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How to Find Your First Apartment
Posted By Brett & Kate McKay On April 13, 2009 @ 5:45 pm In Money & Career | 27 Comments
Editor’s Note: One of the features of the new Art of Manliness Community is the ability to post blog posts. If we find one of these posts particularly interesting or helpful, we’ll be posting it up here on the main site. Kicking off this new tradition, we have a post by Shane Belin.
Over the past couple of months, I found myself charged with the task of finding my first apartment. Being a student, I spent the last three years living in a dorm during the school year and living at home during the summer. So, for my fourth year of college, I decided it was time to move into my own apartment.
It’s a step every man has to take at some point. It’s that moment where you realize that you no longer live at home with mom and dad, which is also likely where you grew up. It can be a daunting or even scary task to have to pick where you are now going to live and call home. But it can also be a rewarding and fun experience that you might just learn from. I wasn’t overwhelmed too much, and there’s no reason to overwhelm yourself either. You just need to formulate a plan, and approach it with your head on straight. Having just gone through this experience, there are some tips and insight I hope I can give that will make finding an apartment for you much easier.
Money is one of the first things you should consider. Take a look at your financial and life situation and ask the question, “What can I really afford?”Are you a recent college graduate who just landed a good paying job? Are you still an undergrad who would have to pay for rent with college loans (like myself)? This is important to consider so that you don’t find yourself on some first of the month with not enough money in the bank. Set yourself a strict limit for what you feel is within your power, and stick to it. Go above your limit only if you find a place you really enjoy that isn’t too far above your rent limit. This will help you out in a couple of ways. First, you will be able to focus on a smaller range of apartment listings, making it easier to select the best within those listings. Second, setting a limit helps you to not be too unreasonable. If your monthly rent limit is $600, you won’t spend time looking at an amazing three bedroom apartment with an eat-in kitchen that has a $1200 a month rent. It will save you time, effort, and keep you within your means.
Make sure you understand what utilities you will be responsible for paying. If you are responsible for paying the gas, is it just the cooking gas or the heating gas as well? Keep in mind that some places have electric heating, which may fall under your responsibility if you are responsible for paying electricity. This would mean the difference between a $110 winter electricity bill or a $50 winter electricity bill. Knowing exactly what utilities you are responsible for helps you determine how much you really will be paying per month (utilities+rent). If all utilities are included, then great! All you have to worry about is paying the rent. The rental company or landlord may be able to give you utility bill estimates. If not, the majority of utility companies will give you that information if you give them a call. Simply give them the address and apartment number you are interested in, and they can give you the average utility bills for that apartment. Pretty handy, huh?
Of course, don’t forget about things besides just rent and utilities! Toiletries, food, gas, internet, and bus fare are just some of the things you might have to consider as well. Try to formulate exactly how much of a budget you can give to these each month, and try to stick with that. There isn’t a whole lot of advice to give right here, because these misc. costs will vary from person to person and apartment to apartment. The moral of the story is: be mindful of what you can afford! Live within your means, and you should do just fine.
There are multiple avenues you can pursue when finding the actual apartment. The classic way is to search through the classified ads of your local paper, or through an apartment listing booklet such as Apartment Finder. The only downside to this method is that listings sometimes lack pictures, forcing you to visit them to even gage your initial interest.
To resolve this issue, the internet can be a great place to turn. Online classified listings are a great place to start, as they usually include several pictures of the actual apartment, and can give more information than a print classified ad. There are a multitude of sites that can be used to find apartments. The one that helped me out the most was Craigslist. It’s rather straightforward, and it includes a lot of listings. Try to be wary of listings that seem a little shady. If the pictures they post are time stamped for 1998, they likely do not accurately reflect how the apartment really looks.
Of course the best way to go is to use both methods! A combination of looking online and in print ads will help you not miss the perfect apartment for you.
When arriving to view an apartment, try to be very prompt and on time. If you’re late for your viewing, what’s to stop the landlord from thinking you’ll be late on payments? Being prompt can help give that first boost of confidence to your potential landlord.
When viewing the apartment, don’t just give each room a quick up and down. It’s important to really take time to take it all in. After all, this is the place you’ll be calling home. Are the walls and carpet well-kept? How new are the appliances? Take note of the windows, as double-pane windows will help you cut down on energy costs. Note even the small things such as electrical outlets. It’s important to see that everything seems reasonably well kept as well as safe. One important thing to note is the size of the rooms themselves. This will help you avoid trying to put too much stuff into too small an apartment!
Most importantly, don’t be scared to ask questions. The person showing you the apartment should be more than willing to provide you with any information you might have. It’s better to be informed going in than finding out about something when you move. As always, leave the person with a handshake and a “Thank you” to show your gratitude.
This should almost be as important as the apartment itself! You must make sure you are moving into an area that you will feel comfortable in, as well as safe. Consult online databases to get crime statistics for the area. Even if you were to move into a dangerous area, you would at least know what you’re getting yourself into.
If you own a car, see if there is ample parking near the apartment or if your landlord can provide off-street parking (usually with a fee). You must make sure you are moving into an area that you like, or else you might be unhappy even if you like your apartment. Other things to consider include proximity to grocery stores, noise levels, and proximity to school or work. It boils down to finding an area that’s comfortable, safe, and relative to your needs.
Potentially one of the hardest parts about the move is the fact that you may be living with someone new. This is the person you are going to be likely signing an apartment lease with, so I can’t stress enough the importance of finding a roommate that you will be able to get along with and enjoy living with. Your best bet is to find someone you’ve known for a long time on a personal basis. Ideally this is someone you’ve spent a lot of time with so you know their personality and habits, and the move would be that much more smooth and enjoyable. However, you may find that you have to find a complete stranger to live with. If you find yourself in this situation, it is important to get to know them as much as you possibly can before moving in together. If you are the quiet type, you would be put off when you find out your roommate is a loud party animal. The more you get to know the person, the better likelihood you have of being compatible roommates.
One potential roommate that some men find themselves with is their girlfriend/fiance/wife. This is the position I find myself in (moving in with long-term girlfriend), and I personally couldn’t be more happy with it. It can be a wonderful experience to move in with a long-time girlfriend or someone you may spend the rest of your life with. That considered, it’s a really big step. It shows a commitment that you two have to each other, as you will be sharing the responsibilities of owning a place as well as being with each other likely much more than you have before. However, don’t try to be too hasty in jumping on the chance to move in with your significant other. I’m not saying it’s a bad idea to (as I’m personally doing it), but make sure you give it ample thought. Have you been with this person long enough to really know them on a deep personal level? Countless times I’ve heard tales of couples moving in together, only to find out that they aren’t compatible on mundane things that end up hurting the relationship.
Make sure you are willing to compromise and make sacrifices when living with someone new. It eases the strain and makes it a nicer experience for both you and your roommate. Make sure financial responsibility is understood, and that your roommate can handle doing their part to help out. A big plus of living with a roommate is that your personal costs can drop dramatically (in half or even more). Take this into account with setting a budget and finding a potential apartment.
… you choose where you are going to live. There’s no advice I can give you on how you are personally going to make your decision. If you take into account your budget, the area, the apartment, and your roommate then you should be able to arrive at a decision that suits you best and will bring you the most enjoyment. Moving into your first apartment can be a very rewarding experience, as you are finally out by yourself in the world, and more responsible than you have been. Try not to fret about it, and try to learn from the experience. Having gone through the process myself, I can confidently say that it is not as bad as you may think!
Have any more tips on finding your first apartment? Leave them in the comments.
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