By: Reese Remington, Contributing Writer.
Farmington, ME – Earlier this year, the announcement came that classes would return in person. This brought an influx of students back to campus, which also meant more students looking for housing. Despite students’ eagerness to live off-campus this year, it was going to be an uphill battle with Farmington’s small real estate pool and competitive market.
One student, Riley Bartell, a fifth-year senior, had a rough time finding housing around Farmington. He even considered living in neighboring towns. After searching all summer, he was only able to find an apartment in Livermore Falls but it fell through.
“There were over 500 applications for this apartment, but I never heard back about it,” Bartell said.
Thankfully, a couple of friends from the baseball team had a room available near campus. Now Bartell doesn’t have to commute to school for his last year.
Roommates, Bailey Blow and Julia Halley are first-time off-campus living students. Their experiences also had obstacles. Both Blow and Halley lived on campus last year and knew it was time to transition to an apartment this year.
“It’s been great. I like that we have roommate dinners – it’s like have a little family. It’s cute. The dining hall was a reason for moving off-campus, so it’s nice having a kitchen and cooking.” Halley said.
Living off-campus doesn’t come easily though. Planning is key to work with how competitive the market is. For Blow and Halley, finding an apartment took months in advance.
“Look early. It was really hard to find this place. Make sure you can financially do it, too because it is a really big commitment. We started looking over winter break (Dec. 2020) for this apartment because three and four bedrooms are a lot harder to find.” Blow said.
While residents in Farmington are calling it a housing crisis, realtor Byron Staples at Foothills Management isn’t as quick to call it that. He sees it as more of a competitive market right now due to a couple of factors. Two large issues that are contributing to the market are the lack of residents moving out of their current residence, and “outside people” coming in. Staples said about “two-thirds of apartments” that typically would go on the market during the season, didn’t.
Currently, there is a solar farm project in Farmington that began in July 2020. The project employed over 300 out-of-state employees all of whom took up any available housing in the area, whether it was hotels or residences.
However, the project should be slowing down by winter this year. With limited housing, it’s important to be sure and proactive while looking for housing, according to Staples.
“In this area, companies market June availability in Jan. and Feb. This means you have to be proactive. Don’t hesitate, and when a landlord reaches out, consider it as a job interview.” Staples said.
It would seem that the competitive market in Farmington may be opening up soon. Though with the pandemic still ongoing, it’s uncertain just how much will change.
For students looking to transition from on-campus to off-campus housing next year, being proactive during the process is key.
By Abby Pomerleau, Contributing Writer
If on-campus housing is not the best fit for a student’s college experience, off-campus housing is a healthy alternative for UMF students.
Residence halls are where many students get their first taste of freedom. Although it can be a good fit for some, residence halls are not for everyone. This leads students to look elsewhere for living. The most common options are commuting from home or renting an apartment. Apartments in Farmington become more scarce in February and March when students begin to tour apartments and sign leases.
Many first-time renters don’t know where to start. What is considered expensive? Is this apartment a “steal”? Katelyn Rouleau, a sophomore, is living off-campus this year for the first time. “The process was overwhelming. I had no idea where to start,” said Rouleau. “I currently pay $470 a month for a two bedroom apartment.” Rouleau said this is all inclusive, which means that the apartment comes with heat, electricity, and other utilities. $470 a month is roughly the average cost of apartments. The quality of the apartment and the number of roommates will determine the price.
Signing a lease can be intimidating. Remembering to read each word is important before signing your name on any document, leases included. Although renters may be stressing about signing a lease, landlords are also stressed about signing renters. Tor Goettsche Spurling, a local landlord who owns Gotcha Apartments feels this way annually. “I always stress each year about filling the rentals with tenants, but I’ve never had an apartment go vacant,” said Goettsche Spurling. “However, what I would say is that the struggle is to find the good tenants.”
Many landlords look for various things in a renter. Goettsche Spurling speaks about what interests him in a good tenant. “I primarily look for someone who pays rent on time, keeps a clean apartment, is self-sufficient and kind,” said Goettsche Spurling. “If they are students, I like to see that they have part-time jobs or are involved with something on campus.”
When looking for an apartment there are many physical things about the apartment that those looking to rent should look out for. “Some things I don’t like as a renter are stained rugs, water damage to walls and ceilings, mold, odors, and pets,” said Rouleau. “If you plan on having a pet, make sure your landlord is aware and approves of it.” More often than not, landlords have people pay an additional fee for pets.
