A New Renter’s Guide to Apartment Hunting in the K-State Area 

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If you’re a student hunting for your first apartment, you may not know the best way to begin, much less sign a lease and get settled. Still, it’s all good because you’re certainly not alone. There are plenty of resources out there to help you navigate those waters and find an apartment you love. 

In this guide, we’ll give you a quick step-by-step overview of how to prepare, search for, and choose an apartment youll love!  

If you’d like a more in-depth, detailed guide to renting your first apartment, check out this ultimate college apartment checklist. 

Step One: Get Your Finances in Order 

When venturing out on your own, budgeting first and searching second is essential if you want to set yourself up for stress-free success. As a rule, budget for upfront costs and ongoing costs:  

  • Upfront costs include things like a security deposit, application fees, and your first and last month’s rent. It could also have a pet deposit if you’re bringing your furry best friend. Or, if applicable, a fee to hold the rental for you if you need a little extra time to move in.  
  • Ongoing costs are things you’ll need to make regular payments for. Your monthly rent is the most obvious, as are bills for applicable utilities.  

Usually, renters are responsible for paying things like gas, electricity, and internet bills each month. At the same time, some apartment complexes roll in utilities like garbage, water, and sewage to your monthly rent.  

If you’re moving from out of state, you can budget ahead of time; make sure you check a breakdown of utility costs by state so that you can have an approximate amount set aside in your budget.  

While researching apartments, find out what’s included in your rent and what you’ll need to pay on your own, including any amenities offered as an add-on outside of your regular monthly rent.  

Helpful information for out-of-staters 

For an idea of how much it’ll cost you to live around the university, the stats below offer a comparison between the city of Manhattan, KS (where the primary campus of K-State is located), and the Kansas state capital of Topeka:  

Manhattan, KS 

  • Average Rental Rates in Manhattan, Kansas: A studio apartment averages $525 per month. A one-bedroom apartment averages $575, and a two-bedroom averages $795 as of April 2021. 
  • Average Utilities: For a 915 square-foot apartment, utilities average $108 per person per month. The national average is $147.    
  • Dining Out: Grabbing dinner for two at an average restaurant will only run you about $42. Thats 7% lower than the national average. A delicious latte runs about $4.  

Topeka, KS 

  • Average Rental Rates in Topeka, Kansas: A studio apartment in Topeka averages about $600. A one-bedroom Topeka apartment averages $835, and a two-bedroom averages $970 as of April 2021.
  • Average Utilities: For a 915 square-foot apartment, utilities in Topeka average $103 per person each month. 
  • Dining Out: The cost of living in Topeka is lower than the national average as well, but a touch higher than Manhattans (except for utilities). For example, dinner for two at an average restaurant runs about $50. 

Step Two: Establish Your Parameters 

Once you’ve figured out how much you should save for upfront costs and how much you can afford each month, it’s time to establish your rental needs: 

How much space do you need? 

How much space you need depends, of course, on how many people will live in your apartment. If it’s just you, a studio apartment may be more affordable. If you’d like more space, compare one-bedroom apartments.  

If you’re sharing with roommates, budget together how many bedrooms you’ll need to live comfortably vs. how much you can afford. Speaking of roommates… 

Are you looking for roommates? 

If you’re new to the area, there are plenty of ways to find a roommate, but of course, it’s a risk to share an apartment with someone you don’t previously know. (Or to share a flat with someone you do previously know, for that matter!)  

If you’re the type of person, who’d rather have a roommate over living alone, proceed with caution and make sure you screen people you don’t know. If possible, ask if you can run a background check on them and let them know you’re willing to submit to one as well.  

If you find yourself involved in an extreme example of roommate drama and need some assistance resolving it, reach out to K-State’s Assistant Deans of Student Life.  

How long will you rent for? 

Most apartments rent on an annual contract, but some feature bi-yearly or even month-to-month leases.  

Monthly rent for an annual lease is fixed for the entire contract and is usually much more affordable. However, if you don’t anticipate staying in one place for a whole year, you’ll likely have to pay a fee for breaking your lease.  

Month-to-month agreements are more unpredictable and give your landlord the option to increase your rent or even end your contract from one month to the next. 

But a month-to-month agreement may work best for you if you’re unsure of how long you’ll stay in your apartment, as you can move out at the end of any month without paying extra for it.  

What are your location needs? 

If you’re moving to the area without a car, it may limit your search to properties close enough to walk or bike to school or that are close to public transport.  

Safety is always a concern, especially if you’re new and don’t know much about the area. If this is the case, do some online research and reach out to K-State’s off-campus housing support department for tips on which neighborhoods are safest and most convenient for students.  

What are your daily living needs? 

