Stay or Go?: How to Decide if You Should Renew Your Lease

By Christine Ascher on March 11, 2018

Moving into an apartment for the first time during college is exciting: you have your own space to prepare meals, a private bathroom, and probably have more space than you could ever expect to find in a dorm. However, not all apartment complexes are created equal, and once you get over that initial excitement at having your own apartment, you may find that your unit or your building in general leaves some things to be desired.

As there will likely be many different options when it comes to housing in any college area, it’s a good idea to take some time before your year-long lease is up to consider whether you want to stay in the same apartment or move somewhere else. Moving can be a big process, so this is not a decision to take lightly. In order to determine if you should renew your lease for another year or find housing elsewhere, think carefully and take into consideration some of the following tips.

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Do Your Research

Before you make any final decisions to renew your lease or move, do some research to ensure that you’re thoroughly aware of your options. Consider any concerns that you have with your current apartment building, and look into some other options to see if there is anywhere better for you. For instance, if you feel that your rent is too high, research some of the comparable buildings in your area to see if you can find a better deal than what you currently have.

In addition to the space of the actual apartment unit, you should also take into consideration the amenities that each apartment building has. If you pay a slightly higher rent than you would in another building, but you have access to a state-of-the-art gym that is lacking in the other building, for example, that may factor into your decision. In general, the more you can find out about your other options, the better your position will be to determine whether or not to renew your lease and stay where you are.

Think About if You Need More Space

When considering whether or not to renew your lease, one of the first things on your mind should be if you need more space, or if you’re content with what you have. If you’ve always shared a room with a roommate, for instance, but are now craving your own space and some privacy, then moving might be the right choice for you. If, on the other hand, you feel like you already have plenty of space and don’t need any more, then making a move might be less pressing.

Not all apartments will have the same size living space, so take actual square footage into account in addition to the number of bedrooms and bathrooms. Having the actual numbers for the size of your apartment and other options nearby can be very helpful when you’re comparing spaces and deciding if you should renew your lease, as it will give you an objective means by which you can compare the spaces. Learning about the square footage of other apartments will also help you get a feel for where your unit stands, and if you can reasonably expect to find a larger apartment while paying a similar amount in rent.

Consider Your Apartment Management

When deciding if you should renew your lease, one important factor that you should keep in mind—in addition, of course, to the actual apartment building and your unit itself—is the quality of the management team or landlord for your building. As the people who run the property can have a major impact on your living experience, either positively or negatively, they shouldn’t be forgotten when you’re considering whether to stay or go.

If you feel that you have a landlord or management team in your building who you can rely on to listen to your concerns and to fix any issues that arise quickly and efficiently, that may be a reason to stay. If you think that you could find more helpful or efficient management elsewhere, that could (and should) influence your decision not to renew.

Consider the Costs of Moving Versus the Costs of Staying

Before you get excited about moving into a new apartment, remember that moving can be a stressful process and can involve some extra costs as well. One major benefit of choosing to renew your lease is the fact that you won’t have to move. There is definitely something to be said for staying in the same apartment throughout college, as it means fewer stressful, and potentially costly, moves. If you think you’ll need to hire movers or a moving truck in order to move into a new apartment—which will probably necessary if you have your own pieces of furniture—then you should definitely take that cost into consideration.

Eric Dainton, a writer for Renaissance Rentals, estimates the overall cost of moving to be as much as $1000 to $2000; while the total cost will vary based on your situation, you should definitely take into account how much you may need to pay in order to move. While there are certainly circumstances in which it is beneficial to move, regardless of the inconvenience, make sure you keep the moving process in mind before you get carried away and decide not to renew your lease and to go elsewhere on a whim.

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Think About the Features of Your Apartment Unit and Building

If you think you may not want to renew your lease, and will instead look elsewhere for housing, take into consideration the features in an apartment building and unit that you consider important or essential, and make sure that these are realistic to find in a new place. It may be helpful to make an actual checklist of the items that you want to have in an apartment, and check off those that your current apartment fulfills.

Then, when you’re researching new apartments, you’ll be able to compare the number of boxes the potential apartment checks off in comparison to your current place. That way, you’ll have an objective means of comparing your current apartment with any new ones that you’re considering, and determining which of them has the most to offer.

