Apartment Hunting? | Consider These 7 Things Before Signing Your First Lease

You’re finally leaving the nest, eh?

I can totally imagine how exciting (and nerve-racking) it is to finally start apartment hunting and eventually move into your very own space. For some of you, this move means no more curfews, being told what to do, sharing a bathroom with a messy sibling, or cleaning up after everyone. Exciting, right? For others, it simply means adulting.

My move was liberating. It felt like finally becoming a real adult. I was a huge ball of nervousness, anxiousness, and excitement all jumbled up into one! After all, this would be my first real apartment outside of college, AND with no roommates! Part of me had no idea what to expect while the other half of me pretty much knew the “moving out basics.” Somehow, I underestimated responsibility of it all, as well as the effects it would have on my reckless shopping habits and consecutive outings with friends (lol).

Life is unpredictable. You want to be prepared for the best…and the worst.

Here are 7 things to take into consideration before your big move!

Fixed / Variable Expenses Graphic

First things first, write down your fixed (constant) and variable (changing) expenses.

Fixed expenses do not change; your rent typically will not change for your lease term unless you incur a late fee of some sort. Variable expenses vary; your water, electric and cell phone bill(s) may be $5 more or less than last months.

1. Cost of Living

Do some research on your city’s cost of living. Do you need to put more money aside? Can you afford to pay rent, eat, and live comfortably based on your findings? Create a budget and find out!

2. Research Your Options

Make a list of your options and weigh the pros and cons of each. Then, take a tour or two. Read reviews, take a spin around the complex, drive through the area at random times of the day, and ask the leasing manager lots of questions!

Will you live by a school, grocery store, liquor store or your favorite fast-food joint? Will you hear constant construction work, trains, airplanes or traffic? How far away will you be from your job in the case of inclement weather or your family during an emergency? All of these factors are extremely important.

This step will require an ample amount of time. Be thorough.

3. Know Your Lease Terms

You’ve decided on a place and you’re finally ready to pay your deposit and sign the lease!

Read, read, read, and re-read!

Are there any hidden fees? How much will it cost you to terminate your lease early? When is your rent considered late? Are you able to pay online? Will they accept money orders or personal checks? What’s the pet policy? How many friends can you invite to the pool? Can you put holes in the walls? How about the maintenance request response time? What demographic do the current tenants fall under? Military, elderly, early-20s, family housing?

4. Amenities/Extras

So there are hidden fees. Does your apartment complex require you to have renters insurance or their fancy door-to-door trash service for an additional monthly fee? Do you want internet and cable? What about Netflix and Hulu?

5. Rent & Utilities

Have 3 months of funds saved and allotted specifically for these expenses because…shit happens.

Oh, and pay your rent & utility bills on time. Late fees suck and they make you look irresponsible.

6. Necessities

After you’ve paid your rent, the Netflix subscription you couldn’t live without, and utilities, do you have money for groceries? Will you have gas money to get to work every day? Is your cell phone still on?

7. Make Sacrifices

Lastly, if you find yourself in a bind, you may have to cut some things out.

Do you really use your $20 gym membership? Ladies, is that weekly dinner date with your best friend worth it or would a movie night with a bottle of wine on your couch suffice? Fellas, is Netflix & Chill really keeping the ladies around? Do you really want to spare an extra $50 in late fee’s on top of your monthly rent because you can’t say NO to happy hour? Do you need Tidal and Apple Music?

Make a list of all the variable expenses you can eliminate to help you save a little extra money.

Stick to your budget! It’s the only way you’ll stay on top of your finances while simultaneously being young, wild and free. Make sure you have an emergency fund in addition to your 3 months of rent, and a definite plan before you leap out of the nest. The last thing you want to have to do is return home to start over and try again.

Happy Adulting!

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