The only thing more stressful than graduating from college is finding that first apartment after graduation. I remember my first apartment hunt like it was yesterday. There was a lot of running, a lot of crying and a sh*t ton of begging my parents for money so I could afford to live in something that had closets and wasn’t a closet. After an emotionally draining 2 weeks of hunting, I finally found something.
And had to pay some dude $2,000 for it because he happened to unlock it for me when I went to see it.
My apartment was great… on the surface. In fact, it wasn’t until I moved in that I realized all the questions I neglected to ask. (Namely, “Does the family downstairs cook with road kill daily?”) Questions that were vital to truly finding the right apartment for my life. So, here are a few pointers for you, recent grads. The rules aren’t the same in every city, but I guarantee you will benefit from what I have to share.
1. Make a List: Not just a mental one, either. Write an actual list of the things you MUST have in an apartment and cannot live without. Not only will this serve as a checklist as you enter each apartment, but it will also keep you from getting side tracked by any temptations (a wine fridge? Fancy, but do you really need to chill that Boones Farm?) an apartment may have.
2. Get Advice: So, you may think ample closet space/proximity to a liquor store is the most important thing for your new place (and they both totes are for me), but you may also not realize the importance of some other amenities. Say, proximity to a grocery store. Or a laundry facility. Or a hospital. Being that we’ve never really lived on our own before, there are a lot of things we may not realize we need. Your parents do, so be sure to ask for their advice in the apartment hunting process.
3. Set Your Limit and Be Realistic: This may not be the case everywhere, but if you are moving into a big city the real estate agents can be, well, a-holes. The more expensive the apartment they put you in, the more money they make. And lord knows they will try and get you into the most expensive place they can think of. Don’t try to impress them by setting your rent limit higher than you can afford and don’t let them show you places you know are too much. You will be wasting your time or, worse, getting your heart set on something that will send you deep. into. debt. And it is not worth it. Speak up and make sure they know what you want and what you can afford.
4. Be Prepared: When you go out on that apartment hunt, be prepared. Bring a notebook, some check stubs, your social security card, checkbook and most recent bank statement. Some apartments go fast, so if you want it you will need to act on the spot. And that means proving your worth to that real estate company ASAP.
5. Be Mentally Prepared: This may not be true for all of you, but some of you are about to be very surprised about what apartments are like after college. It is not going to be like Friends (that apartment would be like $6,000 a month in NYC!) or that beauty of a place on How I Met Your Mother. In fact, it may be more like Harry Potter’s room under the stairs. The truth is, your first apartment will probably be small and cramped and over-priced. As long as you know that going in, you will be fine. If you’re expecting 2,000 square feet and a jacuzzi tub…well, prepare to be disappointed.
Also, be ready to scream/cry/drink heavily. Apartment hunting is not for the weak, so (wo)man up and find yourself somewhere to live. Just don’t forget to look for closets! I didn’t realize I was without them until my boxes were lining the walls and I had nowhere to hand my clothes.