There are some pros and cons when it comes to renting an apartment. “Some pros are that with COVID-19 you don’t need to wear a mask to go to the shower or bathroom, you can buy your own groceries, and you have your own space and freedom,” said Rouleau. “With that said, the cons are that you have to manage your money. Landlords expect a check each month, regardless of your situation. Expenses add up quickly, and you’ll find yourself having no choice but to prioritize the right things.”
If finding an apartment is so stressful, why not just stay on campus? “Living off campus allows you to have an independent lifestyle that you don’t necessarily have on campus,” said Rouleau. “As you get older you want to make more and more decisions for yourself. Living off campus provides that freedom.” Living off campus allows students to gain life skills such as cooking, cleaning, and money management. It even allows for an easier transition into post-college life.
Finding the right apartment can be a challenge, but it’s not impossible. As the semester continues, students will be signing leases for apartments often. Students want the best apartment, and they waste no time finding it. Finding the right apartment for you depends on what you can financially afford, what environment you desire, and the amount of roommates you want, if any.
Kaitlynn Tarbox Contributing Writer
As students progress through their degree, many opt to move off campus to experience life on their own. But the big question is: where is the best place to live off campus?
There are two main housing companies around the Farmington area, one being Riverbend Properties and the other being Foothills Management. Riverbend owns 78 properties around the Farmington area, 71 of those being apartments, as well as five houses and two commercial spaces. They offer wifi, sewer, heat, hot water, water, and trash removal at most of their units. Each building also has coin-operated laundry on site and the only thing not included in rent is electricity. Their highest rent is $1700, but their lowest is $365 which is one furnished room.
Foothills Management is the other major company that rents to students. They have 128 apartments in the Farmington area. Included in their rent is electric, heating, WiFi, and parking/snow removal, and garbage.
Sharon Buker, sophomore elementary education major, currently rents from Riverbend her first off-campus apartment. She said, “It’s nice to have my own space. I can have friends over whenever I want and it’s a lot quieter than living in the dorms. Being able to have my cat is a huge bonus for me!”
The application process, Buker said is “really simple, I filled it out online with basic income information, what I was looking for number-of-bedrooms-wise, and whether or not I had pets. I received an email just a couple days later about going to look at an apartment.”
Jon Ferguson, a senior biology major, also rents from Riverbend Property Management. For Ferguson, the main perk of renting an apartment is having a kitchen all to himself. “I enjoy having my own place where I can cook my own food. I also enjoy where my apartment is located. I’m next to Stone and Dakin so I can still enjoy on-campus events.” Being close to campus can be beneficial to some students as they might not have a vehicle, so getting to classes is easier the closer you are to campus.
In the spring semester, UMF usually hosts a number of companies and landlords who table in the Student Center to tell students about off-campus housing options. “The application process was rather easy. I went in during the day that the campus puts on for off campus housing,” Ferguson said. “I got a tour of a couple of places and had signed the lease for my apartment by the end of it all.”
Charlotte Allard, a junior Outdoor Recreation Business Administration major, rents from Riverbend as well. She went through the same application process that Ferguson did, which was at the off-campus housing fair.
For some students such as Allard, on-campus living is not for them. Allard said, “ I didn’t really enjoy living in the dorms. I always felt kind of crammed in a room. I don’t feel crammed in a room with my apartment.”
The ability to have pets is a bonus for many students such as Buker and Allard. Allard said “I also enjoy the feeling of being independent, having my own place, and being able to live with my two cats.”
Buker said, “The owner of the apartment does a lot of the maintenance himself. There is a form on their website to put in a service request and the one time I needed to use it, he was here within half an hour to fix it.”
Faith Diaz, a senior creative writing major, has lived in three apartments owned by Foothills Management. She said, “I like the ability to come and go as I please without having to check in with a [CA]. I enjoy having my puppy, who is my ESA (Emotional Support Animal), but he has more room to live than if we were in the dorms. And I work so it’s nice to have my own space without interruption.” Foothills has a 25 pound limit on pets in their buildings.
The only issue Diaz has had is “the parking becomes an issue because we are so close to campus they confuse it for campus parking.” There are a few staff that work for maintenance on the buildings and Diaz said, “They are constantly working on all of the buildings and they are the real MVPs. But they are understaffed and the buildings are old and need more help being up kept.”