How To: Move Into Your First Apartment

Earlier this month, I put down the deposit on my very first apartment. This came after months of research, planning, endlessly searching on various real estate apps, and quite a bit of luck. Today, I'll drop some knowledge on how to go about finding a place of your own (and what to do when you get there,) once you're finally allowed to leave your dorm.

 

Finding a Place

  • Download real estate apps
    • Trulia. Zillow. Apartments.com. Go into your app store and find any app with apartment listings. Make an account so you can get alerts. Different sites are used by different landlords, so to get the full picture, look at multiple sources. Scour Facebook for people advertising their rentals, and ask your friends that rent who their property managers are.

    • Contact landlords and ask them for a walkthrough of the apartment before you even think about signing a lease. You really can't get the full idea of an apartment from pictures alone, and if the landlord won't let you see the place before you move in, stay away!

  • Know what you're getting into (and how much you want to spend)
    • An apartment is a big responsibility. Costs add up quickly, and they don't stop once you're finally settled. A general rule is that rent should be no more than 1/3 of your monthly income. Before you move in, you'll need to pay the safety deposit, which is usually one month's rent.

    • Unless utilities are included, you'll have to put up a deposit for those as well. These are used to prove to the utility supplier that you have good financial standing and you'll be able to pay your bills. The deposit is usually applied to your final bill and you'll get back any remainder. 

      • Getting all your utilities turned on isn't cheap either. Be prepared to spend upwards of $400 on deposits alone, plus any set-up fees. 

  • Find a roommate (and make it a good one)
    • Unless you're 100% able and ready to live alone, a roommate or two will really help keep the cost of living down. I'm going to be splitting a one bedroom with a roommate, just because it will make my monthly rent less than $200. Just make sure that the person you've chosen is a good fit and is as serious about it as you are.
    • Don't live with a close friend. Any roommate you have in your early 20s is someone you need to be prepared to lose. That's just the way it goes.
    • Protect yourself legally. If your roommate(s) is someone you're going to be living with long-term, put everyone's name on every piece of paper you sign. This includes the lease, the utilities, etc. This way, everyone is equally responsible for any damage or payments. If putting people's names on everything is not an option, and your landlord has allowed you to have a co-tenant who isn't on the lease, here's a template for a document you can have everyone sign that shows who agreed to pay what bill.

Moving In

  • Get your power and water turned on as soon as you get the key. No one likes moving to a dead zone.
    • Vacuuming and giving the place a good scrub before you move in is a good idea too, especially before you put in any furniture.
  • Pack in reverse order of when you'll need things
    • Put in any furniture first, especially storage. One thing people don't think to bring is WD-40 for those squeaky hinges or a toolbox for assembling any new fixtures. Pack the most important things last and unpack them first.
  • Your parents are a goldmine
    • Mom might have an old set of dishes she wants to get rid of. Your other mom might want to have a reason to get a new coffee maker and give you the old one. Don't be afraid to ask. Older siblings and random old people who your parents like are also nice for this purpose.

Your first move is scary. With these tips, you'll be able to get into your new place with confidence! Good luck and happy moving!

(Photo by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash)