Getting into your first place is magical. Officially on your own and assuming life as an independent adult is a lot of responsibility, but you probably won't notice at first. You will be busy setting up your apartment or house, decorating, and throwing parties. You will have plenty of time to get settled in and enjoy your new home, but before you embrace your new-found freedom, take a look at the biggest mistakes of first time renters and avoid these mistakes to ensure a positive first experience.
You've been waiting to move out, you have the money saved up for your security deposit, and you're ready to move into your very own rental. There are so many options, but a limited amount in your price range. Out of those few, even fewer will be willing to rent to first time renters. You may have to co-sign on your first rental agreement or lease, which requires finding someone with good credit who will accept any responsibility for funds if you cannot. So when you finally discover that one apartment who accepts you and your credit and is within your budget, it's hard to say no. Try not to let your eagerness get the best of you, and consider the apartment itself before making the final decision. You'll be living there after all, so don't settle!
Don't get locked into something you're not prepared for. Consider your situation and the consequences if you need to break your lease. Leasing may be the only option, it is usually cheaper and gives the apartment assurance that you're not going anywhere for a while. Find out how much breaking the lease prematurely will cost you and if you're willing to incur that cost. It is a commitment, but is sometimes the best option.
3. Security Deposit
It's a hefty amount, in addition to your first/last rent, that allows the apartment owners to have some sort of security if you destroy the unit. Usually someone from apartment management will do a walk through of the apartment with you and identify any of the bumps and bruises that the apartment has incurred. You'll want to keep your eyes open as well, and look for the details, you don't want to be charged for damage you're not responsible for. While you live there try not to go crazy with the hanging, don't spill on the carpet, no major modifications such as painting, and try to not break anything. Lastly, make sure it clean thoroughly when you move out. If you take care of your rental, you will get your deposit back, and have it to use on your next rental endeavour!
Location, location, location. There are so many factors to consider when looking for your first apartment, but I personally believe the biggest deciding factor is location, and there's a reason. When I was searching for my first apartment, I quickly realized that the area I had my heart set on was out of my price range. My next move was to look to the surrounding areas. The options were a number of suburbs or outlying neighborhoods. I ended up looking into a town across the river from Portland. The river separates Oregon and Washington, so I ended up moving to another state based on cost alone. Big Mistake. The location wasn't terribly inconvenient, but it was a hassle. There was nothing to do in the area I chose, and I worked in Portland, and was perfectly timed to hit the massive rush hour that came with living in a suburb of a city across a bridge. I spent so much money on gas, going back and forth to Portland, I almost never went out in the town I lived in, and I regretted my decision almost immediately. Lesson learned, although it may take patience for the location of your dreams to become available, it's worth the wait.
5. Renters Insurance
I always assumed that renters insurance was overkill. Anything major that happened to the unit would be covered by the apartment complex, and it was insurance, so it was expensive, right? Wrong. Renters insurance is so affordable. Averaging around $15 a month for apartments. According to the Allstate website, only 31% of renters have insurance, which means the remaining 69% are taking a big risk. It covers your personal belongings in cases of damage or loss caused by fires or natural disasters, along with theft. All your belongings destroyed in a flood? No problem, as long as you've given the insurance company a realistic assessment of your personal properties value, you will be able to replace everything. Insurance also covers unforeseen accidents that occur within your own rented home. Say your friend comes over, trips on your stairs and breaks a leg. Oh no, not only is your friend hurt, but now they have medical bills they can't afford. They may be forced to ask for help through a law suit and then the medical bills are your problem. Instead of that headache, insurance can provide you with peace of mind so if this actually occurs, the insurance provides funds to assist with those hefty bills. Now, back to those disaster situations. Most people consider the loss of property due to natural disasters, but many forget that aside from losing all your belongings you may be left homeless. Renters insurance is exceptionally reassuring in this case, they will cover your living expenses while you find refuge at a hotel. The unexpected can happen at any time, so expect it, and be prepared. If that information doesn't convince you, imagine your current financial standing, now on top of that imagine being solely responsible for thousands of dollars in medical bills, or a prolonged hotel stay, or being without any of your possessions and having no funds to replace them. That kind of financial responsibility could change you life, and place a huge burden on your future. It is a bleak scenario, but think about it, because it can happen.
6. Estimating Cost
When you start to calculate your apartment cost, remember to look at your finances and expenses thoroughly and completely. Look at your current income, your current expenses, and then you can calculate what you can spend on your apartment. Include everything you spend money on into your expenses: car insurance, gasoline, cell phone, loan payments, food, clothing, medication, EVERYTHING! Then add up the apartment rent and any amenities you are responsible for. These usually include: gas, electricity, internet, and sometimes garbage and parking. Once you have your final cost and expenses make sure your current income can cover everything and leave some wiggle room. If you overlook some of those smaller costs that come with renting, you may overestimate how much you can spend on rent, and end up being disappointed and broke.
You may think that lugging your laundry to a laundry matt is no big deal, and that washer machines can't cost that mush to use, but you will quickly change your mind. Luckily, I have never had to endure the hassle of depending on a laundry matt, but I can only imagine the extra headache. I have a hard enough time keeping my apartment clean, having to lug my laundry somewhere and then wait for it to get clean and dry, would take valuable time away from my cleaning duties. Another amenity that's not required, but very sought after is a dishwasher. Again, speaking from my inability to keep my apartment clean, I envy those with dishwashers. I view them as magical mess avoiding machines, and I want one, but because I will not be moving soon, please get one for me. On the other hand, if you're a clean freak, you can probably live without one and save a bit of money in the process. Extras such as a gym, swimming pool, clubhouse, and business center are all great, but for your first apartment may not fit into your budget. Essentials however.. heating, air conditioning (depending on location) and parking (if you have a car). Overall just knowing yourself and your habits can aid in what amenities you decide to spring for and which ones you can live without.
I have heard horror stories of roommates gone crazy. You may want to room with your best friends, but if you wish to stay friends, I suggest finding another option. I have successfully avoided roommates, but I know that is not always possible. Splitting the bill with others is financially amiable and can be very beneficial. If you considering roommates, it is essential to carefully consider who will be compatible and set down some ground rules. If you are a neat freak, rooming with another clean obsessed being may alleviate some stress for you. If you mind noise, avoid band members and professional video gamers. Knowing what gets under your skin can help you avoid an inescapable roommate problem. Making house rules will keep everyone on the same page. And those bills, agreeing on a house temperature during the winter and summer months and being energy-efficient will create a more peaceful house environment. Holding regular house meetings can keep everyone on the same page. Keep in mind that being respectful of others possessions and being responsible with your own will make you a stand up roommate that no one will protest to living with.
This goes hand-in-hand with settling. Rushing can lead to mistake #1, so take your time and don't rush into anything you're not ready for. Your parents may be kicking you out or you need to find a place to live during college asap, but rushing will only make your life harder and you'll end up regretting your rental decision. Take time to list out everything you are looking for, figure out your price range, find stellar roommates, and get into your first rental prepared!