The Apartment Starter Kit #2: Apartment Hunting! Let The Fun Begin!
In our very first post of The Apartment Starter Kit, we went through the very first mental steps you should take before making the big decision to move out and get an apartment on your own. Well as it turned out, there’s a lot of heavy things you gotta consider when deciding that, and as such that article did have a bit of a negative tone to. But this column is meant to be a positive thing since it’s designed to help out people whom are new to apartment life and are looking for some tips on how to make the adjustment and save money while doing so. So to set the scene a little bit better, we’re gonna focus on the fun parts of getting an apartment, after going over the more srs-biz factors in the last post.
The “Fun” Parts of Moving Out
If you’ve ever tried online dating, well, apartment hunting is hilariously similar. There’s going to be a lot of stuff you’re not interested in, when you find something you do like it’s probably taken, and unless you live in the middle of nowhere, you need to accept you’re going to be in direct competition with hundreds, maybe even thousands of people in your same situation. This process is both fun AND infuriating.
To be honest, there’s no real easy way to go about looking for an apartment. It’s a rite of passage that almost all of us go through. Your best bet is to use a mixture of IRL and internet resources. Sites like Zillow, Apartments.com, and actually Craigslist are all pretty good, and we used them a few times. But don’t forget to check local newspapers and other places in person that you can check. Don’t be turned off from apartments in the classified section. Yes, they’re usually posted by old people, but hey sometimes old people are pretty nice, and a privately-owned apartment by some nice old lady is pretty much the jackpot.
Some bullet points to consider:
Be Persistent- The apartment search has the potential to take a long, long time. Unless you’re willing to settle, or you’re really lucky, it can take months even. But if you want a good quality of life, really work and wait ’til you find the one. (Once again, this feels a lot like dating…) Hell, if you find one you do really like, don’t be afraid to get on a waitlist. Sometimes it can take months and months, but it’ll be worth it when you finally move into a really awesome pad. In me and Meg’s case, we got onto a waitlist for our apartment before we were fully committed to moving out since we knew it’d be a long wait. We didn’t get a letter back for over a year, at which point it conveniently coincided with us already starting the search a few weeks earlier.
Don’t just take an apartment because it’s cheap– This is a trap that many, many people fall into during this process. Let me preface what I’m about to say with “Yes, this is POOR Couple’s Food Guide. We are all about being thrifty and saving money.” BUT, that said, there’s still a base level of quality you shouldn’t dip below. The same way we don’t recommend buying garbage like McDonald’s just because it’s cheap, we also strongly advise against just jumping into an apartment because it’s the cheapest one you can find. It’s not to say that low-priced apartments can’t be nice, but most of the time if it’s drastically lower than others, there’s a reason… Which brings me to our next point.
Make sure you actually check out any potential prospects– You wouldn’t think this needs to be said but it’s surprisingly more common of a mistake than one would think. Make sure you actually LOOK at an apartment before moving in. As in, physically go to the apartment and look around inside. Make sure it smells okay. Take note of any damage or imperfections. Look in the cabinets and check for any signs of bugs. Do your hardest to be really particular in looking at stuff because shady landlords will try their hardest to doll up the apartment to cover up any flaws it has. Don’t be afraid to ask if it’s had any major maintenance or issues in the past year or two. Remember, this is a place you’re going to call home for an extended period of time. You want it to feel nice.
Animal lovers, prepare to be screwed over– Sadly, there’s a major Catch-22 when it comes to having pets and having an apartment. Most privately-owned/house apartments are cheaper and have nicer landlords, but in our experience they tend to almost never allow pets. Meanwhile, larger apartment communities/buildings run by realtor companies tend to be a lot more expensive and soulless, but they also tend to be the easier route if you have dogs or cats. Bottom line is, (stupidly), having pets is unfortunately a handicap, which we learned the hard way. You CAN find apartments that allow pets, but it makes the whole process 50x more difficult. What’s even worse, and frankly bullshit, is when you inevitably see listings that say smoking is alright, but pets aren’t. It’s asinine, but be prepared because they are in fact out there.
