You think you've found THE perfect first apartment on the apps!
But what do they mean by a “cozy, rustic, garden-level” studio?
Spoiler alert: It’s a tiny, old, basement apartment.
Apartment hunting can be overwhelming, even for those who’ve done it before. But it’s necessary if you ever want to move out from under your parents’ roof.
The silver lining: these tips will prepare you to navigate the real estate jungle and find your first place.
Step 1: Budgeting
Start with figuring out your rental budget. One popular rule-of-thumb is to spend no more than one-third of your income on rent. There also are many one-time costs that can add up:
Application fees to cover the cost of screening the tenant, like background checks
Broker fees paid to the realtor for showing the apartment
Moving costs for supplies (boxes, tape, bubble wrap), movers, and a vehicle
You'll also have to factor in monthly utilities, such as heat, hot water, cable, and internet. Some may be included in the rent, but be sure to double check.
And wait...there's more...
Most apartments require some combination of first month's rent, last month's rent, and a security deposit — which you'll get back if you don't trash the place!
Step 2: Hunting
Make a list of your absolute must-haves and dealbreakers in an apartment.
No one apartment will have it all, so it's important to manage your expectations.
Next, create a timeline. Depending on the city, you may need to look between 30 - 60 days ahead of your desired move-in.
Do your research and find some online apartment listing sites near your area. Check the ratings!
Step 3: Vetting
Arrange a tour of the apartment with the real estate agent. Consider the space and layout: will granny's hand-me-down rocking chair fit?
Don't forget to check:
the water pressure of the shower
the toilets flush properly
all of the outlets work
Check out your potential new digs in the neighborhood. Do you feel safe?
How close is it to a laundromat, grocery store, and public transportation?
Watch out for these red flags:
Deals that seem too good to be true
Extreme lease clauses (ex: pay rent 6 months ahead)
"Bait and switch" scenarios where the apartment is not as advertised
Trust your gut and make sure it feels right — if something feels off, it probably is.
Which of these is concerning when vetting an apartment?
Step 4: Planning
Good planning can save you some major headaches down the road.
Compare price quotes from moving companies. Read their reviews!
Set up internet and cable beforehand so you're not forced to WFH at the coffee shop.
Get renter's insurance — it's cheap and can save you thousands of dollars in an emergency.
Measure your furniture. Don't forget to check that it will fit through doorways. Order what else you'll need in advance. Delivery can take months!
Step 5: Moving
Moving is going to be one of the most stressful days of your life, so be prepared to make the best of it.
Pack everything up carefully. Bubble wrap will be your best friend.
Keep a list or label each box directly.
Have some basic tools handy. Command strips for the win!
Your final step is LIVING.
Develop a good relationship with the landlord, super, and your neighbors. Explore the neighborhood and all it has to offer! And if nothing else — PAY YOUR RENT on time.
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