This is an exciting time in a young person’s life. Ensure that your apartment search is relatively pain-free by creating an action plan. Being prepared means you won’t be disappointed down the road.
The number one item one your apartment hunting agenda needs to be rent. How much can you pay? How much are you willing to pay to get the features you want? The common rule-of-thumb is that your rent should not be more than 25% of your total income. As such, you’ll need to determine how much money you will have coming in each month and balance that out with other bills you need to pay, including phone, utilities and groceries. You may find that you simply won’t have enough to pay for everything, which means you’ll also need to look for a roommate.
Wants vs. Needs:
At the risk of sounding like your parent, this is a time when you really need to sort out what features you need in an apartment and what features you simply want. Having an on-site fitness facility and a rooftop patio would be lovely, but they are not always feasible ideas. Things that you need can include an apartment close to public transportation, a parking space or on-site laundry facilities.
On that note, what are you going to need when you first move in? Here’s a list of 10 things every first apartment should have from Apartment Therapy:
1. Kitchen Basics: The important things that might top this list might be a can opener, sharp knife or wooden spoon.
2. A Toolbox: You’ll at least need a screwdriver (or two), a hammer, a tape measure, a level, adjustable wrench, and set of allen wrenches for all those IKEA purchases. The rest is up to you.
3. A Plant: Even if you kill it in a few months, the breath of life they bring to a space is unmistakable. If your thumb isn’t exactly green, try a succulent that only has to be watered every few weeks.
4. Books: Even if you have a Kindle, a few books are always good to have around. Sometimes you just want to flip through the pages for inspiration or a little reading. If you’re not big on collecting such things, make them classics that even a visitor might enjoy picking up.
5. Baking Soda & Vinegar: It doesn’t matter what mess, mold, or grime the last tenant left, this combination of ingredients can clean just about anything. Save your money for other things like food and curtains to block out the view of your neighbor who refuses to wear a bath robe.
6. 3 Light Sources: Many apartments can feel lacking in light and often your first apartment isn’t as awesome as you wanted it to be. Remember 3 light sources for your main room and it will always feel more like home. Plus, as a rule of thumb, all overhead lighting in apartments is ill-placed, too harsh, or too dim.
7. A Place To Lay Your Head: Yes it seems overly basic, but it’s easy to get caught up in the smaller things you might need. Just because you think you can get away with sleeping on a futon doesn’t mean your back will agree. Sleep comfortable and everything else, even the smallest space with the worst bathroom, is suddenly tolerable.
8. 5 More Extension Cords Than You Think You Need: Unless you designed and built your own home, there’s a 99% change your outlet ratio to products that require them will suck. Having a few extension cords or power bars on hand will save you frustration and trips to the hardware store later on.
9. A Box Knife: This small simple tool will save you a great deal of headache when it comes to opening moving boxes, unpacking furniture or taking off zip ties held into new packaging that needs to be disassembled. You won’t need it until you have no other choice but to go buy one and then you’ll think back and say, “Apartment Therapy was right.”
10. $50 Emergency Money: It doesn’t matter if you keep it in the bank or stashed in your secret hiding spot, every first apartment has some sort of emergency. It might be the need to escape and have a night out, a lamp you didn’t think you’d need or possibly a fan due to the lack of air circulation. Big or small, there will always be something.
Many apartments will require a credit check before they agree to lease to you. This means you should check your credit yourself before you start applying so you can know what to expect. You can obtain a free credit report in Canada by writing to Equifax or TransUnion. If you have some blemishes on your credit report, let the building manager who you are applying with know and tell them how you are taking steps to fix the problem. Openness and honesty can go a long way!
Find Your Neighbourhood:
One of the most exciting things about moving out on your own is that you get to choose where you live. If there is a neighbourhood in your city that you absolutely love, start by looking for apartments there. If you find it is too expensive, go to the next neighbourhood on your list. You may also decide that you want to live close to work or school so you can walk every day. Take a look at all of the options available to you and you are sure to find the perfect community to call home.
Squawkfox.com has an awesome printable First Apartment Essentials Checklist. The website recommends using it to:
• Save money by avoiding the stuff you don’t need.
• Get organized before moving into your first apartment.
• Keep track of only the items you need.
• Identify items you may need to buy in a shopping list.
• Help organize your items into boxes for the move.
• Serve as a moving apartment checklist, or a checklist for moving into an apartment.
Don’t forget to use a variety of sources to conduct your apartment search, including the Classifieds like Kijiji, Online Rental Guides like RentSeeker.ca and even University Housing Boards online.
Happy Apartment Hunting!
-The RentSeeker Team