If you’ve never rented before, looking for an apartment can be a daunting task. I had no idea what I was doing when I started renting but I’ve learned a lot along the way; good and bad. In this post I’m going to talk about the things that you need to consider before you even start looking for an apartment. There are many aspects to renting that you may not even think about if you are a first time renter. When I started, I didn’t know a thing about anything. It’s a whole new world.
Obviously, one of the biggest factors in renting is cost. What are you willing/able to spend per month on rent? The common figure is 30%. You should be spending 30% (or less) of your gross income (before taxes) on rent.
This means, if you make, say, $2000.00 a month before taxes, you should be spending no more than 600.00 on rent per month. This is something that can be a problem for a lot of students because not everyone is able to work while they are studying and if you are working, it’s likely not full time. Instead of using the 30% rule, think about how much money you have available to you for the year. What are you getting from student loans and how much of that is a reasonable amount to go toward rent? If you work full time in the summer and are saving up, how much of that can you put aside for rent for the year? Once you have figured out your budget, you can start thinking about the other things in your apartment.
Here is an easy (or maybe not so easy) way to save money on rent. Having roommates can drastically cut down on your cost of living. My boyfriend and I recently acquired a roommate (that sounds so weird) and it has been such a nice break on rent. With three people paying rent it suddenly becomes a lot more affordable. That said, there are a lot of other factors you need to consider when living with a roommate. Do you go to bed at the same time? Are they going to have friends or a significant other over a lot? How much space do you have in your apartment? Are you going to have to share a bathroom?
For my boyfriend and I, the decision to have a roommate was pretty easy. She is one of my good friends from middle school and I knew it was going to be a pretty easy transition. We had a second bedroom and bathroom just sitting around collecting things so we moved our desks out of the bedroom, cleaned the bathroom, and viola- mega savings.
If you have a furry friend or are considering getting one in the future, you need to consider whether your apartment allows pets. Some don’t allow any and some only allow pets in a certain weight range. If you are wanting a big dog, be sure the apartment doesn’t have specific rules around weight. You will likely have to pay a deposit for your pet. For my apartment this is around 200.00. Also, before you get a pet in your apartment, I would highly suggest living with a roommate who has a pet, at least for a while or maybe try fostering an animal. I lived with a roommate who had a cat and it made me realize how much cats shed. I mean, I know they shed, I’ve had pet cats all my life but I’ve never been the one responsible for cleaning the hair. It made me really think about whether or not I could handle having a cat in the house.
Are utilities included in rent? If not, ask the landlord what an average bill is for each utility. If utilities are included in rent, this could make your renting experience much simpler. You won’t have to set up a hydro or water account, or worry about bill fluctuations.
Does the apartment have a gym, a pool, a common area? Does it have in suite laundry or just laundry in the building? Does it have a dishwasher? These are all important factors when you decide where to rent. Also take into account the savings you could incur by having some of these things included in your rent. Having a gym at your apartment could save you $50.00 a month or more on a gym membership but if you have a gym included in your tuition at school then maybe you don’t care if your apartment has a gym. If water is included in your rent, having in suite laundry could save you from having to pay for laundry at the apartment (whether it’s pay by coin or by a reloaded card). My apartment has all of these things plus a dog run where people can let their pets out to go to the bathroom and play.
Location in Relation to Other Things
Do you need to be close to a bus route? Maybe you need to make sure there is parking available. Are you ok with driving/bussing for a significant amount of time or do you want to be closer to campus? Also think about the location of services that you need. Where’s the closest gas station, grocery store, bank, and mall?Maybe you work as well as go to school. Where is your work in relation to the apartment?
What floor do you want to live on? The first floor can be dangerous and prone to break ins. If you are living alone, especially if you are female, I would highly recommend living on a higher floor. In my building, higher floors come with an additional charge of 20.00/month.
Modern or Not
Certain apartments are old and have a very dated layout. My first apartment was closed off and the space was not being made use of. It was not an open concept design and all of the appliances and finishings were old. My new apartment is modern, open concept and the design is amazing. It also had never been lived in before so that was a bonus.
What kind of neighborhood do you want to live in? Prices will vary depending on the area so if you are willing to live in a neighborhood that isn’t so nice, you might be able to get a cheaper place. Again, if you are a single female, you might want to think in terms of your safety. If you are going to be coming home from work or class late at night you may want to consider the implications of that. You want somewhere that has well lit paths for when you are coming home at night. You may want to consider a place with security cameras as well.
Make sure to ask about parking. Ask if one parking spot is included in rent and how much parking is. Also be sure to ask if the parking lot is cleaned regularly in the winter or if you are responsible for cleaning out your own spot (you really don’t want to be doing this, trust me).
These are the important things that I considered when I was looking to rent. If I missed something please comment down below, I would love to hear your thoughts. The main point of this post is to get you to think about the things that you must have. Think about what you would be willing to compromise on for the right price and what you absolutely have to have no matter what.