The DOs & DONTs of J1 House Hunting
Summer is finally upon us so if you’re heading on a J1, it’s probably a good time to start thinking about where you’re going to stay in the USA this summer. If you’ve been organized since day one, you may already have accommodation sorted. Go you! If you left things a little last minute however, these tips are for you!
DON’T– Get Scammed!
Every year the threat exists in having your entire J1 programme ruined because of a scam when searching for a place to stay stateside.
Craigslist has been a source of dodgy listings and scams. Don’t get us wrong, it’s a great tool for finding accommodation in the US, you just need to be careful.
If you’re not 100% sure that the accommodation you’ve found is legit, DO NOT transfer any money and definitely DO NOT pay the entire summer’s rent up front. The general rule to go by is if you have any doubt at all regarding the legitimacy of your accommodation, find somewhere else! If it’s too good to be true, it probably is!
DO – Research Hostels
If you would prefer to wait until you get to America to start your search for accommodation be sure to book a hostel, hotel or Airbnb for at least a week, and book it well in advance too. When it comes to hostels in the USA there are two important things to remember;
1. Hostels in the US are a bit more expensive than what you can get in Europe. Be prepared to spend that little bit extra per night, especially if the hostel you choose is located smack in the middle of whatever city your travelling to.
2. There are going to be thousands of J1ers flocking to cities all over the USA in the space of 2-3 weeks in late May/early June. Make sure to book your hostel in advance of the date you’re flying out on. If you just show up, there’s a big risk they won’t have any rooms available.
If worse comes to worst and you can’t find any vacancies, Airbnb is a great alternative for a weeks or so, and in some cases you might even end up with a nicer living space for less money than you’d pay to stay in a hostel! Bottom line, sort out your first week well in advance and avoid any rocky starts to your J1.
You don’t want to be this dude…
DO – Understand your Lease
When you find somewhere to stay for the summer, no matter what, you’re going to have to sign a lease/agreement with a landlord. We cannot stress enough how important it is for you to read and understand the terms of the lease that you are signing your name to.
Not only do you need to know things like ‘Are utilities included’ ‘What bills will I have to pay – cable, gas, water, electric, gas?’ ‘Can I extend the lease if I decide to stay an extra couple of weeks?’ but you’re also going to want to look at the small print to see if the landlord has any terms like taking a cleaning fee out of your deposit when you’re moving out.
DO NOT sign a 12-month lease if you’re only planning on staying for the summer! Sounds obvious, but it’s happened! If you look hard enough and well enough in advance you will have no problem finding a place to rent just for the summer months. The ideal situation for J1ers is subletting so keep an eye out for places like this that are available for 3 months.
The more J1ers that break their lease, the more difficult it is for future J1ers to find accommodation, as well as all the legal implications that go along with it. Please don’t be ‘that guy’.
Not only that, but you’ve paid your deposit, so why wouldn’t you want it back? Getting your deposit back at the end of the summer will go a long way towards any travelling plans you’ve made before your flight home – BE SMART!
DON’T – Overcrowd
Giving up your personal space to drive the cost of rent down is not a good idea – trust us! It’s highly illegal for starters and landlords. As well as that the US Department of State are clamping down on this, especially among foreign college students.
Remember the people that are on the lease are the ones responsible for the apartment. If they do decide to take on extra roommates, those extra people have absolutely no legal requirement or responsibility to the place – and if you’re caught, it’s the leaseholders that will have to face the consequences. If you’ve got 9 or 10 rowdy Irish J1ers packed into a 3 bedroom apartment, chances are you’re going to get caught and in the process you could ruin an area for future J1 students. We talked about not being ‘that guy’, right?
DO – Choose Your Neighborhood Wisely
Not every town in San Diego is beside the beach. Not every neighbourhood in Queens is an easy commute to Manhattan.
Living in Ireland, it’s easy to assume that everywhere in US cities are easy to get to, as long as there is public transport, but these are huge cities, huge! What if your bus only comes once an hour? And what if it takes the scenic route picking up people in every little town along the way? Suddenly you’re gone from a half hour commute to work to a 2-hour commute to work!
Not what you want. It’s really important to research different areas in the J1 destination you’ve chosen and to not just go with the place that has the cheapest rent. What’s the point in living in a town that you need to get two buses and a train to get to work from just because it’s $100 cheaper per month? You’re supposed to be having the summer of your lives!
Another thing to take into account is your safety. It’s worth spending an extra bit of money every month to ensure that you are living in a safe neighbourhood. A good question to ask yourself is, ‘Would my parents approve of this place?’ Generally, if the answer is no to either, you should probably look elsewhere…
Some extra tips for your J1 this summer…
Pal up with other students heading stateside solo or in small groups, you’ll find lots of others on Facebook groups.
Get talking to other J1ers who may be in your hostel when you arrive. That way you can team up and find accommodation together!
But most of all…