Congratulations! Your university no longer requires you to live in student housing, and you are now on the hunt for that perfect apartment. You know, the one with stainless steel appliances, granite counter tops, walk-in closets, hard-wood floors, a balcony and roof-deck, gas fireplace, Jacuzzi tub, and cool neighbors all within a block of campus. Oh to be young and slightly less in debt. Here are three things you should consider before you start looking for an apartment.
Get Real With Your Budget
Before you start looking for an apartment, you need to sit down with your roommates (if you will be living with others) and establish what you are able to spend on rent each month. Unless you have a job or parents who are picking up your tab, you’re going to be paying this expense with student loan money. I know, when you get that refund check from your college it seems like free money, but it is not. With a one-year lease, even $50 more a month makes a big difference when paying back Sallie Mae.
Now your budget doesn’t begin and end at your rent payment. You need to factor in utilities, food, school supplies, and transportation. I know what you’re thinking: “No shit Katie. That’s so obvious.” It’s astounding how many students max out their budgets on rent and are left with only pennies to spend on ramen. Don’t be that person.
Just remember to factor in cable, internet, heating and air, groceries, textbooks, subway, bus and/or train rides, parking, and, of course, fun money.
Pick Your “Location, location, location”
Chances are if your mom watches as much HGTV as my mom, you’ve heard the phrase “location, location, location” once or twice. Is it a cliché? You betcha. Is it true? You betcha.
One of the single greatest influencers on your rent will be the location of your apartment in proximity to your campus. This means if you want an apartment with full-blown amenities and services all within a two-minute walking distance to all of your classes, expect to pay top-dollar. In the case were I lived in Philly this ranged from $1,000 to $2,000 plus a month per person.
If rolling out of bed and being in class within 15 minutes is a priority, but you want to be on the lower end of the rent spectrum, then be prepared to make sacrifices. Say goodbye to space and modern amenities such as an on-site washer and dryer, air conditioning, a dishwasher, and updated appliances.
If you want your rent to be under that $1,000 mark, start looking at apartments further away from campus. The good news is you will be able to find more updated rentals in this price range then you would if you looked closer to campus.
Reign In Your Wish List
Now that you have your budget and location hammered out, you can start thinking about your wish list. Do not, however, get your wish list confused with your must have list. All you really need is four walls, a roof, internet, and a working toilet. Maybe a sink, but at that point you’re just getting extravagant and need to take a step back.
In all seriousness, prioritize what you need with what you want to have in an apartment. For example: if you are going to be living with roommates, do you want to have your own bedroom and bathroom? Are you willing to sacrifice space for updated appliances and fixtures? Do you need to be near public transportation or have access to a parking space? Finally, how far are you actually willing to walk to class during a rain/snow storm?
Remember, there are people who want to take advantage of you. They are going to wave shiny objects in front of your face such as rooftop pools and on-site juice bars just so they can get more money from you.
Stick to what you need and then move on to what you want.
Keep these three points as your starter-guide and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Leave a comment if you found these tips helpful or if there is a different topic you wish I had rambled about instead.