Chico lodging lessons

How to choose the right housing and move out unscathed

Photo By Josh Graham

Where to look:
There’s always Craigslist and property rental sites, but the Chico News & Review also has extensive rental listings. Log onto and click on classifieds.

Welcome to Chicoland, where the houses are plentiful and apartment complexes abound with opportunities for young coeds to settle in.

A good rule of thumb if you’re looking for a place to lay your head at night (and hope to make friends with your neighbors to boot) is to stay near the center of it all: the Chico State campus.

The two major north-south arteries west of campus are Warner Street (which turns into Ivy as it goes south) and Nord Avenue. Both are chock-full of student housing, with the houses situated closest to campus and the apartments farther out.

So, which do you choose—house or apartment?

A lot of it depends on your lifestyle. If you’re a highly social being who is plugged into the party scene, a house is probably the way to go. Of course, you either have to have a bunch of friends to go in on it with you, or find a roommate on Craigslist or and cross your fingers you that get along.

Apartments are a little easier to snag—and certainly more plentiful. Plus, they can range anywhere from one to five bedrooms, so if you’re a loner you can live by yourself or, if not, with four friends if you so choose. Apartments also have amenities that houses might not: laundry facilities, pools and sometimes even hot tubs, workout rooms and tennis courts. Plus there are on-site landlords, who can fix that leaky faucet or let you in late at night when you’ve left your keys at the bar (or library).

One great thing about Chico is that nothing is really very far away. So for students who would rather live in a quiet neighborhood than be kept up at night by the house party next door, there are tons of options for both house rentals and apartments away from the hustle and bustle.

Once you’ve found your dream living situation, get your application in quick. Most of the prime locations are booked up by February or March for the following year, says Dan Herbert, president of Sheraton Real Estate Management.

“The best locations with the most amenities get gobbled up early,” he said.

After move-in, there are a few things to consider: Are you going to trash the place and forfeit your deposit, or are you counting on getting it back to fund your summer fun?

If you want that money to return to your coffers, there are some tricks to help you maximize your return. First off, the landlord will give you a walkthrough of the premises upon signing your lease. Bring a camera. Take pictures of anything damaged before you moved in.

Vroom, vroom, said the vacuum …

Photo By Josh Graham

Another trick is to plan ahead before moving out. It can be tempting to wait till the last minute, haul all your stuff out and leave town. But that’s definitely not in your best interest. Don’t skip out on a final walkthrough before handing over your keys. Again, a camera can come in handy. Some places, including Sheraton, even offer a pre-walkthrough walkthrough, meaning they’ll go through the place with you and give you hints on what to fix up to minimize their cleaning costs after you’re gone.

On Sheraton’s Web site, there’s a list of “moveout standards” that let tenants know what needs to be cleaned. Herbert said they’re even working on a training video that they’ll post online to show exactly how to clean difficult spots.

“If they clean to these standards, they’d get most if not all of their security deposit back,” Herbert said. “We also offer a pre-moveout inspection. I wish more people would take advantage of it.”

Sorry to say it, but you can’t stop there. Even with multiple walkthroughs, the cleaning bill can come up sky high, meaning your $600 deposit has turned into $200. Ask for a printout of the cleaning bill and challenge bogus charges. If you know you scrubbed the heck out of the oven and they charged for two hours of oven cleaning, you can and should get that money refunded.

The things Herbert sees people often neglect: Refrigerator door seals that get gunked with old food; window tracks, which attract mold; residue left inside drawers; and even underwear or old clothes found behind washing machines or dryers.