Looking for your first apartment after graduation can be an exciting but challenging experience. There’s a lot to consider, and it can feel overwhelming if you’ve never done it before. And, similar to personal finance and non-violent communication, Apartment Hunting 101 probably wasn’t on your college curriculum. That said, you can mitigate some growing pains by familiarizing yourself with apartment hunting ahead of time. Here are a few important things to watch out for when searching for an apartment after graduating college.
Prepare In Advance for Applications
Just like going to college, you need to apply to get an apartment. And, like applying to college, applications can ask for a variety of different components. Still, there are a number of different steps you can likely expect to take along the way. So it’s better to prepare for them ahead of time to make the process as quick and smooth as possible.
Unsurprisingly, the application process is about determining whether you’re a good fit to be a tenant. Your landlord will determine that by inquiring to official sources about your identity and financial history. This means there are a few kinds of documents you may need to prepare in advance to submit. For example, it’s fairly standard to submit a government-issued ID, a credit check, and income verification. Your landlord may also require a background check and references from previous landlords or employers supporting your character.
As you can see, there are a lot of documents you may need to prepare in advance of submitting your actual application. Some of them, like written references or a background check, may take weeks to process. So it’s a good idea to get a head-start in order to expedite the application process. Be sure to also make plenty of copies so you can apply to multiple apartments more easily if need be. At the same time, you may not want to apply to too many places at once, as that may unnecessarily accumulate application fees.
Look Out for “Hidden” Expenses and Fees
When you go shopping for groceries, the price on the box isn’t what you actually pay. It’s not until you add the tax at checkout that you see the true price of your purchase. Likewise, apartments are often advertised based on how much rent you’ll pay. And while there isn’t tax on your rent, there are other expenses and fees you should consider.
Utilities, like gas, water, and electricity, are often priced separately from rent. Yet the average American renter can expect to pay nearly $150 – $200 per month for heating, cooling, and electricity alone. That doesn’t even include water, internet, or laundry if there’s no free in-building unit. And if you can’t walk your commute to work, you’ll probably need to pay for that too. In addition to these recurring expenses, there are also one-time fees you may need to account for.
For example, there’s a good chance you’ll need to put down one month’s rent as a security deposit. This usually-refundable deposit is meant to cover any damages you might accrue during the course of your tenancy. As mentioned previously, you may also need to pay for each apartment application you submit. Take all these “hidden” recurring expenses and one-time fees into consideration when budgeting for your apartment hunting expedition. Just because costs may not be displayed in bold letters doesn’t mean you won’t pay for them.
Choose the Right Location for You
It’s hard to overemphasize the importance of choosing an apartment in the right location. Here the “right” location means the one that’s best for you. Not the one that’s best for your parents to visit you or the cheapest one, necessarily. The right apartment is the one in a location that meets the majority of your needs. It can take a lot of research to figure out which location is best for you, but it’s research well worth doing.
Besides affordability, your commute is the other largest factor to consider when researching your apartment options. If you do need to commute to work, this should heavily influence what neighborhoods you search in. Because, while it’s nice to live near friends, frankly, you’re likely going to spend a lot more time commuting than socializing. Not only do long commutes eat your time, but they are generally more expensive. Those hours and expenses accumulate over weeks, months, and years, so pick somewhere nearby if you need to commute.
Secondly, consider other activities you’ll need or want to do on a regular basis. How close is this apartment to a grocery store, gym, or laundromat? Are there places for your hobbies, like a sports field, shopping center, or café? Can you exist comfortably in the neighborhood or do you need to take special precautions to stay safe? Ideally, the best location for you is one that can support a lifestyle that keeps you fulfilled and motivated.
Take Your Time
Finding and applying for an apartment isn’t the most straightforward process. It’s a process that can test your diligence, patience, and motivation. And, to be totally honest, you’re probably going to make some mistakes along the way.
Give yourself some breathing room and take your time when searching. Prepare the necessary application documents in advance, keep your eyes out for pricing tricks, and choose the best location for you. Be kind to yourself and learn from your mistakes. Even if you don’t move into the apartment of your dreams on the first try, you’ll likely have learned something along the way.