I am writing this post for all my fellow college graduates who have not had to do any apartment-hunting on their own before. Everything in this post is stuff I learned the last few days, and I hope to keep adding more to it as time goes on. I hope you find this information useful when you’re starting out.
The best places to look for apartment-listings are the Classified ads in the Sunday Newspaper. Seriously. I know no one reads them anymore, but I swear they still exist if only for the soul purpose of helping folks like us find a new place to live. Circle the apartments that catch your eye and call the numbers on the listings to see if they’re still available and interested in renting. Also, ask if you can get a tour of the place. I’ll talk more about that in a minute.
When you’re looking for an apartment, keep in mind:
The Neighborhood: is there a lot of crime there? How close is it to all the important stuff like grocery stores and your workplace? Are your neighbors nice? Are they old or young? Do they have lots of parties?
The Rent: This is exceptionally important. Not only how much it is, but what utilities are covered on there (water, sewage, trash, gas, etc)? I’ve found that most times, rent covers everything but electricity or gas, and you’ll have to call the electric and gas companies separately to work out a plan to get any. If you find a place that has rent that covers electricity or gas, be sure to double check and ask.
Parking: especially for those of us with cars or bikes, is there a place to park them? You don’t need a garage unless you absolutely want one. It’ll help, though, if you can keep your car close to your apartment. Are there other places to park, like parking lots in front of the building? Does parking get full quickly?
“Not Metro Approved”: I came across this quote a couple of times in different listings, and if you don’t know what it means, here’s what I know: in the Sandusky, OH area, “Not Metro Approved” means it’s not low-income housing. THIS IS GOOD. The only people who get low-income housing are people on welfare or who are otherwise people you wouldn’t want to associate with because of drugs or something. If you find a listing for an apartment that says, “Not Metro Approved”, it’s usually a good sign. Still don’t discredit listings that don’t have that. Just take a good look at the neighborhood and the apartment and talk to the landlord.
Washer/Dryer or Laundromats: I have been warned that to find an apartment with a washer/dryer hookup is exceptionally rare. If you can find one, and it’s in your budget, GET IT! Otherwise, see if there’s a laundromat close-by. (As an aside, if you can hang-dry your clothes, do it: not only does it save you quarters, but it saves energy and your clothes themselves. Those lint traps you see in dryers? That’s all the lint falling off your clothes when you dry them. That’s right: your clothes are falling apart in the machine. Hang-drying them will help make sure your clothes last longer. If you have to machine-dry larger things like jeans, towels, or bedsheets, that’s fine. Those things are sturdy enough to withstand dryers.)
Your Budget: The most important, and this was something my mom told me (and since she rented apartments for years before she got into home-ownership, I can trust her on this): Your rent, including gas and electric, should not exceed how much you make at your workplace in two weeks. So let’s say I work at a job that pays $8/hour and I work 40 hours a week. In one week, I earned $320, and in two weeks, that’s $640. So my rent then, including gas and electric, should not exceed $640 dollars. AT ALL. If you stick with this system, it’ll work like this: If you work a job where you’re paid every other week, your first paycheck of the month can cover rent, and your next paycheck of the month can cover stuff like saving it back, groceries, and stuff like phone or internet bills, as well as fun stuff.
Above all, TALK TO THE LANDLORD. It’ll help to establish if you like the person, and if you like them and they like you, the renting experience will be easier to live through.
Also, if you possibly can, TAKE A TOUR OF THE APARTMENT. Figure out if it’s too big or too small, too noisy or too quiet, who your neighbors are, what’s close by your apartment in terms of laundromats, entertainment, grocery stores, etc. If you have a lot of things close to you, you can save on gas for the car by walking to places. Also, look out in prospective apartments for things like cracks in the walls, air that leaks through windows (during wintertime here in Ohio, that can be a boon to your heating bill), what appliances are in the apartment already like refrigerators, stoves, etc.
Ok, that’s all I have for now, and that’s just what I’ve learned. If you folks have any helpful suggestions about apartment-hunting that I haven’t covered, please leave a comment below. I read every one of them. And if they’re really helpful, I’ll add them to this post.
Thanks a lot, and good luck!