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Apartment Hunting 101

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Ok so you’ve got your job, you’ve figured out your finances and made a budget. Now, let’s get you into the right apartment! Here is a list of things to know and consider as you start your search for your perfect new place.

 

Know what you can afford:

As we discussed in the previous post, you have to understand what you can afford. If you haven’t read the finance part yet, I suggest you go back and read that first. I can tell you from experience there is nothing worse than getting yourself into a lease that has you financially strapped each month. 

 

So what should you be spending on rent?

The general recommendation is to spend no more than 30% of your gross monthly income on rent. So if you make $4,000 per month (before taxes), multiply that by .03 and you’ll get $1200. So when apartment hunting you could be looking for anything $1200 per month and under.

In addition to your rent, you’ll want to consider renter’s insurance as well, which you’ll most likely have to have.

Most landlords now require renters insurance when you move in. I would make sure to shop around and find the policy and price that works for you. The average cost of renters insurance is around $19 per month, so I’d prepare for that, but shop around. If you have a co-signer who has a homeowners insurance policy, you may be covered under their policy.

 

Should you get a roommate?

There are perks to having a roommate, well one really big perk…saving money. It’s usually cheaper to pay half of the rent of a two bedroom apartment, then it is to pay 100% of a one bedroom apartment. Not to mention you get to split the utilities in half. Other than money, you ideally would only have to do half of the chores and furnish half of the apartment. So there are obviously some benefits. But if you’re not careful, the benefits will not outweigh the burden. You and your roommate have to be on the same page about most aspects of living for it to go smoothly. This is different than college where you worried about school and partying. If one of you is still partying on a Tuesday and the other is trying to get a good nights sleep for their job, it’s going to be a problem.

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Understanding your Utilities

Your utilities are another big deal. Some apartments may come with utilities included and others will not. As a new customer, some utility companies will require you to put down a deposit or some money up front to open a new account. All of these costs need to be considered when figuring out where to live.

 

What do you recommend when it comes to better understanding utilities?

Talk to the property manager at the prospective apartment complex. Ask them for estimates on utilities for the type of unit you’re looking at. Also ask them what companies they use or what providers they have available for cable, internet etc. Some communities bill the tenants directly for water, as an example, so the tenant won’t have to worry about setting up an account and paying any deposits. So things like that are good to know before deciding to sign a lease.

 

Choosing the spot

Now that you’ve got the budget figured out, it’s time to find the right place. Here are some quick things to consider when searching (besides price as we’ve already determined that):

Proximity to work

Proximity to friends/family

Parking availability

What is the neighborhood like

Closest grocery store

Will your stuff fit

What amenities do you need? Ex: gym, pool, business center

Do they accept pets

Washer/Dryer paid or in unit

Scope out the demographic of the complex/surrounding area

 

Last step…Move In!

Make sure you read the lease and understand it. If you don’t, ask questions. It’s important to know the rules, the rent, any fees, late fees, when the rent is due, grace periods, security deposits etc. Ask as many questions as you need to to understand, or consultant a parent or someone else you trust.

Do a thorough walk through when you move in. Chances are this is the most you’ve spent on rent and you want to make sure your place is in good condition and everything is clean and working properly. If not, document it right away with pictures and send an email to the property manager. This will help ensure that you were not responsible for said issues and that it doesn’t end up coming out of your security deposit at the end of the lease if it’s not fixed.

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