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Moving for the First Time: Apartments

Updated on January 11, 2016

Where to Start

So, you are looking for your first apartment. That's fantastic! It's a millstone in anyones life to be sure. It doesn't matter if you are moving out of your parents' after college or high school, or if you have found yourself newly single and out on your own. This is a great time. Yes, I know it is a little scary. You now need to be responsible for paying all of your bills on time and keeping that balance between need and want in check.

Where do you start? You need to plan out a budget. How much do you make in a month? I would recommend going for a lower estimate rather than a higher. After all you never know when hours could be cut or you get sick and miss a few days of work. Trust me, you don't want to be in a situation where you depend on a certain number of hours each week and then find yourself short.

Once you have a budget you need to figure out where you want to live. This sounds silly, but it makes sense. Would you rather save money on your rent and live further from your job? Or wold you prefer to save on gas and live closer to where you work? Is it important to you that you be able to work to things like; the grocery store, the gym, bars and clubs, or recreational areas? Can you handle an apartment close to a highway, or do you need something quieter?

Now that you have your budget in mind and an idea of where exactly you want to look it is time to make a list of amenities you need and those that you would like to have. Do you need an apartment that allows pet? What about breed restrictions? What about things like; washer and dryer, garbage disposal, central cooling, deck/patio, or internet and cable ready? These are all things a lot of people don't think about when they move out for the first time. After all, your parents' house had all of that, so why wouldn't everywhere?

Lists Are Important

I strongly recommend checking out a couple of different rental websites. (1, 2, 3 are some of my favorites for apartments) These websites will allow you to choose your location, and then narrow down the search by price and desired amenities. It makes apartment hunting just a little easier.

Now that you have narrowed down your search to a few places its time to start requesting information. It is important to provide the leasing agents with all of the information that you can. After all they won't know that a washer and dryer is a deal breaker if you don't tell them. Save everyone's time and be open. Make sure that you let them know your desired move in date, that way they can tell you if they have anything open or will have anything ready in that time frame.

Now that you know which complexes have open rooms, or will have open room, and meet all of your qualifications its time to start visiting. Its one thing to see a bunch of pictures on line, but it is something else entirely to see it in person. After all, those pictures could be from years ago and the complex may not look anything like that today.

How many different communities do you look at before you decide where to live?

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What to Look For

So, what sorts of things should you be looking for when you visit different communities? In short, anything that you determine to be important. It sounds like a lot, I know, and it is. This is, after all, a very important part of your life. You will be stuck here for up to a year, so choose wisely.

When you see the apartments they should be clean and damage free. Check in the cabinets, under sinks, and in all the closets. Make sure there are no signs of mold, pests, or any forms of damage. If you do see anything that looks off talk to the agent, find out what is going on. Make sure to take note of what you saw. Personally, I would check online to see if there are any reviews for each community. If that little bit of black smutz looked like mold to you but you weren't sure, if the online reviews complain about mold you can rest easy knowing that it was indeed mold.

While you are at each community take a look at the going ons around you. Are there people going for jogs or walking their dogs? Do the grounds look clean? Are any of the current tenets complaining at the leasing office? Again, all of these things are important to keep in mind. Remember, if something doesn't feel right go with your gut.

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Taking pictures of each apartment you see will help you remember the differences between each complex.Grounds should be well maintained. If a place is will to spend on landscaping chances are they are willing to spend on their tenets. Make sure any damages you find are documented. Location can, and will, drive the price of an apartment up or down.
Taking pictures of each apartment you see will help you remember the differences between each complex.
Taking pictures of each apartment you see will help you remember the differences between each complex.
Grounds should be well maintained. If a place is will to spend on landscaping chances are they are willing to spend on their tenets.
Grounds should be well maintained. If a place is will to spend on landscaping chances are they are willing to spend on their tenets.
Make sure any damages you find are documented.
Make sure any damages you find are documented.
Location can, and will, drive the price of an apartment up or down.
Location can, and will, drive the price of an apartment up or down.

Renovations

It is not uncommon to see that a community has renovated some part of the apartment. Typically the kitchen is one of the first things to get a make-over. Yes, it is really nice to have a good looking kitchen. But, if the kitchen and everything in it functions but doesn't look as good that is ok too. Carpets in apartments should be replaced every few years. The walls should be painted every few years or after each tenet moves out.

What Amenities are you Willing to Give Up?

In a worst-case scenario, lets say you can't find anything in your price range in the area you want to live with the amenities that you desire. What amenities are you willing to budge on? I know people that have given their pets to friends or family because the place they want to live won't allow them to have a dog. Personally, I would rather live in my car with my dog than have to give her up. I know people that suffer though intense summers because the community in their price range didn't have apartments with air conditioning. I know that I considered going to a launder mat if I couldn't find an apartment with a washer and dryer in my price range.

These things are all important to keep in mind. If your apartment does allow pets chances are they are going to charge a monthly rent fee for you to have them in your apartment. On top of that there will also be a non-refundable pet deposits fee. There is a pretty good chance that there will be breed and weight restrictions as well. I've even heard of compile complexes that all only allow cats if they have been declawed. It may sound alight to go without air conditioning during the winter, but if you live in a part of the country with hot summers yo might want to reconsider going without air conditioning. Unless, of course, you like sweating and eating ice cream all day. I washer and dryer might sound like a silly deal breaker now, but you try lugging all of your dirty laundry down to your car, washing it all, and then dragging it back up to your apartment. Now try all that in the rain. I thought as much.


Things to Keep in Mind

Don't be fooled into paying a higher monthly rent for a pretty kitchen or new carpet. The rental game is just supply and demand. The more people there are that want one bedroom apartments the higher they will be priced.

You stand a better chance of finding a good deal in the off season. This time period is typically between each season. For example a lot of families move either at the end of spring or at the end of summer. Why? School is out.

When you change your address the USPS will include a whole bunch of coupons in your welcome packet. A lot of these coupons will be able to help you buy things that you will already need, like furniture, internet, and linens.

Make sure that you change your address for all of your credit cards, bank accounts, student loan agencies, and so on and so forth. It may sounds silly to keep a list of all the agencies that have your address on file but it will help if/when you move again.

If you are going to rent a truck, such as a u-haul, make sure that you reserve one before your move in date. Think about it, how awful would it be to need to move and find out that there are no vehicles available to help you move.

Keep in mind what you really need. Do you really need cable or satellite? Will you need to spend extra money for a storage facility? If you need to save money it is best to get only what you absolutely need. Can you watch Modern Family online? Yes. Do you really need that storage site for your bike? Most likely not.

Remember this is not a permeant (well most likely not) residence. Do what you need to go to get by and be comfortable until you are able to move on to bigger and better things.

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    • Kelsey Farrell profile image

      Kelsey Elise Farrell 2 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Great hub, up voted!