Off-campus housing search forces tough decisions

    Perhaps one of the most common questions of UCSD students reaching the middle of their college career is not, “”How the hell did Star Wraps become the last noncorporate entity in the Price Center when their food was by far the worst out of all the other ones that got booted, which is not to say that the other ones were very good to begin with?”” but, “”Should I live in a house or an apartment?””

    Most of this question can be answered by another: “”How much effort do you really want to put in it?””

    Let’s just briefly go over how annoying it is to get a house, and then compare it to how relatively easy it is to get an apartment.

    The first thing you may notice when looking through classifieds is that there are a lot more apartments for rent than there are houses. And from this slim picking of houses, you can scratch off a good majority of them because you’ll never be able to afford them.

    But let’s say you do find a house. You call up the landlord and take the grand tour, at which point he’ll ask the inevitable question: “”So, are you students?””

    Now, if you’re an idiot and you answer the affirmative, you can pretty much kiss goodbye any chance of getting the place. Admitting to student status when trying to rent a house is a lot like brandishing a swastika at an interview for a nonprofit Jewish organization.

    I learned about this the summer before my sophomore year, with less than a month to find a place to live, eagerly awaiting a response from my landlord, which eventually turned out to be two words repeated over and over again in broken English: “”No students! No students!”” Technically, there are some housing laws that prevent such discrimination, but technically, landlords can do whatever they want.

    Now, you may be saying to yourself, “”OK, so I’m still a student — what am I supposed to say, then?”” Well, at this point in your life, if you’ve never lied before, now would be a good time to start. When they ask you what you do, say something out of an ITT Tech commercial. “”I’m the manager for broadband DSL installations.”” “”I work with relational databases verifying secretarial discrepancies.””

    When they ask you what company you work for, take a random word and add “”Design”” or “”Development”” after it: Zenith Design. Apex Development. When they ask for pay stubs, tell them you don’t get any, but you can give them your supervisor’s number. Scroll down your friends’ cell phone numbers until you find one that has a polite, nondescript cell phone message. When they say they need physical evidence, say you’ll bring in a letter from your supervisor, or ask them for a form that your supervisor can fill out. Give them the fax number to the Kinko’s on Villa La Jolla. Then head down to Kinko’s, pick out some nice resume paper, design a professional letterhead for your “”company,”” and write yourself a letter describing how long you’ve worked there, and how much you make a month. Sky’s the limit, but they usually request triple the monthly rent.

    Now, let’s compare that to the strenuous activity of getting an apartment. Drive up to the leasing office, park, take a tour of an apartment. When they ask if you’re a student say, “”Yes, as a matter of fact, I am.”” When they ask what your income is, say, “”parents,”” and leave them your parents’ phone number. Then leave them a considerably smaller security deposit, and move in.

    Although houses are more difficult to actually obtain, you’ll appreciate two important features they have when compared to apartment complexes. The first is that you get a lot of space for your rent when you get a house. And when your friends come and visit, they can park by the conveniently located curb next to your house. Apartments, on the other hand, have about five guest spaces that all say “”Future Resident Parking,”” from which they won’t hesitate to tow you if you’ve been there over 20 nanoseconds, and the other 500 are located six miles from your apartment.

    The thing apartments do win the battle on are trash and maintenance. If you live in a house, you may notice it starts to smell bad if you don’t put the rotting food in trash bags and eventually take them to the trash can. The trash can in apartments is a lot bigger, so instead of saying, “”The trash can’s full — I guess we’ll have to wait until next Monday to take out this trash,”” you can put it into the amazing apartment trash bin that never gets full. Furthermore, if your toilet breaks in an apartment, you dial the number for maintenance, and it usually gets taken care of the same day. If your toilet breaks in a house, you call the landlord, get his voice mail, leave a message, he calls you back two days later and says that a plumber’s coming by, the plumber comes and says, “”Wow. This one’s a tough one,”” works on it for about a week, and leaves you with a bill for $100 that your landlord might pay if he gets around to it in the next couple months or so.

    A few last tips if you do decide to go the house route: Don’t assume that you’re going to be staying there for three years, because the minute they can sell the place, they’re going to. Don’t assume that you’re going to get your security deposit back. Just resign yourself to the fact that it’s gone and there’s nothing you can do about it. But on the bright side, if they don’t tell you what they’re doing with it 30 days after you move in, you can sue them for up to three times the amount. Don’t assume that anyone who tells you that they’re going to live with you is going to live with you, and don’t live with people just because you told them you’d live with them. Tell everybody you’ll live with them, and pick the best one.

    Because when it comes to housing, it’s every man for himself.

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