So you’ve set out on your own and are ready to be your own person. Congratulations! Now that you’ve made the big decision, it’s time to start the formidable search for your first apartment — for which you’ll need a checklist. Before you stress out, remember that millions of people have been through it (and are going through it as we speak). With a little preparation and some help from the experts, you’ll be signing a lease to your very own place in no time. Here are five key points to remember for your first apartment checklist.
Entering the “adult” world can be tough at first, especially if you’re new at handling your own finances or creating a budget. A lot of things come down to money, and apartments are no exception. There’s a reason cost should be at the top of your first apartment checklist — so really think about your financial situation and be realistic about what you can afford. For some, moving out on your own may take a while. In fact, the practice of rooming with the parental units for a bit post-graduation to save money isn’t that uncommon (Thanks, Mom and Dad!). As you start to browse apartments, here are some other things to keep in mind:
“A few mistakes first renters can make are related to underestimating the cost, not getting their priorities straight, not carefully reading the lease, or not touring the apartment before moving in”, says Yariv Bensira, a real estate expert from Brooklyn, New York.
Bensira recommends taking note about things like security deposits, maintenance fees, or other upfront costs before you commit.
“Make sure you have the right questions in mind when you’re visiting the apartment so you don’t waste your time”.
When you’re ready to take the plunge, you’ll need to think first about how much you can spend on rent and factor in moving costs. Sometimes looking for an apartment means using a realtor, and that involves paying a broker’s fee, which is often 12-15 percent of your annual rent. A realtor or broker can be a useful person during your apartment search because they will be able to show you a variety of apartments in your price range so you can avoid falling in love with a place you can’t afford. With that said, don’t forget to factor in the additional cost if you choose to rent through the realtor — which can easily add hundreds to your monthly rent.
Moving costs can also vary, depending on if you need to hire movers or rent a storage unit in case of temporary situations. This is where research and creativity come in handy. Shop around and see if you can find some deals. Some units run specials that offer a highly reduced price the first month, and charge a regular fee every month thereafter.
Another great option is to bribe your friends, coworkers, or family members with their poison of choice (be it pizza, beer, or something a bit more wholesome) in exchange for helping you move. Having a few willing and able-bodied buddies can be a great way to save on movers, whether you rent a truck or have a friend with a van.
Unaccounted For Costs
Another important tip for budgeting is to factor in extra costs. Are utilities included? If so, are they all included, or is it only heat and hot water, leaving you with the electricity? In the second case, it’s important to factor in changes in your electricity bill, especially in peak hot/cold seasons when your A/C or heater work overtime.
Next key time on your first apartment checklist: What’s the management style of your building? Is there a live-in super or landlord? Is the building owned by a property management company? An unfortunate reality is that some renters don’t know who they’re paying rent to once they’ve moved into their new apartment — and that’s not okay. Who will you talk to if there’s an issue about “missing rent”? Always have a written record of who you’ll write rent checks to and who is responsible for giving you a rent receipt.
Getting Maintenance Done
The other reason you need absolute clarity on your management is so you know who to hold responsible for maintenance requests. You should know how to do simple upkeep like unclogging a shower drain, changing light bulbs, hanging pictures, etc, but when your building has bed bugs or you’re out of hot water, you should have a reliable point of contact.
Don’t assume that your potential apartment will be outfitted with the latest appliances and amenities. Ask about laundry facilities, elevators, trash/recycling pick-up and access to communal areas. If these are important to you, you’ll want to consider the added expenses in cities where these are highly-valued luxuries, not everyday amenities.
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