My First Apartment
There are several things in life that can be considered “big events” or even a rite of passage. Getting married, graduating from school, or getting your driver’s license are all major life events. Renting your first apartment should be included in that list as well. Jumping headfirst into the rental sea can be frightening and intimidating. However, with some thoughtful planning and a little research, anyone can find the perfect rental with confidence!
Let’s say that you are graduating college, and you have to move out of the dorms in one month. You have found a job in the city, and you will need to find an apartment. Where do you begin? How much can you afford? How will I move all of my stuff? What kind of questions will be asked by the property manager or landlord? Are they going to run a credit check? What can I expect the lease to say? Will I need to purchase renters insurance?
We’ll address all of these questions and also cover many of the pitfalls to avoid as you go through the rental process. For now, lets start with the first question…..
First Time Renter – Where do I begin?
The best place to start when you head off into the rental wilderness is to find a good pad of paper and a pen. You’ll be taking lots of notes (or should be) throughout this process. Have a page for phone numbers, your budget, general notes, and a list of the amenities you are looking for. You might want to use a good binder for this pad, as you will probably be traveling around town with it, spilling coffee on it, and writing more than you imagined in it. If the binder has a pocket for business cards, that would be even better. Often times the main office of apartment buildings or communities have business cards or brochures about the property. Always take any information you can get your hands on, and keep it in a file in your binder. Remember, before you start this process, organization is the key to your success. You will most likely be viewing a lot of properties, and writing more than you ever imagined. Only in the luckiest of cases does a renter find the perfect apartment on the first try.
How much apartment can I afford?
For a first-time apartment renter, this question can be a tough one to answer. However, it is much easier to make this estimate if you have done budgeting for yourself in the past. Simply put, you need to create a list of all of your current expenses, and subtract that from your current and expected future income. What is left over would be what you can afford for an apartment.
A major pitfall, however, is to just include the rent in your calculations. You’ll need to ask the property manager or landlord what the average utility bills might be, and include that number in the budget. Do you plan on installing premium cable? Will you be needing internet service? How about phone bills? Do you need to lease or rent furniture, as many first-time renters do? How much will the commuting cost be to and from my job? There are a lot of “hidden costs” even with renting. Although many of the costs of repair and maintenance will fall under what the landlord is responsible for, there are many other costs that will come out of your pocket.You might want to consider an apartment that comes in slightly under your budget figures to accommodate any unforeseen costs that will certainly come up during the time you are renting your apartment.
How will I move all of my stuff?
Even moving your furniture and belongings a few miles can be as difficult as moving to another country. The best thing to do before your move is to get rid of, or donate anything that you don’t need or don’t use any more. As you go through your posessions, ask yourself if you have used or worn a particular item in the past year. If not, you probably won’t miss it if you give it away.
If you don’t have any close friends that will help you move, now is the time to start making them! Renting a moving truck for a weekend or using a friend’s van can be the most inexpensive way to haul your big items – couches, the computer desk, and the bed. If you can avoid hiring a moving company, that will most certainly save you quite a bit of money, as many of these companies charge a hefty hourly fee.
Finally, start thinking now about boxes. Purchasing moving boxes can be costly. If you live near a supermarket, or an office supplies store, you might ask them if you may have their used boxes. Often times they are tossed out or recycled, so why not offer to take them off of their hands? For some mysterious reason, finding boxes at the last minute is always challenging. Start collecting them now.
The key is to start planning your physical move well in advance of moving day!