The thought of preparing for your first apartment usually comes up sometime while you’re at university, at least as a matter of getting ready for life after graduation. Whether you are looking for an apartment to live in during school, or for after you graduate, there is much to consider if you’ve never done it before, especially in terms of the cost.
Roommate or go it alone?
One of the most important issues when getting an apartment is deciding whether or not you will have a roommate. This is completely a mixed bag, since it has both positives and negatives – all of which are major.
On the positive side, having a roommate will cut your expenses in half. This is not just rent, but also utilities and any required deposits. You may also decide to split on furnishings and supplies. If money is tight, having a roommate is probably the best way to save money on an apartment.
That isn’t to say that the arrangement is without issues. Not only will you be sharing living space, but you will also be sharing in the decision-making process. This will include deciding where you will live, selecting the apartment, and the running of the household.
Even if the roommate is a friend of yours, there’s a risk of him/her becoming a non-friend. When you live at home with your family you probably had conflicts with them; you’ll also have conflicts with your roommate. And since the roommate is not family, the divide can be wider.
Choose your location carefullyApart from the cost of the apartment, and its basic features, you’ll also need to carefully choose your location. If you are a student and don’t have a car, you’ll have to be located where public transportation is available. You may also wish to be within walking distance of your school, a public library, a gym, a laundromat and shopping and entertainment.
The location of the apartment will impact all of that. To the degree that you are close to those amenities – or not – will affect the overall cost of having the apartment. For example, if you are not within walking distance of any of the facilities that you need, you’ll need to rely more heavily on public transportation and the costs associated with it. You may even need to buy a car.
Have your security deposits ready
Security deposits are an issue that can be a rude awakening if you’ve never had an apartment before. An apartment typically requires an upfront security deposit, but you’ll probably also have to pay deposits for your utilities as well.
The security deposit on the apartment itself can be any where from $200 up to two or three months rent paid in advance, depending on the typical practice in your area. Standard practice is usually half of one months rent. That can be a big chunk of money by itself, but you may have other deposits as well.
A landlord or apartment complex can also require a deposit if you have a pet. This is required just in case the landlord has to make repairs to the property after you leave, and there has been damage as a result of your having a pet. Utility companies often require security deposits if you have no history of payments with them. If this is your first apartment, you should expect to have to pay these deposits.
Utility deposits can be anywhere from $25 to several hundred dollars, depending on a typical monthly charge for the service. If you have several utility providers requiring deposits, the total can be substantial.
Some landlords also require their tenants to have renters insurance. The landlord maintains insurance on the property itself, but that insurance does not extend to the tenants contents in the apartment. There’s a special renters insurance policy that you must obtain in order to get the coverage. Fortunately, it’s not terribly expensive. It typically runs a few dollars a month and not more than a couple hundred dollars per year. Though this typically does not require an upfront deposit, you’ll have to make the first payment on the policy in order for it to be effective.
Minimum necessary supplies
If you have been living at home or in dormitories all of your life, you may not be aware of certain items that are critical in running your own household. Most of these are the type of items that you use over time, but hardly think of because they’re always there.
As far as the apartment itself, you may have to provide window treatments if none have been supplied. This can include curtains, blinds, shades or even draperies. In the kitchen, you’ll need at least some pots and pans, plates, glasses and utensils. You’ll also need typical kitchen cleaning supplies, such as a mop and sponges, dish detergent or dishwasher detergent, paper towels and a trashcan.
In the bathroom you’ll need toilet paper, soap, and various brushes, sponges and cleaning agents. And unless the bathtub or shower stall have glass doors, you’ll also have to supply a shower curtain along with a rod and rings.
There are also items that you may or may not need, depending on the apartment itself. For example, if your apartment is carpeted you will need a vacuum cleaner. Furniture on the other hand really depends on you. You may need a complete bedroom set, or maybe you’re perfectly okay sleeping on a mattress on the floor. If you’re used to eating your meals at a kitchen counter, you may not have need for a table and chairs. And whatever you put in the living room is completely optional.
As far as furniture is concerned, since this will be your first apartment, you should give serious consideration to purchasing what you need secondhand. You can do that by going to garage sales and thrift stores, as well as searching the newspapers for people selling home furnishings. If you buy furniture this way, you can probably furnish your entire apartment for just a few hundred dollars.
As a rule, plan on providing the minimum necessary for your apartment, with the idea that you will upgrade as soon as you’re able. Since renting is usually a short-term venture, try to minimize the amount of money you will spend, especially when it is for a first apartment.