Make a better housing decision

The first housing fair in the UMC last Wednesday illustrated the frenzy of Boulder pre-leasing.

Here at the CUI, we’ve made your 2013 housing search a little bit easier by talking to some of the housing professionals around Boulder. We’ve gotten the inside scoop from students on what they would have liked to know when they started their housing searches.

One of the many signs around town advocating “Fall Preleasing” for the upcoming school year. (James Bradbury/CU Independnet)

Budget better, consider dropping pre-lease search

Across the board, everyone agreed: before starting apartment tours, have a budget set up. Susan Barkman, the community outreach coordinator in the Off-Campus Housing & Neighborhood Relations at CU, said many students don’t realize exactly what all you pay for as a renter.

“A lot of students don’t look at the total cost of living off campus,” Barkman said. “They go, ‘Ok, I’m going to pay $700 a month in rent.’ They don’t factor in that they have to pay their water, sewer, electric, cable, etc.”

“Keep in mind that these prices you’re seeing on websites are based on base rent, not including utilities,” said Benny Swan, Property Manager at Four Star on the Hill.  “I think it’s something of a shock [to students], like ‘oh, I thought this was included,’ and then they realize that maybe they picked a property that’s out of their price range.”

Barkman said that there is help for students who have never made a budget before.

“Our office can work with students to assess and figure out their true budgets for living off campus,” Barkman said.

Tom Orlando, a realtor and director of relocation at Housing Helpers, said that if students are on a really tight budget, skipping the pre-leasing rush could be best option.

“I’ve seen the best deals come up just two to three weeks before school starts,” Orlando said. “I know that’s a little scary, but Boulder never, ever runs out of properties. Of course, you won’t be living on the Hill, but you will find housing somewhere.”

Be wary of property managers

It seems that more experienced renters hold grudges against the property managers of Boulder. However, Collin Kurrier, 20-year-old English major, said that getting to know your landlord might pave the way for a better landlord-tenant relationship.

“Talk to [your landlord],” Kurrier said. “Ask what you can do to improve the house, or if there’s any upkeep we can do. If you make friends with them, it can really make for a better living situation.”

Anton Pagliuca, 20-year-old physics major, said it’s not always that easy.

“The fact is, you’re going to rent through a really bad company,” Pagliuca said. “They’re all trying to steal your money. At least, that’s the essence of it.”

So which was the most feared property manager of all?

“Stay away from BPM (Boulder Property Management), They’re terrible,” Hillary Mansfield, 20-year-old Spanish and education major, said.

Pagliuca agrees with Mansfield.

“BPM is pretty bad,” Pagliuca said. “They told us on a [housing] tour that they’re raising rents across the board for all their properties and the lady said, ‘We’re sorry.’ It’s like, no, you’re not.”

Boulder Property Management did not return a call seeking comment.

Advocate for yourself

Barkman said her most important advice to student renters was to utilize the Off-Campus Housing & Neighborhood Relations resources.

“Our office has an attorney,” Barkman said. “He provides free landlord-tenant legal advice to students and costs them nothing but their time.”

Bruce Sarbaugh provides many legal services for student renters, she said, including security deposit disputes and lease reviews.

Pagliuca said his best advice is to take photographic evidence of the state of the apartment.

“Before you move anything into your house, take pictures of literally everything — every crack, every cranny, every room — and keep them with a time stamp on them for the security deposit.”

To Barkman, the best thing a student renter can do is to get a lease review.

“Every single student should have a lease review with Bruce.”

View Average price per bedroom in Boulder in a larger map

Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Sarah Elsea at

Sarah Elsea

Sarah Elsea (more commonly known as "Just Elsea") is a junior Poetry and English major at the University of Colorado. Originally hailing from Virginia, she enjoys her cat, cooking biscuits and gravy, and reading poetry. Contact CU Independent Senior Staff Writer Sarah Elsea at

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