The Amazing Race for Off-Campus Housing

Sophomore Tess Martinelli on Center Street, close to her future home. Photo by Ayres.

Finding off-campus housing is not for the weak.

After living at Chapman Grand for the past two years, sophomores Tess Martinelli and Lauren Szlozek decided to get in the market for an off-campus house during their junior years.

But then Chapman bought the house they were first looking at. Then a landlord pulled out at the last minute on another location. Eventually, Martinelli and Szlozek were forced to reevaluate and sign a less-than-ideal lease out of their desired price range.

“We got hit hard, particularly with two houses falling through,” Szlozek said. 

After being placed as roommates at random, Martinelli (left) and Szlozek (right) have chosen to live with each other all four years of college. Photo courtesy of Martinelli.

As Chapman’s student population continues to rise since 2013, Orange’s older home stock keeps decreasing. However, for those with a burning desire to live off-campus, it’s always been hard to navigate finding a house. Students have had to come up with creative ways to move out of the dorms. 

Ketzia Abramson, Chapman’s off-campus coordinator, said that the choice to move to a house off-campus requires a certain level of responsibility.

“If a student isn’t able to walk that path alone, then it might not be the right time,” she continued. 

She explains that Chapman focuses the majority of its resources on its own housing. 


Zillow map of rentals in Old Towne Orange. Screenshot by Ayres.

Martinelli and Szlozek feel lucky that they settled on a house just minutes from campus, but it was at expense of their budget and anxiety.

“There is housing; it just depends on what you want and how much you’re willing to give up,” Szlozek said.

Martinelli wishes she could give some advice to her past self. 

“I think it really helps to start with the housing process early by making a connection with someone living in a house who may be able to pass it off to you afterward,” she explained.

The two eventually found their house through a friend in Szlozek’s sorority Kappa Alpha Theta who was moving out.

Similar to Szlozek and Martinelli, sophomore broadcast journalism & documentary major Kate Worsham refused to move further than walking distance from campus. She grew up minutes away from Old Towne Orange in Villa Park. 

Sophomore Kate Worsham is planning to move into a house in Old Towne. Photo courtesy of Worsham.

“If I had to drive, why wouldn’t I just live at home?” she said.

Worsham found the process of finding housing so difficult, she ultimately contacted a realtor.

“The best part of moving out for sure is living in a super historic, charming house and getting an experience that is so unique to the Old Towne area,” she said.

Worsham was willing to ultimately put in the work to find her next house for the college experience she wants.

Chapman’s Off-Campus Coordinator Abramson said that while it doesn’t directly have a responsibility to help with off-campus housing, the university does offer a website with links to resources for people searching off-campus.

“We do have guidance to offer,” she said. 

This includes a Facebook page, which both Worsham claimed to be unhelpful when it comes to actual listings. Szlozek said it was oversaturated with potential renters rather than people with houses.

“It’s only helpful if you already secured a house, just need roommates,” Szlozek said.

Abramson said that Facebook – and housing in general – is finicky. 

“Some years we get a lot of postings, and some years we don’t get very many at all – it just depends,” she explained. 

She further explained Chapman’s approach to off-campus housing. 

“Our philosophy is that we will help light the way and point them in the right direction,” she said.

From there, students just pull their weight.

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Vivienne Ayres is a sophomore Broadcast Journalism & Documentary major from Nashville, TN. She loves thrifting and going to concerts.