Getting your own apartment is an exciting and liberating time! Chances are, your first apartment will be about the size of a closet, but that’s the least of your worries. Getting your first place is probably your biggest financial responsibility so far, so it’s worth the time and effort to try and do it right.
Here are common mistakes that college students usually make – avoid them and enjoy a smoother transition!
Getting More Apartment Than You Can Afford
Depending on where you live in the US, rent prices vary drastically. A typical 1 bedroom apartment in the suburbs of upstate NY is going to run you around $700 a month (and that doesn’t normally include utilities), while the same apartment in PA would run around $350 (often with utilities included).
Before you can select an apartment, you need to know how much you can afford to pay for rent.
Forgetting That Apartments Cost More Than Rent
Renting costs more than your monthly rent!
First of all, moving into an apartment requires more than one month’s rent in almost every situation. Most will charge an application fee (so they can run a credit check, yikes!), a security deposit which can be any amount, but is typically equivalent to one month’s rent, and your first month’s rent.
Are you keeping track? A $500 per month apartment might cost you $1040 just to get in the door($40 application fee, $500 security deposit, $500 first months’ rent).
Don’t forget you’ll need some utilities.
Electricity, cable, and phone usually all require a deposit to turn on service, and even if they don’t – you need to budget for them on a monthly basis. If your apartment uses gas for heat or hot water, you’ll want to figure out how much that will cost you, too.
Is parking free? Some places charge for parking.
Do you have furniture? Hopefully you can bring whatever you sleep on now, and you have friends and family to help out furnishing your home with hand-me-downs, but if you don’t – furniture is expensive! You might want to live on blow-up furniture for a few months while you get your finances in order if you don’t have a sizable savings account (this is a better option than financing furniture, by the way).
Finally, you’ll need food and some essentials (soap, cleaning supplies, garbage pails, garbage bags, dishes, etc). These things are easily forgotten when figuring out how much money you need for an apartment, but they sure do add up when you are trying to get everything you need.
Don’t forget the dollar store for some of these essential items.
Not Reading the Lease Agreement
Before you sign your name on the lease and hand over the money to rent the apartment, actually read through the lease agreement. This is a legally binding document, and by signing it you agree to abide by whatever rules are in it, or risk being kicked out of the apartment.
- How long is the agreement in affect?
- What are the policies for painting or making alterations to the apartment?
- What do you do if something needs to be repaired?
All of these questions should be covered in the lease.