Getting Your First Apartment--A Guide For Young Adults by a Young Adult
I've been out of my dad's house since I was seventeen. I lived with an old boyfriend, with my best friend, with a new boyfriend, and with my sister. After three years of having no place to really call my own, I decided I was tired of it and that I was going to get my first apartment. I was working at a Buffalo Wild Wings, not making more than $300 a paycheck and living with my wonderful boyfriend at his parent's house. As I sit here in my lovely, little two-bedroom, third-floor apartment I think about how overwhelming and stressful it was to get here. I had no guidance and no idea where to start, and that is why I am writing this article. I hope to shed some detailed light on how you, too, can accomplish the seemingly impossible feat of moving out on your own. I won't give you any unneccessary information and I'll try not to lecture. I just want you to know everything I know now in hopes that you will be fully prepared for what is to come.
Finding Your Apartment
When looking for an apartment, price is the first thing to consider. Most apartment complexes require you to make 3 to 3.5 times the cost of rent to be considered for approval. Just a little tip--find an apartment on the 2nd or 3rd floor. It will be cheaper than ground level because most people don't like the thought of hauling groceries up a flight of stairs. Next, consider location. An apartment with a lot of stores and conveniences around will be considerably more expensive than one a little further away from a main street. One other important thing to pay attention to is safety. I know that really cheap apartments seem like the perfect place for a broke, young adult, but you really don't want people breaking into your car all the time or even worse, breaking into your apartment. If a low budget apartment is all you can really afford, I suggest you either find a roommate and a better area or stay to yourself and park away from the complex. Also..invest in a deadbolt!
Who do you plan to live with? Is it with a friend or two? A boyfriend or girlfriend? Or even by yourself? Either way, you need to make sure that who ever you decide to take the plunge with is reliable, smart, and someone who isn't going to bail on you if things get tough. BOTH OF YOUR NAMES NEED TO BE ON THE LEASE! Seriously..this is a big one. If your roommates name is not on the lease, the can leave you high and dry with a rent you most likely can't afford by yourself. Also, a broken lease is really bad to have on your record. Here is my advice on each situation depending on who you are living with:
BOYFRIEND/GIRLFRIEND: Please, please, please make sure you're ready to spend 6-12 months under a contract with your lover. I know it's tempting to want to move in with your boyfriend or girlfriend when you've been going out for a few months and hate to be apart. No having to answer to parents' rules and the chance to create a little haven for just the two of you. Just think about what happens if the two of you sign a lease and 4 months down the line, the stress of bills, work, and who's gonna do the dishes finally gets to your relationship? I am personally very happy with my choice to live with Jake. By chance I got to test out the waters without a formal agreement at his parents house, but not everyone is so lucky. If you do decide that you and your mate have enough stamina to move out together, that's great! More power to you and good luck! Just make sure you come to an agreement on what happens if you do decide to break up before the lease is up.
FRIEND(S): This situation is not quite as risky as moving in with your significant other, but it still poses some possible problems. Living with too many people can get annoying. Sometimes my roommates want to have a party when all I want to do is watch tv in the living room. You both need to agree on how to deal with those situations, how you'll share the responsibilities, and whether or not you're going to buy food for the whole house or buy your own food. Make sure they are dependable!
JUST YOU!: Wow, it take's guts to move out on your own. Kudo's to that! Make sure you can do it on your own and stay safe. Not much advice I can give on that. Although sometimes it can be harder to get approved if you have no credit.
Once you've find your ideal apartment, the really stressful stuff begins. You need to be approved by the leasing agents. Here are a few things they look at and what you need to qualify for most apartments.
- You need to have your last 3 pay stubs and you must have held your current job for at least 6 months.
- Your monthly income must equal 3-3.5 times the amount you'll be paying in rent.
- Credit! This is a big one for most apartment complexes, especially for first time renters. I personally have limited to no credit history seeing as I have never had a credit card, bought a car, paid bills, etc. And that almost cost me the apartment I have. Thankfully one of my roommates had some good credit history and that saved us. Before you move out you need to start building your credit. If you can't be approved for a credit card, get a prepaid credit card. They're really good for people our age and they don't allow you to go over what you can pay. Be responsible! I can't stress that enough. What you do now affects you for the rest of your life. Bad credit honestly makes life so much harder than it has to be. I posted a link on this paragraph to another site that gives you more on different options to build your credit.
Approval can take 3 days to 3 weeks depending upon how fast you get all the information needed to the leasing agents and how quickly they complete it. For us, it took about 3 weeks because we were not prepared and the four of us did not coordinate as well as we should have. You will normally have to pay an 'administraion fee' as they like to call it. It's basically paying them for the time spent trying to get you approved. Ours was $45 per couple.
After you are approved, you'll need to pay the deposit. It is refunded in part when you move out. We had a deposit of $250 due to our lack of credit.
When you are approved for your apartment, you will be required to have electricity set up by the date you are scheduled to move in. A good website to go to when choosing your electricity company is www.whitefence.com or www.powertochoose.com. Don't wait until last minute to set this up because there is normally a 3-5 business day wait period until they can get out there and turn it on. My electricity bill ranges from $125-$180. I have a two bedroom and we rarely run the a/c, although we have been using the heater more often due to winter. I try to turn off the lights when no one is using them, but my roommates are not as adament.
Apartments normally charge for water and trash pick-up. It can range anywhere from $15-$50 a month. I pay roughly $25-$50 for water and trash. It is a little higher than most due to the fact that my complex uses allocated water. That means my water bill is dependant on how much water the entire complex uses. I don't think it's fair, but it doesn't bother me much because we got a great deal on our apartment, so it makes up for it in a way. A lot of apartments will charge a set fee which may be better for those who will be living on a very strct budget. Side note: I am by no means rich. It's just that having three roommates softens the blow of these expenses. I end up paying $15 for my share of the water bill :)
Now to furnish your lovely new apartment! There are many ways to save money and still have all the functional furniture you need. Try garage sales, flea markets, friends and family who have a couch or end table they don't want anymore. Never underestimate the power of Febreze and a couch cover to revitalize that nasty old couch on the curb. Look hard and you might come across some awesome finds. You can also try places like Rooms To Go that offer package deals that may even include a tv with a living room set. They offer financing programs that allow you to pay monthly installments. I was fortunate enough to have a roommate that had inherited a large sum of money and paid for our furniture in full.
Don't forget about everything else you need to allow money for in your budget. Here are the things I can think of that you will also be spending money on:
- Extra activities
- Personal hygiene products
- Kitchen utensils
- Cleaning supplies
- Detergents and dish soaps
Set a realistic budget and get all the things you need before moving in. I suggest collecting them slowly over a few paychecks so the cost isn't so heavy when you're trying to pay for the deposit.
I may have missed a few things, or perhaps you want to ask specific questions. I'll try to answer as best I can and please leave me some feedback on whether or not this article was helpful in any way. Thanks for reading and good luck!