but it did come with air conditioning and access to a gym and a pool.
I was able to go even lower budget by living in the branch of my sorority at an Atlanta university. It was one of the smartest moves I could have made.
We all shared a kitchen and common living spaces, and I shared a room and bathroom with a roommate. But the best part was the rent — only $500 a month.
When looking for a short-term rental, campuses should be your first move, even if you’re a recent college graduate.
Consider less expensive cities
If you’re on a strict budget, don’t tie all your dreams to New York or San Francisco. There’s plenty of time for that later when you can afford the transportation and living costs.
I have lots of friends who have had great internship experiences in less traditional settings. For example, working in Milwaukee instead of Chicago. The housing is less expensive but you’re close enough to get to Chicago for a weekend or special event.
Looking a little off the beaten path can yield some good results.
In less-accessible cities, try to bring a car
While convenient, sublets that are walkable to downtown offices or on public transit lines command bigger rents. And in many American cities, having a car can mean the difference between paying high prices for downtown housing or finding lower-priced options farther afield.
I couldn’t take a car to Atlanta, which made things tricky. If you can have access to a car while you’re interning, that cost may offset how much more expensive it is to live close to public transportation and high-traffic pedestrian areas.
Ask friends of friends
Nine times out of 10, it’s really better to sublet from someone you know (or maybe kind of know) than someone you have absolutely no connection to. It’s safer, and often more affordable.
Don’t underestimate how many people you know. Try making a Facebook status when you start your job search, asking if any of your friends know someone who needs a subletter in that city. You might be pleasantly surprised.
Here’s one that I find tough. You can’t be afraid to negotiate the rent.
I’ve felt so desperate for a decent housing option that I’ve really skipped the negotiation part. Don’t be afraid! David has these great tips for how to negotiate, and I really wish I’d followed them when finding housing in Miami:
Don’t invest in furniture yet
This is another simple suggestion. Don’t go overboard purchasing furniture or other housing decorations. It’s such a short amount of time, it’s easier to live like a monk than to spend money on stuff you’ll just have to move again and again.
That brings up another huge benefit to subletting on a college campus: you can usually find furnished units.
You can find sublets on the Web, but be careful with Craigslist
I’ve found a few websites that are very helpful in the apartment search. I would particularly recommend Nestio, which allows you to put in very specific criteria for your sublet search. Other good sites include Airbnb.com, Trulia.com and Apartments.com.
Obviously, Craigslist is full of apartment and sublet listings, but you have to proceed with cation. I won’t say NEVER use Craigslist. I actually found my current apartment on Craigslist, so I can’t completely knock it. But we’ve all heard the horror stories.
If you do use Craigslist, try to find a listing by a third-party agent instead of the actual person just trying to sublet their own room. I’ve found that to be a more reliable option, especially if you can find their agent information online (which looks and feels much more legitimate than having all communication with the person wanting to sublet).
Always ask for as many pictures as you can get. If you can, stop by to look at the apartment before you commit. Finally, ask for references. That may be weird — usually the subletter asks for references from the renter, but you also want to verify that the person you’re renting from is who they say the are…especially if you’re lining this up from hundreds of miles away.
Have you lived in sublets or found other short-term housing? How’d you find it? What advice would you give others looking for short-term rentals?