8 Things to Know When Searching for Your Law School Apartment
Living arrangements impact your law school experience—for better and worse. While Albany Law School does not offer housing, the city of Albany and surrounding areas offer plenty of safe, affordable options.
There are hundreds of apartments within walking distance of the law school or just a short drive from campus. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the area is approximately $950, but many students opt to split a two- or three-bedroom apartment with rents from $1,100-$1,700, according to Apartments.com.
With so many options, it can be difficult to narrow down the best choice for you. We spoke with some of our students on their experiences. They offered tips and tricks for making sure you find a perfect place to relax in between writing briefs and, eventually, bar exam preparation
No. 1 - Classmates and Roommates are a good combo
Many law students prefer to live close to the law school with classmates. Some of the closest neighborhoods to campus are the Helderberg area, the New Scotland neighborhood, and Park South. Families, young professionals, and students live in close proximity in these areas. There are also many restaurants and shops.
For 3L Matt Skinner, living with another law student was the goal when he started his housing search. He was able to connect with another incoming student and they found a two-bedroom apartment with affordable rent, close to the law school, and steps from one of Albany’s best attractions—Washington Park.
“It depends on who you are and what your approach to living is and, of course, what your wallet can handle,” he said. “I’m someone who—even if I’m not talking to my roommate or hanging out with them —knowing that there’s someone nearby, it’s comfortable. Accountability, too—we were in three of five of the same classes.”
No. 2 – Ask for a video tour
Something that gained popularity throughout the pandemic is video tours of apartments. Asking for one can be a great way to avoid multiple trips to view apartments, vet a landlord or potential roommates, and have an exact idea of living space.
“Video tours really help you visualize the square footage and see how big it actually is going to be. Pictures don’t always show it,” said Sarah Dixon-Morgan, an Albany Law 3L and Wellness Initiative fellow.
She plans to move to New York City in the fall for her first job and requesting video tours has been a continued lifesaver, she said.
No. 3 – Suites are a good starting point
While many students enjoy living in city neighborhoods, there is an option for incoming students looking for a one-stop-shop to adjust to Albany in their first year. Many 1Ls—especially those coming from a distance—choose the University Heights College Suites complex.
Within site of the 2000 building, the complex is about as close to campus as one can get.
The apartments come with basic furniture and all utilities are included. Though it can have a dormitory feel—apartments include twin beds and smaller kitchen and bathroom areas—many law students find the convenience and security worth it.
The complex is available to students at the institutions surrounding Albany Law School—Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Albany Medical College, Russell Sage College, and Maria College—as well as students from the University at Albany and the College of Saint Rose.
Living at University Heights means living with students from many area schools—but sharing close quarters with someone with different educational priorities might not be ideal. Choosing to sign a lease with other law students is a good way to make sure your roommates understand not to practice the drums the day before a Torts exam.
No. 4 - Know your style
Having a handle on your study style is another factor to consider when looking for a place to live. A separation from work and home may be a necessity for some, but others may thrive on completing coursework at home.
“Studying in college is a lot different than studying in law school. If you have a sense of how you work best—if you’re library studier or not—keep in mind that you’re going to want to have space for a decent-sized desk or table,” Volkman said.
No. 5 – Talk to neighborhood associations
Requesting information from neighborhood associations can also give you an insight into where you might want to live. Many associations have an active online presence and have representatives that can answer questions about the area.
Sam Curry, the chair of the Helderberg Neighborhood Association, said this area has a great mix of residential streets and businesses—including restaurants, a good walking loop, and a library branch—and offers a quiet slice of city life. They also host events like a plant swap each year.
Many suburbs of the city of Albany also offer a reasonable cost of living and most are a short drive away from the law school.
Areas like Delmar, East Greenbush, Guilderland, and Colonie are only a few miles from campus and some students have found these areas to work for them, creating a comfortable separation between law school and home.
“You really have everything you need right there,” she said. “Rents are also affordable and apartments are readily available.”
No. 6 – Search and decide deliberately, not quickly
Albany is home to multiple colleges and universities, so the term “student housing” can yield an overwhelming number of search results.
With other institutions nearby, new college students are also on the hunt for housing. But law students may not want to live in places filled with undergraduate revelry.
Using sites like Zillow and Trulia generally yield more desirable results for law students, Dixon-Morgan said, adding that search results can be tailored to show available housing in specific neighborhoods.
“Zillow was more helpful for me than Apartments.com just because Zillow was the private landlords who have a two-family house in Center Square. Zillow and Trulia are really more geared toward houses and less toward undergraduate apartments,” she said.
If an apartment seems like a good fit, always search the landlord or property management company. Check out any reviews or complaints against them and speak with neighbors if you can. Once they provide a lease, make sure you read it carefully and ask questions if anything seems off.
“I didn't realize until I was in property my first semester, but have a lease that actually has valid clauses in it. In our first apartment, we had a really good lease. I’ve seen other leases and thought ‘This would never hold up in a court of law’,” she said. “That's a good habit to get into, especially for people who are going to law school.”
No. 7 - You can change your mind
If you don’t love your living situation, it’s never permanent.
“I moved after my first year because we were paying too much money. And it's a short amount of time,” Dixon-Morgan said. “Once you're here you can see how these neighborhoods feel and I think that makes a difference. You can walk down the streets and see everything and figure out what works for you.”
For Dixon-Morgan, she previously lived in Tennessee, it was common to live in an apartment complex owned by a management company so, utilizing public transportation, street parking, and paying for heat was new.
In her first Capital Region apartment, utilities like heat and hot water were not included and it became more expensive than expected. When it came time to find a new place, she and her husband made sure utilities were included.
“We really looked at our priorities. The second place we looked for, we wanted to be closer to the law school so I could walk to school—since we have one car between us. We tried to look at places that were within a mile. Obviously, that's very possible in Albany,” she said.
They found an apartment between Center Square and Lincoln Park – within walking distance of the law school, grocery stores, and restaurants.
“We really like the area and have never had any problems,” she said.
No. 8 – You have help
Albany Law School has several resources for students to connect with potential roommates and find the perfect apartment.
The law school operates a Facebook group for the incoming class, where apartment listings are frequently shared, and people looking for roommates can connect.
The Admissions Office also maintains an internal listserv where available apartment listings are shared often.
As you connect with students at various admitted student events, be sure to ask!
Albany Law School’s student ambassadors are also available to answer any questions. They can help with anything—apartments, neighborhood questions, even the food scene—so don’t hesitate to reach out to them.