Apartments are the first step of freedom, moving out, and starting out in life for most people. For many, apartments are a cheap, temporarily place to live in until they advance in their job, get to know the area, buy a house, and get married if they choose to. Think of an apartment as a way to get used to life without dropping the money on a house until you have good job security and more money in the bank. Remember: once you own a house, it is a long, difficult process to move again!
There is no need to treat an apartment like a place for someone who can't afford the dream of buying a house. While an apartment is not as good as a house, it isn't that bad, if you find one you like. The following steps and things to look for in an apartment will help you find one that you'll enjoy living in.
Calculating Your Budget & Saving Money
The first thing you need to do is calculate your monthly income and expenses to determine how much you can afford per month on an apartment while putting money away for a house. Set a maximum and don't allow yourself to go over. The smaller you allow yourself to spend on an apartment, the fewer number of apartments you'll be able to rent from, but the sooner you'll be able to move into a house. A good rule of thumb is to never allow yourself to spend over 25% of your total monthly income on apartment rent.
Apartment prices can vary by location. You could find a $500 apartment in a lower-income area or a $3000 apartment in New York City. You will also have to save about a month's rent for a security deposit. This is given back when you move out, as long as the apartment isn't trashed and damaged.
Another thing to consider is getting a roommate, a roommate could pay half your rent but you need to choose the right room-mate. You don't want a roommate who is stealing your things, eating your food, not cleaning up, and refusing to pay your rent. To avoid this, get a friend to split the rent. One who you have known for many years. If you want to save even more money, get two friends and you'll only pay one-third of the total rent.
To pay even less rent, make a deal with your roommate. Give them the biggest bedroom but make them pay a little more rent money such as $100 for a bigger bedroom. You could also offer to do all the chores and charge your roommates for it.
Rural, Suburban, or Urban?
The next step is to choose where exactly you'll live. Location is the one of the biggest things to consider when picking an apartment.
- Urban: Will you choose an apartment that's downtown with shops, restaurants, cafés, nightlife, and public transportation at your convenience. This will be the most expensive location to live in but if you like convenience and depend on public transportation then this might be the ideal location for you. This isn't the beat financial location though.
- Suburban: If you don't mind a small ride into town then this is a good location. It isn't in the middle of nowhere, far away from everything but it isn't in the expensive part of the busy city. In the suburbs, you can usually find a bunch of shops and places to eat nearby and the cost of apartments in the suburbs are cheaper than the city. It's a good mix between the rural and urban location.
- Rural: Rural could be a bad location because it is far away from everything. Living out in the rural area is cheap though. This is the best location for those who hate city life and want to save the most money on an apartment.
Choosing A Specific Type of Housing
Just because it's called an apartment doesn't mean you have to live in an apartment. There are other things to rent.
Apartment: An apartment usually consists of multiple units in a building. There are many types of apartments including basement apartments, high-rises, split houses, small apartments with only a few floors, and apartments over shops and restaurants.
Condo: Condos will typically be in high-rise buildings. Condos are a great option if you are planning on living downtown or in an oceanfront place without a high price. Condos usually offer more amenities but usually don't have that much charm. Most people will call a condo, "a box in the sky" for its lack of character.
Houses: Yes, you can rent houses. This would be a great thing to consider if you want the feel of a house or want to live in a house and experience it before actually buying one of your own. Houses offer more privacy, more backyard space, and more square feet. Unfortunately, this comes at a price.
These are the most common options but there are others.
Creating A Wish List
The next thing to do is to create a wish list. Pick a few things (preferably around 5) that you must have in an apartment. These will be things to look for when searching for an apartment. Some things people include in their wish lists include:
- A specific location (as listed above)
- A specific type of housing (as listed above)
- Amenities (pool, exercise center, etc.)--- this will raise the cost of rent
- Parking space(s)--- this could raise the cost of rent
- Character/charm (old feeling, industrial feeling, modern feel, something more than just square rooms, etc.)
- Backyard space
- Pets allowed
- Specific number of bedrooms (ie: 2 bedrooms)
- Updated kitchen
- Modern appliances
- Gas/electric stove
- Lots of counter space
- Specific type of flooring (ie: hardwood, carpeting, laminate, etc.)
- No carpet
- Certain lease length (ie: 1 year lease or less)
- Lots of light
- Security (concierge, gates, alarms, cameras, door codes, etc.)
- Certain amount of square feet (ie: 750 square feet or more)
- Type of layout (open concept or lots of walls)
- Over a store or restaurant
- Community garden
- All inclusive--- meaning all the utilities get included in the rent
- Basement apartment--- not very popular but cheaper in cost
- Certain building size (ie: high-rise, only a few floors, etc.)
- 24 hour staff
- High ceiling (ie: 10+ feet)
- In a low crime neighborhood
- In a quiet neighborhood
- Near public transportation (ie: within a few blocks to the subway/bus)
- Bike rack
- Outdoor grill
- Certain type of lighting (track lighting, chandelier, etc.)
- Closet space
- Storage space
- Multiple sinks
- Multiple bathrooms
- Laundry (coin laundry or washer/dryer in unit)
- Near a park or tourism spot
- Oceanfront--- raises cost of rent
- Handicapped accessible (ie: ramps, elevators, etc.)
- Open concept kitchen
- Separate dining space
- Lots of cabinet space
- A pantry
Please know that this is just a suggested list of things to look for in an apartment. You are not limited to these suggestions. There are many more things that people include but these are a variety of suggestions.
Increasing Your Chances
To increase your chances of getting the apartment:
- Don't move in with pets or kids (if possible): They are a responsibility and could damage something. Landlords look at who's moving in.
- Offer to pay in full: If you can pay your first year of rent then chances are the landlord will accept you, knowing you have the cash available.
- References: Give references to the landlord to let them know that you are a responsible renter. References could be anything from trusted friends and bosses to past landlords
- Get a co-signer: if you are moving into your first apartment without established credit then get your parents to help you sign for the apartment.
- Keep your credit score up: Nothings worth than low credit. Low credit shoes the landlord that you pay your bills late and will probably skip on rent payments.
- Meet in person: To get to know the landlord better and get them to know who you really are, set up a meeting to meet them in person and tour the apartment. If you have the perfect charm, you will get the apartment in no time, and maybe you'll be able to negotiate the price down.
- Offer a higher rent payment: If multiple people want the apartment then offer a few extra bucks per month to get the apartment. The landlord will usually take the person who is willing to pay the highest rent.
- Keep good work history: If you're unemployed or can't keep a job, a landlord may not consider you because you don't be able to afford your rent. If you are self Employed be sure to tell your landlord.
- Keep your criminal history free: If you are a criminal and have done something major against the law then landlords will not want you as a tenant.