By Matthew Demmer
Once you’ve made the momentous decision to move out of your childhood bedroom, it’s time to find a place to set up camp. There are no more Hogwarts-esque “sorting hats” like parents or college housing offices to ensure that you have a room to call your own, so the responsibility rests squarely on your shoulders to figure out what you value in a living space, how much you are willing to spend, and where exactly you want to live. To do so, it is necessary to balance the three main criteria for judging an apartment: neighborhood/location, cost, and space.
Going in blind will suck up an entire week’s worth of apartment hunting as you look at a slew of initial apartments that are all too expensive, too small, or too far from where you want to be. Why even venture to that one bedroom for $500/month more than you can afford or that cheap studio that’s impossibly located a half an hour away from the nearest form of transportation? Apartment hunting is a tough gig, so tip the balance in your favor by starting out on the right foot.
Obviously, the first thing to figure out is how much you can actually afford. Leaving college means balancing paychecks with expenses for the first time, which can be difficult without experience. Things like cleaning supplies, toilet paper, and take-out can really add up, so make sure to account for all of those expenses in your monthly budget . Most experts suggest that a person’s rent should make up no more than a third of his or her monthly income. Now, if you’re making $50,000 a year before taxes that comes to at most $900 a month — not a lot for a city like New York where some parking spots cost $900 a month, but not necessarily impossible. One key to figuring out cost is to determine whether you want (or can afford) to live alone, or if you are going to have roommates. Living with roommates cuts down the cost of renting an apartment by a lot, but it can also compromise sleep and sanity. Check out our article on Roommate Living for more information and/or use our roommate finder . Just remember: be conservative with your budget so you’re not running back to mom and dad for handouts a few months after moving in.
The cost of an apartment or house will vary greatly depending on the neighborhood. Moving in next to Jennifer Aniston (oh my god like oh my god do you think we’ll be besties?) will likely drive up the cost of the rent by a substantial margin. The key is to figure out what and whom you want to be surrounded by. Different neighborhoods have different identities, so it’s important to tailor your search accordingly—do some research by checking out travel guides, local newspapers/magazines, and online resources. However, the best thing you can do is pick out a few potential neighborhoods and go hang out there. Spend a Saturday walking ar...
By Jake Tuck
Apartment hunting isn’t always easy. The key is to know when and how to look. The best option is a “no fee” apartment, meaning that you rent directly from a managing agent or owner, but these are hard to come by and will therefore likely take more time to find. If you are
sweating it out next to the boiler in your parents basement, you may want to suck it up and get a broker. It all depends on what works best for you and how much time, money, and effort you’re willing to put into the hunt. Either way, since recent graduates make up a large portion of the lower-cost rental market, it’s imperative to know the ins and the outs of the rental game in order to have a leg up on the competition.
Starting Off the Apartment Hunt
Begin by setting some criteria that will narrow down the field from thousands to only like a few hundred. Set a price range that makes sense for you, bearing in mind that it’s probably not wise to spend more than 50% of your monthly income on rent; choose a general neighborhood (or a few) where you think you’d like to live; and decide how much space you need and whether you’ll be living with roommates. (For help on all three refer back to our article Deciding Where to Live ). You should also have a collection of documents ready so when you find a place you can jump on it. (For more help see Preparing the Necessary Pre Apartment Search Documents ).
After all those ducks are lined up, the question becomes when to start the search. Since most recent grads are looking to sign a lease starting on September 1st, August is the most competitive month for apartment rentals. Remember, you’re competing not only with your just graduated peers, but also past graduates who have signed year or two-year leases when they first moved. Apartments in August move fast, but there are also more of them available than at any other time of the year. Starting the search early in the summer isn’t much help, since September apartments won’t even go on the market until late July at the earliest, and most won’t be ready to be shown until mid-August. The average hunter sees between ten and forty apartments before signing a lease, so you should prepare for those two or three weeks in August to be like a grueling treasure hunt, with each apartment that you see providing a clue that brings you one step closer to apartment Nirvana.
The Best (and Worst of Both Worlds)
There’s no reason to choose from the start whether to use a broker or to go it alone. But whichever route you choose, be prepared to go all out. Don’t just get one broker – get ten. Don’t just use one online resource – use twenty. It’s worth it to find the best place that you can, because nothing spoils the jubilation of being fresh out of mom and dad’s house like a crappy apartment.
Real Estate Brokers
Although broker fees are occasionally “negotiable,” they can run between a month’s rent and 15% of the yearly rent. So why g...