What To Look For In Renting
- Proximity to bus line/walking distance. The green bus line makes loops around campus during the academic year. Buses in Williamsburg do not run as often as in big cities, and stops are limited, so check the schedule first to have an idea of what to expect.
- Cost. Off-campus housing rental rates are often listed by apartment/house instead of by room. Sometimes housing is rented by room, but this should be specified in the advertisement. Off-campus housing typically starts at about $700 per month for a one bedroom apartment and around $800 per month for a two bedroom apartment, typically not including utilities or furniture.
- Long-term or short-term rental. Most apartment complexes or landlords will require long-term leases (e.g., 6 months or 1 year). Some will offer short-term (month-to-month) rentals but the rent will be higher.
- Furnished or Unfurnished apartments. Most apartments will be unfurnished but some will offer furnished apartments for a fee.
- Number of bedrooms. Single room apartments are more expensive than apartments with multiple bedrooms (when a unit is shared). Please note that in the City of Williamsburg there is a law that no more than 3 unrelated people can live in one apartment or house. This law does not apply to on-campus housing.
- Number of bathrooms. In advertisements, a “full bathroom” includes a toilet, sink, and bath or shower. A “half bath” includes a toilet and sink only.
What’s Included in the Rent
When researching housing, ask which (if any) of these are included in the rental price.
- Utilities: Water, gas and/or electricity, internet, cable television. In many cases, no utilities (except sometimes water) are provided by the management, so you should factor these additional costs in your planning. Utilities are typically billed monthly.
- Major appliances. Most units include a stove, oven and a refrigerator, but it is important to confirm this.
- Laundry. If a washing machine and dryer are not provided, you will need to use a local laundromat.
- Air conditioning. Williamsburg is typically very hot and humid in the summer (77F/25C or more). If central air conditioning is not included, consider asking if it is permitted for you to use a window unit.
- Furnished/unfurnished. Most off-campus housing is rented without furniture (bed, tables, sofas, etc.) but sometimes furnished housing is available.
- Parking. This sometimes carries an additional fee, if it is available. In some locations, street parking is available; a permit typically can be purchased from the City of Williamsburg. If more than one person will have a car, ask about the number of parking spaces available.
Things To Know Before Renting
- It is often difficult to make a decision from abroad, therefore, many students and scholars recommend looking for housing after you have arrived in Williamsburg. If this is the case, you may want to look into short-term housing options.
- Security deposit for housing. Most rentals require a deposit (typically the equivalent of 1 month’s rent) when you sign a lease. This deposit is typically in addition to that month's rent. At the end of your lease you will get this deposit back, less any fees for damages or cleaning.
- Suggestions for how to pay security deposit/sign a lease from abroad
- Western Union money transfer: Previous students have sent money by this method along with a scanned confirmation via email.
- U.S. bank account with personal checks: Previous students have shared that most places only accept checks and no cash. They have also indicated that you can sometimes pay by credit cards, so it is useful to bring these from your home country.
- Security deposits for utilities. Most utility companies (gas, electric, internet, etc.) require that you pay a deposit when initially starting them if you do not have a credit history or social security number in the U.S.
- After 1 year you should get this deposit back (typically in the form of a bill reduction).
- Deposits are typically $200 or more for each utility that you set up, so make sure that you have enough money to get started (or arrange to split the costs of deposits with your roommates).
- Setting up utilities.You will probably need to call the utility companies (or contact them online) to set up your utilities. Your landlord/manager should be able to provide you with a list of suppliers. If you will be living with roommates, you should decide who will set up each utility, and how you will divide the costs.
- Paying rent. Rent is typically due at the beginning of each month. Many landlords require that it be paid by check, though sometimes there are online options or other payment methods.
- Pets. Most rental housing does not allow pets, so if you plan to have a pet, check the policy in advance.
- Background checks. Some rental applications require a background check (and often a fee); these background checks sometimes require a social security number. If you do not have a social security number, contact your rental company or landlord to see what other options you have for completing the background check.
Resources for Finding Housing
- W&M Off-Campus Housing. One of W&M's main resources for local apartment searches, which includes detailed listings of current apartment openings, and also includes a room-mate search resource. Most housing offers are in Williamsburg/James City County (the county that surrounds Williamsburg).
- Whose Your Landlord. Provides evaluations of landlords from prior tenants.
- International Post-it List Serv. Emails go out to the international community on Thursdays. Some students use this to seek housing or advertise spaces.
- Student Housing Facebook Group. A facebook group managed by W&M students. Requires a W&M email to join the group. Some students use this to seek housing or advertise spaces. (Note: This group is not affiliated with W&M and is provided for informational purposes only. The Reves Center does not endorse nor confirm the accuracy of its content).
- Rental agencies:
- Departmental listservs and message boards (School of Education, School of Business, VIMS, etc.)—ask your department manager if these exist, and if so, to be added early.
Local Apartment Information
- The list is provided for informational purposes only and the apartments are listed in order of proximity to the campus, with those closest listed first.
- Be sure to contact the apartment complexes directly for the most updated information.
- We have indicated which apartments are on the bus line but be sure to visit the Williamsburg Area Transport for the most updated bus routes and schedules.
- A Guide to Successful Off-Campus Living explains your rights as a tenant and your responsibilities in your neighborhood.
- Have a lease (a contract that stipulates the terms of your rental agreement), and read it before signing so you will know your obligations.
- If you are subletting (renting from someone who is listed on a lease, without being added to the lease yourself), draw up some kind of contract.
- Breaking a lease (moving out before a lease ends without continuing to pay rent) can cause you many difficulties, and is typically very expensive, so it is best not to do this. If you anticipate needing to leave early, you may want to consider renting month-to-month without a yearly contract.
- Notify your landlord or rental agency in writing of any problems with your apartment when you move in and save this just in case there are later questions about this. If you do not document these, you could be charged for them when you move out.
- Take a picture of any problems you see when you move in (nail holes, color on walls, stains on carpet, etc.), and report these in writing (email is good, so you have a record) to your landlord or rental agency when you move in.
- If you request any repairs, do this in writing (such as by email), and save a copy. That way, you have documented that you requested them.