Look into low-income/affordable housing if it applies to you- This can be a big help if you are someone who falls into it. Now, this can be a tricky situation since there’s a lot of different versions of affordable housing out there which vary from place to place. I’m not an expert on the subject, but from what I’m able to gather, affordable housing tends to be apartments that which have income-maximums you can’t go over if you live there, and as such their rent is slightly cheaper than the average rent in the area (this is what me and Meg live in. We live in artist housing). If you make less than the average income in your area, you should definitely look into this. It can be hard to discover, but try searching the webs for apartment complexes in your area that participate in programs like this. Meanwhile there’s also Section-8 housing, which in my experience tends to be a little shoddy. Section-8 generally works so that people who are extremely low-income (sometimes none), can apply to get a voucher from the government which they then use to pay their rent each month. Again, in my professional experience, apartments which are made up of mostly Section-8 housing, tend to be where you see your tales of gross, shitty horror apartments. Not saying everyone who uses them are bad people or that no one should be allowed to apply for the voucher, but if you’re not someone whom the program applies to, I’d strongly recommend avoiding buildings that focus on them.
Tryyyyy to make your first apartment one that’s close-ish to where you lived before- This one is a bit of a variable since lots of people get an apartment because they’re getting a new job, or they’re moving somewhere new. Obviously if your life situation requires to get an apartment in some far-off land, then absolutely go for it. But if you’re just moving out just for the hell of it, you’re gonna have an easier time adjusting if it’s close by your old home. There’s a number of reasons like the actual move itself, mooching off parents/friends, knowing the area, etc… which we’ll go into in a later post, but unless you have a good reason not to, we think it’s a good idea to keep your search limited to someplace no more than a half hour away from where you originally lived.
A Good Opportunity to Sort Out Your Junk
One of the more overlooked positives that will come from moving out is that it is a great way to help you figure out what things you need and don’t need. Me personally, I’m not much of a pack-rat, but Meg is more the opposite. It’s easy to fall into the habit of just hanging on to everything when you live at home. When you live in a house that belongs to your family, you’ve got ample space to tuck stuff away. However, a 1BR or 2BR apartment isn’t quite the same story. You’re gonna realize that pretty quickly, and it’ll help give you some perspective of what stuff you really actually need to keep with you on a daily basis.
You’re gonna be keeping most if not all of your items related to hobbies and fun, as well as really cherished sentimental items too. Beyond this though, even the most fastidious of us end up with lots of junk that we don’t really need to hang onto. Take this opportunity of moving out to sort through your clothes and knickknacks. Ask yourself “Am I gonna enjoy this thing on a regular basis?” if the answer isn’t immediately “Yes”, then you should probably leave it behind.
Bear in mind, just because you’re not taking something with you to your new home doesn’t necessarily mean you need to throw it out! Of course, if you do have some legit tacky shit that has no reason to keep existing, by all means chuck it, or preferably, donate it somewhere. But, other things that are cool, but that you just don’t have the space or need for right now, you should be able to leave those behind safe and sound (unless your parents/family happen to be douchebags).
Having Your Own ‘Home’ Is Weirdly Satisfying
So obviously there’s plenty of reasons to enjoy having your own place, the big one being privacy. I don’t wanna discredit the significance of the ability to just perpetually be in your underwear, but there are some more interesting, underrated things you can take joy from as well. Obviously it’s normal to feel good about being successful and operating your own apartment, but there’s something special about the ability to decorate and make it your own.
I never was big into decorating since my old room was a random amalgamation of the various toys/posters/art I’d acquired or created over the years. Meanwhile Meg has a Master’s degree in decorative arts. Since we moved out however, I actually really enjoy it. When you put out a bunch of stuff that looks cool, then finish, and step back to look, it feels really good. Specifically, holidays like Christmas and Halloween and Easter, ones that you can really decorate heavily for, are a lot of fun.
Getting home on a Friday after work is also a special kind of joy that I didn’t fully appreciate up until now. I’ve always lived for the weekends, but the feeling of an impending Friday night/Saturday is on a whole other level when you’re moved out. The ability to just come home to a place that’s yours, kick back, and know you got the weekend ahead supersedes an orgasm in my opinion.
I bring all this up in our post about getting ready to move out because if you’re living with your family, they’ll most likely be generous in giving you some stuff they no longer need, which can be really helpful for getting stuff to decorate your place with and make it look nice. Of course sometimes this ends up being more of a curse than a blessing… but we’ll go over that in another post.
That’s more or less all we need to say. I could go on, but does anyone really need convincing how awesome it is to move out? But now you’ve got both the good and the bad presented to you. You can make the decision and figure out if it’s right for you. If so, then we wish you the best of luck! For tips on the actual moving-out process, check out Part 3: The Move!