Your First Apartment: Who to Live With
If you can afford to live alone and you honestly think that is the best choice for you at this point, feel free. But most people who are living on their own for the first time will want someone with whom to share the experience!
Remember that it will be very different no longer living with a family unit (no matter how screwed up they may seem to you), and you won't automatically have a community with an apartment in the same way you would in a dorm.
For roommates, you basically have two options: living with friends or living with strangers. Both can be great, but both can also be disastrous.
Your First Apartment
- Money Matters
This hub will guide you through all the financial considerations to ensure you don't leave out anything important in budgeting your first apartment.
- Setting Up
This hub will help you figure out how to maximize the space in your first personal space without breaking the bank.
- Where to Look
This hub examines all the different options of ways to obtain an apartment. Whether you want your name on the lease or not (or you don't have any idea), it'll give you ideas of where to start.
Living with Friends
Your best friend in the world may not be a good living match for you. You need to be compatible in the hours you'll keep, the type of company you plan on having over, and it certainly helps if you like the person (though that's not always necessary).
Be very clear in your outline of what you expect from the other person. The closer friends you are, the more careful you will want to be because money can ruin a friendship in a heartbeat. Who will be fiscally responsible for what? Who will buy the furniture? Who will take it when the lease is up?
If you're sharing, say, a one-bedroom apartment with your best friend, you will need to be clear about expectations of curfew, guests, et cetera. Where will your study space be (if you're still in school)? Will you be allowed to have parties? Every night? What happens when a boyfriend or girlfriend wants to sleep over?
If you think you're being explicit enough in your expectations of one another, you still aren't. Absolutely everything will need to be spelled out or fights will start and feelings will get hurt. Living with someone else is a huge commitment, but it's an even bigger commitment when your name is on the lease. Don't forget that.
Living with Strangers
It sounds scarier, but it doesn't have to be. While you run more risk of ending up with a crazy person, you also don't have to worry about ruining a friendship. And you might end up with a new friend from the whole process.
I found my first roommate on Craigslist, went with my boyfriend to meet her and see the apartment, and decided right then to move in. I got lucky, and things worked out perfectly even though we were over a decade apart in age. We're even still friends!
So how do you make sure that you end up with a new pal and not a dangerous lunatic? I'd say there's no fool-proof way, but there are several red-flags that you should look out for and several requirements that you should have.
- See what you have in common. Did you grow up in some sort of similar situation? Do you both love photography? Even if you seem to share attitudes towards the world, it's important to have some sort of common ground. You don't have to become best friends, but you do have to tolerate each other.
- What part of the apartment is mine, and what part is yours? Are you just renting a room, or is the general living space for everyone?
- In a similar vein, who is responsible for what? If you're splitting the rent in half, are both your names on the lease? Who will pay for the cable bill? The electricity? What happens if someone cannot pay?
- Remember, your credit will probably be tied up with this person so you need to make sure that, if they don't pay, it won't adversely affect you. My first roommate actually had her credit ruined by ex-roommates of hers because her name got left on the cable bill that they then never paid after she moved out.
- It might be smart to get everything in writing. Who will pay what, how many people should be allowed to come over at a time and for how long, what hours you'll keep, who will pay for repairs, etc. Money can become the ugliest thing, and a miscommunication can end in hatred or worse.
- Use your instincts. If your gut is telling you that there is something off, there probably is. If you can't see yourself living with this person for some amount of time, then don't.
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Where to Look
If you decide to live with a stranger, where should you look? You have a few options.
First of all, are you looking for someone to search for apartments with? This usually only makes sense if you are looking with a friend, so probably is not particularly relevant if you will be living with a stranger.
More likely, you will either already have an apartment in mind and need someone to share it with, or the opposite (you will be looking for someone who needs to share their apartment with you). There are two ways to do this.
Do any of your friends, classmates, or coworkers know someone who needs a roommate? While this person may essentially be a stranger to you, you will at least have a someone you know to vouch that your new roommate will not be... well... crazy.
There are numerous websites designed solely for the purpose of matching roommates together (Roomates.com, RoommateLocator.com, etc), but these have always struck me as slightly creepy for some reason. Facebook even has a "Marketplace" option now, and I've seen plenty of Roommate Wanted advertisements there. That can be especially good if you want to share an apartment with a schoolmate (who you don't necessarily know).
I personally recommend the free classifieds website Craigslist.org. It's relatively free-form, but you can search by temporary housing, roommate wanted, or you can just straight-up search for apartment listings. Craigslist also has very specific search options available, so you can search by neighborhood, price range, pets allowed, or lots of other specifications.
Things to Remember
Whether living with a friend or a friend-to-be, get everything in writing. I cannot say it enough because even the slightest money dispute can lead down terrible roads. Splitting the cable bill? Get it in writing! Only one of you is responsible for the security deposit? Write it down!
Listen to your instincts. If your best friend in the world wants to live together, but you aren't sure it will work, don't let him talk you into it! It's not worth ruining a friendship. If you love the apartment but get a funny feeling about the girl you'll be living with, don't move in! It's not worth putting yourself in danger.