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‘Very stressful, very difficult and expensive': Navigating the Oxford housing market as a student

To get a nice off-campus place in Oxford, many students feel they have to sign a lease months, even years, in advance.
To get a nice off-campus place in Oxford, many students feel they have to sign a lease months, even years, in advance.

It’s the end of your sophomore year at Miami University. Finally, you can leave those cramped residence halls and start looking at off-campus housing for junior year.

Maybe you’ll rent a house; take part in Miami traditions and nickname it something like The Byrdcage house on West Chestnut Street. Or maybe you’ll rent an apartment in Uptown; pick a place somewhere near Bagel & Deli for that hangover cure after a night out.

There is just one problem. To get a nice off-campus place in Oxford, many students feel they have to sign a lease months, even years, in advance.

Fortunately for Alaina Kapturasky, a sophomore political science and journalism major, she knew about Oxford’s competitive housing market. Kapturasky and her sorority sisters from Zeta Tau Alpha started looking for off-campus housing in the spring semester of her first year. After two months of searching, the group decided on a duplex close to Uptown for junior year.

Kapturasky said even though she hasn’t moved out of the residence hall yet, they are already looking for a place for her senior year.

“Genuinely, we feel extremely behind because when you are looking at these realtor places online, one day something is available, and then the next day it’s signed … it’s gone,” Kapturasky said.

Searching for housing as a college student can be nerve-racking for other reasons as well. According to a 2017 survey on the Miami off-campus outreach page, many off-campus options charge a semesterly rate instead of monthly. The survey says prices for houses range from $1,880 to $4,880 per semester (per person) and apartments range from $1,200 to $5,600 per semester (per person). However, many students struggle to afford bulk payments. 

Kapturasky described the process of searching for off-campus housing as “very stressful, very difficult and expensive.” She said pricing by semester makes housing “unattainable” for many students.

Not only does the market in Oxford make finding affordable housing difficult, but the tradition of fraternities and sororities passing down houses only adds to the issue, Kapturasky said. Many fraternities and sororities like hers have houses that members cycle through each year.

“It’s like half of your picks are taken because there are just so many pass-downs,” Kapturasky said.

Kayla Wood also got an early start when looking for housing. Wood, a junior middle childhood education major, and her three roommates started looking at houses in the fall semester of her first year. Already, she said, the group felt like they were behind.

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It didn’t take them long to decide, Wood said. The same day they toured the property in 2020, the group signed a lease for the 2022-2023 school year. After one month of searching, Wood said they felt pressured to commit in a hurry because they started looking so late and worried it would lose availability. 

“If we hadn’t waited so long, we would have waited to sign,” Wood said.

Neal Schuett is a visiting assistant professor in the political science department at Miami and a criminal defense attorney at Rittegers & Rittgers Nakajima law firm. Despite any worry students may feel while looking for housing, Schuett said they should always consider multiple options. 

Wood also remembers being surprised at how quickly her landlord expected to have a lease signed for the same house her senior year.

“They wanted us to renew before we had even lived in the house our first year,” Wood said. “They already wanted us to sign for our second year.” 

Schuett’s advice to students on how to handle the pressure of signing leases quickly is to not be afraid to negotiate and educate yourself on your rights.

“There is probably no panacea here to fix everything,” Schuett said. “But being informed, being willing to negotiate, being willing to stand up for yourself and ask questions is probably the first step … Then, I think you will start to see a little bit of a change because [landlords] are going to have to meet the demand and knowledge base of the students.”

Kapturasky suggested this education should also come from the university.

“I think educating students [on] how to go through the off-campus housing process … it’d be beneficial to people,” Kapturasky said. “Some people don’t even know that they should be signing right now, and then they’re left in the dust.”