Take into Account Your Roommate Situation

One more personal factor to take into account when you’re considering the possibility of moving instead of choosing to renew your lease is your roommate situation. A bad or even just slightly uncomfortable roommate situation can have a huge negative impact on your day-to-day life, and if moving means that you can get away from that bad situation, then it’s probably worth considering.

On the other hand, if you have a great roommate, that may a reason to renew your lease and stay in your current place. Unless your roommate wants to move with you, switching apartments will mean having to find a new group of people to live with or being assigned new roommates randomly. This can be risky, even if you’re going to be moving in with people you already know—it’s always different when you’re actually living with someone and are together all the time. If you’re already happy with your roommate situation, consider whether it’s worth the risk of having a less-than-perfect roommate in order to move to a new apartment.

Infographic by Christine Ascher

One major benefit of staying in one apartment throughout the majority of your college experience is the fact that it will allow you to grow more accustomed to your apartment, and the space will start to feel more and more like home. Especially if you’re going to school out of state or if you tend to get homesick easily, having an apartment that feels like home can be a big comfort. If you’re moving into a new building each year, then you may not have the chance to build up this level of comfort in your spaces, and they may always just feel like living spaces, rather than homes.

If you’re the kind of person who wants to have an apartment that feels homey and familiar, then it may be worthwhile to rule out the possibility of moving. If, however, you don’t mind the change, then it’s worth considering whether or not you want to renew your lease at the end of the year, as there may be better options out there for you.

Ask Building Management About Upcoming Improvements

It would definitely be disappointing if you decide not to renew your lease for your current apartment because you’re unhappy with the quality of the appliances in your unit or you think that the gym needs a major remodel to be up to your standards, only to find out after you finalize the details of your move that your landlord or building management has a whole list of improvements in store for the next school year. Property managers are constantly making improvements to their buildings, so before you decide to move, talk with them to see if there are any upgrades that you can expect to see in the future.

Often, managers will wait until the summer, when buildings are emptier, to freshen up their building and individual units, as well as to occasionally renovate. If you’re considering a move because you’re unhappy with the finishes in your unit or building, chat with your property manager to see if there is a possibility of these issues being fixed soon before you finalize anything.

Tour Other Buildings

It’s very difficult to effectively compare your apartment building with others in the area without seeing the other buildings firsthand, so before you make any lasting decision to renew your lease or move, go on a couple of tours for some of the buildings you may want to move into. An apartment building can often look very different in the pictures online than it does when you actually see it in person, so going on a tour is essential. You may think that another apartment has nicer finishes than yours, only to realize when you see them in person that, while they look nice at first glance, they’re actually a lower quality.

If you know anyone who lives in the buildings that you’re interested in, ask them if they can show you around the building and into their unit. You’ll probably get a much more realistic account of the property from an actual resident than you would from a property manager, so use them as resources if you can to get an accurate idea for how your building compares to other apartments in the area.

Ask an Outsider for Advice

According to Taryn Williford, a writer for the site Apartment Therapy, when you’re considering if you should renew your lease, it can be helpful to ask for an outside opinion on your building and individual apartment unit. After living in one place for an entire year, you may become accustomed to issues with your apartment that an outsider would notice and put into perspective for you.

For instance, you might be completely used to the fact that your oven doesn’t always work properly, or your air conditioning is broken; a friend coming into your space for the first or second time, however, will probably notice these things right away. In addition, by asking a fellow student who lives in a different building for advice, you can get an accurate idea of what you can reasonably expect from a college apartment and what other buildings deliver that yours does not. You may find, for instance, that your friend’s kitchen also has old appliances, but that they function better than yours. Anything that you learn from asking advice can prove valuable to you in making your decision.

Determining whether or not to renew your lease at the end of the school year is a big decision, as it will have a huge impact on your day-to-day life moving forward. There are a variety of factors that you should take into consideration, from the stress of a move to the benefits of finding a new place to live. Give yourself time to think this decision over, and make sure you’re thorough in your reasoning—after all, you’ll be living with your decision for at least another year!

By Christine Ascher

Uloop Writer
Hi! I'm Christine and I'm currently a senior at the University of Southern California, where I study English Literature, Economics, and French.

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