5 Tips for Choosing A Living Situation That's Right For You
So how do you go about finding the right living situation for you?
When I first moved out of my parent’s, I was lucky enough to be moving into graduate housing an hour north. This ensured a decent cost of living, very few utilities, and a safe neighborhood that is only steps from campus. Unfortunately, with my husband’s PhD coming quickly to an end, we’ve had the--often shocking--experience of searching for where we will end up next. From choosing what city we will end up in, to deciding on a property rental or condo for purchase, we’ve had to buckle down and take serious inventory over not only our lives, but our finances as well.
Do You Budget Your Expenses?
It’s easy to pretend that the monthly car payment isn’t something to worry about, or that your health insurance doesn’t cost you half your paycheck each month, but in reality these are things you need to take into account. Be realistic with your finances. Sit down and work out what your monthly spending is and find where you’re able to add some extra wiggle room. See if you can afford to spend the extra $500 a month on that place you’ve been eyeing, or if you’ll be stressing out each month worrying whether or not you’ll be able to make rent. If you don’t already have one, then it’s time to start factoring in a savings as well. Don’t let your livelihood pass you by simply to live in a rental complex, condo, or home you can’t afford. Instead, keep in mind that you’ll want to live while you live.
What's Your Lifestyle Like?
Now that you’ve found your budget, you’ll want to consider what your lifestyle is like. What are your hours of work? What kind of car do you drive? Where do you spend the majority of your free time? Do you have kids in school? Where is it? If you work 9-5, for example, it’s likely that you won’t want to work somewhere too far away or requiring too many freeway changes. Likewise, if you have a gas-guzzler of a car, you’ll want to choose a place close to wherever you spend the majority of your time. This will cut back on added expenses and time spent during your commute. If, however, you happen to work in an area that’s not conducive to a living situation, then find somewhere that has plenty of public transportation options available for you. While this might require spending more time on your commute, it will cost less in the long run if you can avoid spending unnecessary money on gas.
How Much Space Do You Need?
Once you’ve decided on an area to live in, you’ll want to look into the kind of space you need. If you have a large family, for example, it’s likely you’ll want to skip the apartment and head for a home rental with more space. Look into your local property management companies or real estate companies to see what is available and what can work for you. Find someplace that is run by people who care about your livelihood and who take pride in their rental property, this will help ensure that the home or apartment is in decent care and will remain so. Finally, if you have children, consider the amount of time spent outside. Many complexes offer children-friendly play areas, while many more do not. Find a rental that is both spacious on the inside and the outside and you’ll make everyone happy.
After you’ve found a rental that’s big enough for your family, you’ll want to double check on the pet laws in the rental of your choice. If you have pets, don’t try and move to a place where they aren’t allowed. No really, don’t. Moving to a place where pets aren’t allowed and testing your luck will only end with a possible eviction from your apartment, or the animal in question being taken by animal control. Not only does this do more harm than good for your family and lifestyle (if you’re evicted you can pretty much kiss any chance you had of a recommendation goodbye), but it isn’t fair to the pet either. Instead, start out on the right foot by finding a home that doesn't only allow animals but will allow them in the size and breed that you need. Common breeds that are frowned upon by rental associations are pit bulls, German shepherds, Rottweilers, Dobermans, and Akitas. If you happen to have one of these breeds, be prepared to get turned down several times before you’re allowed into a rental. Likewise, if you’re considering getting a dog, find one that’s small enough to handle living in a cramped space (especially if you don’t have a yard), and a breed that doesn’t bark to avoid annoying the neighbors incessantly.
How About Those Amenities
When you’ve found the rentals that you’re interested in, take a good look at the amenities that are offered. Do they have washers and dryers in the unit or home? What about central air? Are you dead set on having a pool in your apartment complex? Think about what is important for you and your family before settling on a place to live. Keep in mind that you may be living in this rental for a few years at least. Make your time in your home as enjoyable as possible by finding a place that suits your needs as best as possible. While you may not find somewhere that fits everything on your checklist, there’s definitely a place that will fit most of your most desired amenities. Finally, take a look at what’s included in your rent. Some apartments include things like water, meaning that you can save a fortune each month by having this already factored into your bill. Particularly for those living in the drought-laden Southern California, this is a huge bonus and can save you hundreds of dollars each month.
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- Have things like recommendations, copies of your license, and applications on hand and ready to go prior to heading out on your rental property search. When you meet with the property manager it will show them an act of good faith, knowing that you’re prepared, organized, and taking their building seriously.
- Schedule an appointment for a tour with the property manager so that you are given the best experience possible.
- Keep everything written down on paper: whatever you’re interested in, looking for, and your budget should all be within easy reach. Especially for those who happen to experience frequent bouts of buyers remorse, you’ll want to be careful that you don’t find something you like, and jump on a property you’re unable to afford monthly.
- Pay attention to the dynamics as you go throughout the apartment rentals or its neighborhood. See if they have kids or are home to older families. Watch to see if neighbors interact with one another or if they simply walk on by. This will help give you a good understanding of the home you’re thinking of moving into and whether or not you’ll be a good fit.
Cut back on the amount of stress that comes with finding a rental by knowing what you’re looking for beforehand. Understand what you can afford and how far you are willing to drive before you look into places that are not right for you. This will ensure a smooth process and an excellent find for you and your family.
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