Moving on Up…and Out

So it’s been a year since I moved back home after graduating college and I’m finally moving out! And not only just moving out, but getting an apartment and moving in with my boyfriend. It’s a huge, yet exciting new chapter of my life and I’m excited to see what’s in store.

If I could describe the past year of my life in 3 words I would choose: unpredictable, strenuous and worthwhile. From struggling to find a job within my degree after graduating college to being diagnosed with a rare eye condition, I’ve had a lot of moments where I’ve questioned whether or not I had it in me to continue on. But, as of lately, I’m finally starting to see things come full circle. Just a week ago I received news that not only did I get accepted for a new job, but it also came with an amazing pay increase! And with my boyfriend and I in a wonderful space with each other, this new move is literally coming right on time.

However, along the way of finding our new space, I’ve picked up a few great tips that have helped us during our apartment selection process (but these tips still can apply to anyone who may be moving out on their own):

  1. Pick Your Top 3 Most Important Features – Finding the perfect apartment is never easy. Often, you’ll find yourself in a “give and take” situation where a location may offer you one feature you really want, but fail to have another that may be on your list. So to help me, I created a list of all of the features I wanted and then went through and chose my top 3 that I felt like I just couldn’t live without. Once, I narrowed in on my focus, it really helped to improve the selection process. I started finding more options of where to live and by substituting other desired features, it’s even helped to cut some of the costs. Just as an example, I always thought I couldn’t live without a washer/dryer connection (I’m really picky about washing my clothes), but I decided to take it out of my top 3 and it’s slashed almost $100-$200 off of the rent in my apartment search which frees up some extra cash each month to put somewhere else (or save!). Instead, we picked a unit in close proximity to the laundry facility so I can still keep an eye on all my clothes!
  2. Be Open and Honest about Your Financial Situation – This by far might be the most important part of finding the right apartment. I can’t tell you how many times I tried to think of ways to stretch my budget when I would find an amazing apartment that was just too expensive. But, in reality, stretching your budget is never the right way to go, even if you feel you can make it work. Remember, the rule of thumb (and even the requirement for some places) is for your gross monthly income to be at least 3 times the amount of your rent. So for example, if your rent is $950 a month, then your income before taxes needs to at least be $2,850. Keep in mind that things don’t always go as planned and sometimes unexpected costs may creep their way into your monthly expenses.
  3. Save, Save, and Save Some More – Pretty self explanatory, but always important to say. Saving has been my best friend throughout this whole process. It’s honestly provided me with a peace of mind as I’ve looked for a place because remember outside of your rent will be costs such as utilities (water, gas and/or electric), groceries, transportation, cable/internet, and renter’s insurance – most of which are variable, meaning their costs can fluctuate month to month; because of this, putting money to the side for those unexpected costs can really help you from having to live paycheck to paycheck or substituting one cost in order to afford another.
  4. Read Reviews (With a Grain of Salt) – Have you ever become mesmerized by the luxurious pictures of an apartment on their website and fantasized about what it would be like living there, only to have your dreams crushed by terrible reviews? It makes you feel like all of those people have it wrong, there can’t possibly be that many problems with a place like that. Well there really might be and that’s why I say take the reviews with a grain of salt, even the positive ones. Take the time to read the reviews and see how many of them there actually are. Unfortunately, there’s no way to truly fact check what type of tenant a person was when they leave a bad review, but if you find that multiple people are complaining about the same thing, it’s probably true! Reviews about high utility costs, poor maintenance and upkeep, hidden costs, and lack of communication from the property manager regarding changes to your unit or the building are all red flags you should be wary of. If you do find reviews that contain those issues, make sure to bring it up when you take a tour and afterwards, try and find some current residents that could give you their honest opinion of the place, they may even show you their actual unit so you can see something other than the model which was chosen to not show any problems. But, even if all goes well and you don’t see anything negative being said, be skeptical of the positive reviews too. Some properties will offer residents incentives to leave a positive review, regardless of if they truly feel that way. To spot a fake positive review watch out for:
    1. A bunch of positive posts made on the same day – this is often a sign that the property was hosting some type of bonus for them to leave that review. They can occur on the same day or within the same week. Opt for positive reviews that happen over time.
    2. Reviews that specifically speak positively about all the things residents are complaining about – For example, if you find a lot of negative reviews complaining about high utility costs, property managers will create fake accounts to saturate those reviews that say the exact opposite.

I hope these tips help those who are in the process or plan to move out! Do you have any tips that have helped to guide you in your apartment selection process? Share them in the comments below.

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