Choosing an Apartment

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Whether this will be your first time looking at an apartment for yourself or you’ve already been living on your own for a bit, choosing a new apartment can be time consuming and confusing, but also exciting! 

How Much Should You Pay for Rent? 

Money no object, everyone has their dream ideal of an apartment. Depending on the area that you are looking to live in, maybe you can get most of those features or maybe it’s a little out of your price range. 

Rule of Thumb: Your housing costs should not be more than 30% of your gross monthly income. 

So, let’s say your take home pay per month (before taxes) is $4,000. Following this rule would mean you should not be spending more than $1,200 a month on rent and utilities. 

Location  

Location is obviously a huge factor when looking at an apartment. Do you want your place to be close to work for a short commute or near a downtown area, so you have easy access to restaurants and places to go on a night out? If the answer is yes, but the apartments in these areas for you are expensive, you might have to change your game plan. If the location is really important to you but the rent would mean going over that 30% mark, consider getting a roommate or two to split the costs. If location is more of a want, start looking at apartments slightly farther away to see if the prices are better. 

Other things to consider for location: 

  •  Proximity to a grocery store: if you want to cook at home a lot, but the nearest full-size grocery store is 30 mins away, is that going to work for you? 
  •  Surrounding area: love running outside? Maybe consider somewhere with a park close by or communities to run through instead of an urban area 
  • Libraries: public libraries are a great resource to have around, they host programs for kids and adults, and a lot are starting to add new tech to their facilities including apps that allow you to download books to your phone (so check that out if there isn’t one close to you) 
  • Noise: being a light sleeper and living in the heart of a city are typically not the best mix. When looking for a place, take time to consider the noise level and look at the surrounding area 

Wants Vs. Needs 

Before looking at an apartment, make a list of things that are must haves for an apartment and things that are just wants. Here are some common wants people look for: 

  •  In-unit washer and dryer (instead of a separate laundry area in a basement) This could be considered a need as far as security 
  • Central air and heating 
  • Fitness center: it could save you money to look for a place with a gym for residents to use instead of paying a gym membership 
  •  Carpet vs. Hard wood/ faux hard wood 
  • Smoke free apartment 
  • Bath tub vs. Standing shower only (for if you have kids or simply want to be able to use bath bombs) 

Extra Costs to Be Prepared For 

  • Utilities 
  • Parking costs 
  • Pet fees (usually an initial larger fee followed by monthly reoccurring lower fee – also take note of any fees for pet damages) 
  • Internet & Cable (consider a streaming subscription instead of a pricey cable package!) 
  • Application fee 
  • Security deposit 

Renter’s Insurance 

This was already briefly mentioned in our previous post about insurance (How Much Insurance Do You Need?) Check it out if you haven’t already! 

Renter’s insurance can be fairly inexpensive and straight forward. Make an inventory of your stuff and choose how much coverage you want. A basic policy should cost around $10-20/ month. If you have a lot of very expensive items in your apartment, your insurance cost will be higher. Not a lot of renter’s choose to get renter’s insurance – which can be such a mistake. For less than the price of eating out once, you can cover yourself if something happens. I won’t lie and pretend that I always considered it a necessity; however, a large portion of an apartment complex at my University was recently was affected by a huge fire. Could you afford to replace everything in your apartment if something like that happened? 

Enjoy the hunt!