Often, it’s tempting to choose a property based upon its amenities rather than practicality. Figure out which are your non-negotiable needs vs. those that would be nice to have but may not be 100% necessary:  

  • Appliances/Furnishings 

For instance, is it worth it to spring for an apartment with a washer and dryer or on-site laundry facility? If you’re close enough to go home and do your laundry at your folks’ house, perhaps not.  

Suppose you’re coming from out of state. An on-site washer and dryer may be worth the extra rent, depending on how close it is to a public laundromat.   

If you’re traveling light and leaving your furniture at home, plenty of apartments offer furnished units, but they’ll often cost you extra. 

  • Parking 

If you’re planning on bringing your car, parking is likely a “need” rather than a “nice to have” situation. Ensure the properties you search on-site feature parking, or at least street parking that’s relatively accessible. 

  • A/C 

While it doesn’t get as hot in Manhattan, KS as other cities in the U.S., if you’re a heat-sensitive person, air conditioning might be handy just in case. If you’re ok with a box fan and an open window, you may be just fine without it.

  • Pets 

If you’re bringing your favorite fur baby with you, an apartment that allows pets is non-negotiable. Don’t try to sneak him in. It’s nearly impossible, and you may end up getting kicked out.  

  • Nice-to-Haves 

With the competitiveness of the rental market, plenty of properties host amenities like swimming pools and on-site gyms. Shop around; you may find deals on rental properties with amenities like this without too much of a rent hike. 

If you’d like to save a little money, you can always use the school’s pools and gym facilities. Although membership isn’t free, it’ll probably add up to less per semester than what you’d pay for a rental property’s on-site amenities. 

Finding and Sizing it Up 

It kind of goes without saying that jumping on the very first place you find may not be the best angle when it comes to choosing an apartment. Here are some tips for selecting a rental you’ll love for the right price. 

Start looking ASAP 

If you can, begin searching for your new place at least two months before you need to move in. Also, keep in mind that the summer months are usually the most competitive for rentals, which often translates to higher costs for renters signing leases during this time.  

Inspect the property in person and ask lots of questions 

Once your search yields some places of interest, go check out the property in person. Don’t be shy to ask specific questions about the neighborhood, how long the property has been there, who your neighbors will be, etc.   

Do a thorough inspection 

Check out:  

  • Walls  
  • Flooring  
  • Lighting fixtures 
  • A/C and heating units  
  • Hardware on the doors, windows, and closets 
  • Bathroom faucets, cabinets, etc. 
  • Kitchen faucets, cabinets, appliances, etc.  

You get the idea. If there’s mold, funny smells, damage, and anything else suspicious and unsightly, speak up about it if you’re considering signing a lease there. A good property manager or landlord will happily address (and fix) those issues.  

Anything that isn’t in good shape or is damaged should be taken care of before signing a lease (if you choose to sign a lease).   

Inspect the lease thoroughly, too  

The excitement of finding a great apartment can deter even the most responsible people from taking their time to review the details carefully.  

When you sign a lease, you’re making a legally binding commitment, so there’s no such thing as being too cautious. Match up any information exchanged between you and the landlord with what’s on paper, where applicable.  

Ask about: 

  • How you’ll make your payments 
  • Details around charges for late fees  
  • Utilities included with the rent 
  • How they manage repairs to your apartment if needed 
  • Conditions around your security deposit 
  • Guest policies 
  • Your rights as a tenant regarding landlord access to your apartment, i.e., can they enter the apartment while you’re not there or with no prior notice to do repairs, etc.   

Extra things you should think about. 

There are some other odds and ends to attend while searching for and moving into your apartment:  

  • Renter protection laws in the area 

For renter protection laws in the state of Kansas, click here. Know your rights. Don’t hesitate to speak out if you experience discrimination of any kind or feel that your rental isn’t safe to live in due to damage or dysfunction.  

Also, familiarize yourself with your rights concerning the conditions of your lease. Pay close attention to local renters’ laws and the lease you sign to verify the conditions under which you could potentially be evicted or keep your security deposit.   

  • Consider getting renter’s insurance 

Renter’s insurance isn’t expensive, and it’s well worth the investment. It’ll protect you and your belongings both inside and outside of your apartment, depending upon the policies your insurance company offers. 

  • Beware of rental scams 

Unfortunately, dishonest people out there scam people out of money under the pretense of renting properties. Suppose something seems too good to be true. In that case, it probably is, and if someone you’ve never seen asks for money upfront for a property you know nothing about, dont send them anything 

Enjoy the ride! 

Moving into a new place is so exciting, especially if it’s your first apartment. Take your time, plan carefully, and take some advice from the tips we’ve laid out here and you’ll be enjoying your freedom stress-free before you know it. So you can focus on all that studying, of course.