Apartment Hunting in Grand Forks

The do’s and don’ts of what to look for in a living space 

Dylan Enerson, General Reporter

The beginning of spring semester means new classes, new friends, and the end of winter weather. It also means the beginning of the student shuffle to find somewhere new to live. For freshmen students, it means leaving the dorms, or for upperclassmen, it means your lease is up and you are just sick of having to walk all the way down the hall just to wash your socks. Whether it is your first time on your own or you have been living by yourself for the last two years, finding a new apartment is a huge task to take on, and it can be hard to remember everything to keep an eye on while looking at a new place.  

In Grand Forks there are a few management companies that run nearly every apartment in the city. For the most part, they manage their buildings the same way, but there are some differences that are important to pay attention to depending on what exactly you will sacrifice for a more affordable apartment because as most college students will tell you, it is all about saving money. The biggest way to save money on an apartment will not come as a shock to most, get a smaller apartment. It is important to decide exactly how much space you really need in a living space. If you plan on living by yourself then the smallest and usually the cheapest option is to get a studio apartment. These apartments are the smallest because they do not have a dedicated bedroom or living room and may not even have a full featured kitchen in some cases, and because of this they are usually the cheapest option because of this.   

Another way to save some money on housing is doing the exact opposite and get the biggest apartment you can find. Combine this with finding yourself a few roommates and you can easily afford a much larger space and sometimes even get some added features to the apartment like a pool, fitness center, or enclosed garage. While these features will likely add some cost to the rent, if you are splitting it with some roommates, it could still be cheaper than a smaller apartment by yourself. Just make sure that you will get along with the other people before you move in and set some expectations and rules for living together. If you can all agree on some expectations beforehand, even if they are small, it can save you a headache later in the lease. The easiest way to find good roommates is to stick with the same people you lived with in the dorms. If you have made it through two semesters without tearing each other’s heads off, then you will likely be fine living in an apartment together.   

Another big difference between apartments is the appliances that come with it. Some apartments have in-unit laundry while others will have in-building laundry. You may think that living in the dorms has gotten you used to living without a washer and dryer in your unit, but most apartments will have a laundry room much smaller than in the dorms. Nearly every apartment building I have toured has had a single pair of machines per floor, which were almost always coin, or app operated. Occasionally you will find a building with two sets of machines per floor, but that is still shared by the entire floor. If you do not do many loads of laundry during the week, that can be okay, but if you work or have class during the normal hours of the day, you could end up battling the other residents for laundry space. Another appliance that could be absent from your apartment is a dishwasher. While these are much more common in Grand Forks apartments, you will still find some buildings that do not have one. Furthermore, when an apartment does not have a dishwasher, it likely will not have in-unit laundry either.  

Even if an apartment has the right amount of space and all the appliances that you need, do not let it go to your head when you view it. Treat looking at apartments like buying a car; when you look at the apartment, make sure you keep the condition of the apartment in mind and do not ignore things just because the management company makes it look nicer than it is. Many apartments will be decorated with nicer furniture when you tour them to give them the appearance of being in nicer condition than it is. Make sure you look at the outlets in the apartment to make sure that they are all three-prong and that the condition of the apartment seems nice. If you are living in a house, there are a few additional things to keep track of like windows and furnaces. Some landlords will require you to change out the filters in a furnace yourself, which will add additional cost to living there, and if the windows are old or poor quality, they can leak heat or air conditioning outside, which will increase the bills you have to pay and prevent the house from keeping a comfortable temperature throughout the year.  

Those may seem like important features to consider when moving, but they are minor to the most important thing to consider and that is which utilities are paid for in the unit. Paid utilities can mean the difference between a nice apartment being affordable and being far out of your price range. The rarest thing to find is an apartment building with all utilities paid. It is common to find a building that will pay for your city utilities like water, sewer and garbage, but finding one that pays for your electricity is like finding a needle in a haystack and for good reason. Many of the apartment buildings will have electric air conditioning, which is also one of the most expensive appliances to run in an apartment, second only to necessities like a fridge. When an apartment has electricity included in the rent that means you can run the air conditioning and any other electrical devices as much as you want without fear of your bill skyrocketing. I have seen an electrical bill increase by $40 a month just from using a window mounted air conditioner set to power saver mode during the summer, so finding one that pays for that increase means you can feel free to stay as cool as you want all summer.  

The last two items to keep in mind while looking for an apartment are the location and the lot itself. It is obvious to most that the location will play a key role in finding an apartment. If there are two apartments at the same rent, it would be smart to lean towards the building closer to campus or your workplace. Finding an apartment closer to the places you travel to regularly will mean less driving, which means less money spent on gas and less time spent in traffic. Less obvious to people is making sure the lot is well-suited to your car. If you drive a large truck, you will not want to live in a building with narrow driveways and many corners to navigate around. Furthermore, if you have an older vehicle that may have trouble starting and warming up in the North Dakota winters, it would be good to find a building with either a block heater, if you have one equipped on your car, or a garage to keep it out of the snow.  

All these features are important to find in an apartment, but the most important thing to find in an apartment is finding one that you like and can see yourself living in. I have toured my share of apartments that had nothing wrong with them except for the fact that I just did not like them, whether it was the way the floorplan was set up, or the hallway just smelled weird when I was touring it. Chances are, if you notice something wrong while you are touring the apartment you will not forget it when you live there, so it is important to make sure that it is something that you can learn to live with. If you convince yourself that the smell will go away later and that is a one-time thing, only to find out after you have signed the lease that it does not, then you are now stuck with the smell for the rest of the twelve months of the lease. 


Dylan Enerson is a Dakota Student General Reporter. He can be reached at [email protected].