So you’re thinking about getting your first apartment? What a fun and exciting thing! That was always the ultimate goal growing up… getting away from your parents. I thought about this day a million times throughout high school. But holy sh*t was I unprepared. A lot of people don’t realize how much it takes to get out in the world on your own. Most people (including myself) dive right in without planning things out. I am a very impatient person, and I always thought I was invincible. Who needs planning? I procrastinated all throughout high school and managed to make it out alive! Why should this be so different?
Before you make such a rash decision.. let me give you some advice on things you should keep in mind before signing that lease.
1. How much money do you really need?
For your very first apartment, you are going to need so much more than you think!!! The first time I went out and got an apartment on my own, my boyfriend (at the time) and I decided that our income taxes that year should be enough. I mean when else were we ever going to have that much money all at once?? So we went ahead and found the cheapest apartment we could find, and we were moved in within a week. HOLD UP! There are a million things you need to put into consideration that we did not.
First, there is the deposit. Most places you go are either going to want a certain amount based on your credit score (really? That’s what that crazy thing called a credit score is for?) or they want the first and last months rent up front. Now, maybe you were wise and started building that credit score up sooner rather than later. Or… you are like the rest of us young adults and still don’t really understand what the hell a credit score is, let alone how to build it up. So I would recommend before even considering moving in somewhere that you have at least 3 months worth of rent saved up. That sounds like an absurd amount of money, I know. But anything could happen. You could lose your job (god forbid), or you might have car repairs or other unexpected expenses pop up. Either way, it’s best to plan ahead of time just to stay on the safe side.
Another thing to consider is you most likely will have some sort of application fee (anywhere from 25-80 dollars some places), and then there are the utilities (power, water, cable/internet). These things normally require some sort of a deposit. My credit score was crap (yes, even power companies may take your credit score into consideration) so my deposit ended up being about $250 to turn it on in my name. So let’s say your rent costs you $700… so you would already need at least $2,100 (3 months worth of rent) possibly $80 (application fee) and another $300 just for power. That’s a grand total of $2,480!! Throw on a pet fee if you have an animal and that’s about an extra $300 to keep your furrbaby with you! SO… like I said… PLAN AHEAD.
2. Check out the area
My parents always told me before deciding on a place to live, I needed to look around during the day AND at night. You can tell a lot about the neighborhood based on what the vehicles in the area look like. Driving around at night is also a very important detail. Are there a bunch of sketchy looking characters roaming the streets? Is it a well lit area? Just some words of wisdom I thought I could pass down to you guys.
My first apartment was super cheap, in a terrible part of town, and there were always a bunch of hoodlums hanging out around their vehicles. NOT TO MENTION someone got shot in front of my building when I wasn’t home one day. Enough said.
The first place I always look for places to rent around my area is Zillow. My friends all recommended it to me when I got sick of driving around and getting disappointed. You can narrow down your search to the area, price range, how many bedrooms, and so much more.
3. READ THE FRICKIN LEASE!
PLEASE! I never read my lease the first time around. There were so many stipulations I wasn’t even aware of. For example… what if this doesn’t work out 4 months down the road and you signed a 12 month lease? Some places require you to pay WHAT’S LEFT of the contract to break the lease! Lucky for us, it was only about a $300 fee, but we had to give them at least a 30 days notice.
Another thing… management at some apartment complexes are allowed to just walk in without notice. Um… that is so not okay with me. I would at least appreciate a heads up.
I know it may seem daunting reading a lease that’s oh… 30 pages long. But please, take your time. Ask if you can take a copy of it with you and read over it a little bit at a time. Just do not sign your name unless you are 100% sure you agree with all the terms and conditions. Heck, sometimes they may be willing to change something you don’t quite like so long as it is reasonable.
3. Who is going to live with you?
I have lived with all kinds of people as roommates. I was placed with complete strangers in a dorm-like apartment complex, I have lived with my boyfriend and his friends, a co-worker, the list goes on. I had terrible experiences with all the above. One important thing to keep in mind is are you willing to share a space with another human being? Roommates are lovely, especially when you are broke as a joke and don’t want to live in the scary part of town (because that’s all you could afford). Make sure you understand what you are getting yourself into. Is this person messy? Do they enjoy partying or are they the type to turn into bed early? Make sure your personalities as well as priorities are somewhat on the same page, or you may find yourself wanting to blow your brains out a few months down the road. Living with your best friend does not always work. You went from seeing that person every few days to sharing your personal space with them 24/7. Don’t ruin a friendship over it.
4. Furniture, toiletries, cleaning supplies, groceries.
Having your first apartment has even more expenses… I did not realize that stocking up a completely empty kitchen the first time around was going to cost around $300!! You’re starting all over, so you have to get all the spices, flour, sugar, any other essential ingredients AS WELL AS the actual food. Here is a very detailed grocery checklist I took with me my first time around!
Toilet paper, tooth brushes, your basic cleaning supplies.
Shower curtains, towels, pots and pans, dishes, eating utensils. The list goes on and on.
I found this really awesome checklist from Bed, Bath, and Beyond I definitely recommend using just to make sure you didn’t forget anything.
So… are you really as prepared for getting your first apartment as you thought you were? I really hope sharing some of my own experiences with getting a new place will arm you with some wisdom when that day finally arrives!
Did I leave anything out? Please share some of YOUR experiences in the comments below! I know someone out there will surely appreciate it!