Oh the friends you’re going to entertain, the decor and design, the free and independent living. I get it. I’ve been there. I moved out of my parents’ home at 24 and I can say the excitement was immense. While the first few months were pure bliss, there are some things I wish someone had told me before making such a step. Since then, I have rented several apartments and while I am older and much better at this, I learn something new every time about what I did wrong with the ones before.
Renting your first apartment carries a lot of responsibility and commitment, and can become a very heavy burden if you are underprepared. There are fortunately, many ways to avoid making common mistakes. Here are some of them.
Know the neighborhood
Location is very important to your quality of life when choosing a place to live. This, many times (if not all) will determine the cost you pay to live there. You need to determine what you want out of your neighborhood. For some people, lively areas that are always busy with easy access to amenities such as thriving nightlife, pharmacies, supermarkets and public transportation are of utmost importance. Some people however, prefer quieter neighborhoods and/or remote areas where there is less traffic and more green space.
Keep in mind though, that you may think you know the area, however only after spending considerable time there, will you notice the not so obvious downsides to living there. I moved into a pretty safe, quiet and family oriented neighborhood which was exactly what I wanted. I noticed later on that I underestimated the distance I had to walk everyday to and from my source of public transportation. It was a nightmare because in addition to this, the area was also very lonely. So even though it was a low crime location, I felt pretty unsafe walking the lonely streets at night.
To address this is pretty simple. Talk to people. More times than not, you know someone who lives, lived or frequents the area you are interested in. Use your social network and the internet. There are countless Facebook and WhatsApp groups with people from every crevice of the earth who can give guidance and perspective. People who live in larger cities and towns or are moving to a different country, can look to apps, message boards and websites where the information is endless. You may not learn everything this way, but when it’s time to make a decision, you’d be better equipped to do so.
Get a feel of the landlord
Landlords can make your life a living hell. Trust me, I’ve been there. For me, living close to or on the same compound with a landlord is a big no no. There are some however, who you only remember they exist when it’s rent time. They leave you to live your life in peace. You can garner the type of landlord you’re going to get if you talk to them in depth. You may be able to tell if they will be nit picky and fussy about the type of patio chairs you use or the Christmas lights you hang up outside. I would warn you though, that sometimes you just don’t know who you’re gonna get. I remember speaking to my first landlord and she was this bubbly, interesting, cheerful person. After some time, I quickly saw this was not her normal demeanor. Talk about a s***fest!
I would suggest building a positive relationship with your landlord. It comes in handy when you need things repaired or is a little late with rent. Show respect for their property and maintain it within good reason. That way, they will be more willing to ensure you are a comfortable tenant. What you should take away here, is that sometimes you really can’t choose your landlords, and while some are a Godsend, others may take forever to fix a leaky toilet or to return your deposit. It’s simply a luck and chance and you just can’t get away from that.
Read the lease!
I cannot warn you enough. This is not a document to gloss over. You need to spend time going through every detail. How many times have we scrolled to the bottom of a webpage and just clicked “I Agree” without fully reading it? It’s just what we do.
Leases give a clear picture of what is expected of you as a tenant and what you can expect of your landlord. This may include things like no smoking, no pets, no children, no drilling of walls or not being allowed to have guests overnight. I encountered one where boyfriends were not allowed to visit due to past incidences of boyfriends coming over to “smoke marijuana all day” (don’t ask me…I didn’t enquire further). If you’re not happy, you can request (they may or may not oblige) changes before signing and this can save you a lot of time and heartache.
Don’t buy furniture before you see the space
This is a common mistake. You bought a refrigerator but neglected to measure if the front door was wide enough for it to pass through. What about the usual counter top appliances like microwaves, kettles and toasters. Chances are your space may not allow these items. You may need to get creative.
Be sure to truly inspect and measure the space to better gauge what you can and cannot fit comfortably. This can be difficult for some as you may just want to move in and hit the ground running. Trust me when I say no one wants have a huge three piece living room set on hand, with space enough for only one piece.
Furnishing an apartment can be quite expensive so try not to make it stressful as well. This site is a great resource for anything apartment and may help you in this quest.
Have a thorough (and realistic) budget
I can tell you, living on your own with a whack budget will make you pull your hair out. You don’t want to settle in then feel the brunt of having to choose which bills to pay when the end of the month is near. I can tell you from personal experience, that is a hard pill to swallow and you don’t want to deal with that.
My first apartment took a huge chunk of my income and not so long after moving in did the effects of this mistake become apparent. Before you begin apartment hunting, it is highly advisable that you to set a realistic budget. This will determine how much rent you can truly afford. It will give you a clear idea of how renting this apartment will affect the other elements of your life. You don’t want to fall behind on your loans, bills, savings etc due to poor planning. A bad (or no) budget can seriously affect your health and level of comfort. I had to move back in with my parents for a couple months because of this one mistake.
Know exactly what moving to a new space entails
Having an apartment is not just paying rent. It includes actually moving there, which, if you have loads of stuff, can present itself a challenge. You need to consider paying a deposit and some times the last months’ rent. You will need to figure out amenities. Whether you need to pay for your own cable, if it comes with internet or not, if you need to pay for electricity and/or heat. The list goes on. When you are actually in the apartment, you see things that weren’t obvious before. Things you’d like to change or remove or redesign. It can be exhilarating having your own space, but it can be tiring trying to get it right for you.
I could go on and on about this, but all in all, it’s a learning experience. Finding the perfect apartment may not be the easiest feat, but with proper research and planning, your experience will be a pleasant one. You may run into some bumps along the way but trust that it’s nothing that you can’t resolve.
What lessons did you learn? How was your first apartment?
Thanks for stopping by!
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