Something to Hang Your Hats On…
Getting Your First Apartment
Making the change to living in your OWN first apartment can be daunting, intimidating, liberating and fulfilling all at the same time. (And sometimes in that order.) But there are things you can do that will help bring up those feelings of liberation and fulfillment a bit more. After all, you just graduated and landed a good job, so now you have to get the place to match it! Here are some helpful tips in guiding you to the perfect apartment as a recent grad.
1. Decide What It Is You’re Looking For
“That looks like a great place to have a raging pool party!” should probably not be the deciding factor in getting a place or not. (Although that’s a GREAT perk.) Here’s an idea of what SHOULD be the factors: affordability and convenience. Bill Pratt, president of Pratt Financial Group and author of numerous books on personal finance, said “There are always apartments in college towns with fewer amenities that cost a lot less.” He’s speaking to affordability. It doesn’t mean you have to search for the American Gothic of housing, it just means skipping out an any unnecessary amenities. Living close to your place of employment also cuts down on expenses and adds convenience. All you need right now are the bare essentials. Worry about being on MTV Cribs later.
2. Early Bird Gets the Worm
And by worm, we mean lease. Mario DiMercurio, a recent graduate from Michigan State and former intern for Sony, said, “I found my first apartment by looking on a bulletin board in the middle of campus months before I graduated. I also had made frequent visits to the surrounding neighborhood looking at various places for rent and comparing prices before that”. There may be tons of recent graduates vying for the same handful of apartments in an area, so starting early gives you and advantage. Plus, it’s just good to get to know where you might be living. When you meet your potential landlord and his name is Norman Bates, that might be something to think about.
3. Timing Is Everything
Want to know the secret of finding a good deal on an apartment? Move in the winter. It’s the best time. According to Apartment Wiz, an apartment locating service, a majority of tenants move in and out of apartments between late spring and early fall. While that means there’s a greater availability of apartments it also means more competition. During the summer months, landlord phones ring off the hook. But in the winter, not so much. Here is when you as a prospective tenant have the most bargaining power. Fewer people are willing to go through the stress of moving when it’s cold out. Landlords are then far more willing to negotiate rent prices, security deposits, etc. for wintertime vacancies. Their goal now is to just fill the property. Just remember you’re talking to a landlord, not a used car salesman. You still need to represent yourself well and establish a good relationship with them. Don’t haggle too much, but do see if he or she is willing to talk.
4. 2,000 Colleges, 8 million Roommates…
If living with someone you know is not an option, then Craigslist and other online roommate services are out there. Just be sure to do your research on them. Look them up on Facebook, interview them, and make sure you get a good vibe. And make sure they sign the lease. If someone drops out, they are still liable for their share of the rent if their names are on that dotted line. Finding a “good” roommate can be a bit tricky. Good, as it is used here, simply means someone who can pay their rent on time and in full and doesn’t get into any trouble. “Great” would be someone that does all that and is compatible with you. “Bad” would be something that starts with “Based on a true story.”
5. Have a Co-Signer Ready To Go
The reality here is that as a recent grad, you may not have established credit just yet. So, a landlord may require someone with good credit to co-sign the lease with you. A co-signer is willing to take full responsibility for your apartment and rent should you find yourself coming up short. This is usually a parent or guardian (or a close friend). Don’t worry, it’s common at this stage in your life. Just tell your parents, “You know, if you co-sign the lease, I won’t have to move back home.” This can be wonderful motivation for a parent.
6. Do a Thorough Inspection
If a landlord wants you to sign the lease before you even see the place, that’s a red flag. Always ask for a tour. Make sure everything is working properly (i.e good water pressure, gas and electric) and document any damage you might see so that when it comes time for you to move out, they don’t withhold any part of your security deposit. Ask questions. Find out details like the day your rent is due and what, if any, utilities are included. Ask if there are any hidden fees and what the length of the lease is (it’s a good idea not to sign a lease that’s longer than a year; give yourself some flexibility). Find out what the pet regulations are, what parking is like, and if you can redecorate. It’s also important to know who is in charge of maintenance and how to contact them. Anything else you might want to know about the neighborhood should be asked as well. This is going to be your home for however long you’re going to be there, so you want to make sure you feel good about it.
Living on your own for the first time can mean a lot of things on a lot of levels. But above all it means that you are independent and putting your own life together as you see fit, which are major milestones. Because at the end of the day, you want this place to be more than just somewhere you put your stuff. You want it to be something you can definitely hang your hat on.