Moving can be exciting & stressful all at once. It's like the dream vacation you can't wait for, but are dreading to pack for.
Here are some key things to look for when selecting your next home.
Use credible sites
I've heard of people using sites like Craigslist (& I've used it myself to sell items), but I wouldn't feel comfortable renting or buying a place on there.
Some places will be rented or sold by a person rather than a company. If you're working with a realtor, property manager, or personal homeowner, try researching them too. You never know what you may find. Your interactions with this person may be few or many, but you want to know that each interaction will be handled properly. Look for someone (or a company) that is known for being timely, professional, & there to serve their tenants (you are the customer, so you want great customer service).
Know your #s
How much can you afford for rent each month? Utilities (gas, water, heat, cable & internet, etc.)?
This & the location of your home will probably be the biggest determinants of where you live. Let's face it, we are young & broke.
Can you afford the deposit?
You will need to have that when you're ready to move in. Deposits are typically due immediately once you've determined you're gonna move in. Even if you're not moving within the month, places may still require a deposit up front.
Usually, deposits are the same amount as monthly rent and are returned once you move out. You have to maintain the space in good condition to get your full deposit back. Be sure to read your lease well & fully understand the terms.
Plan out your space
How many rooms do you need?
It's likely that you only NEED one room, but think carefully & be realistic. If you need more space for items, consider alternative storage options because an extra room means more money spent on rent.
What furniture will go in each room & how much space will it require?
Sometimes people move & then they find that their comfy king sized bed won't fit in their new bedroom, or the old couch is way too small for the new living room.
Buying new furniture will only add to your costs. Try to prepare prior to selecting your place. It's okay if you can afford to replace some furniture, but try to at least donate the old stuff. I've also found that when moving states it's easier (maybe even cheaper) to just get new furniture.
Is there an ideal space for guests? Living room with a couch, etc.
This is kind of like when I despised eating in the living room. Each space could double for another, but I like to keep their purposes somewhat separate. My living room & couch may host me & food occasionally, but really I should be eating in a chair at a table. In my opinion, the living room (must have a couch or other comfy place to sit) is the only place truly appropriate for guests. It can be awkward to host guests anywhere else.
Do you have enough room for storage?
Yes? Great! I never do.
No? Consider storage options, or donating items that you no longer use.
Make a list
What must you have in this home?
Maybe you need yard space or a safe community for your pets, or children.
My must haves:
Living room space! I need a home that has room for a couch AND a space to sit & eat. I've lived in spaces where the living room had to double as the dining room. There was no bar. It didn't feel comforting to place a dining room table against a wall (space saver) & I didn't like eating on my couch all the time. I found myself needing a taller coffee table (to place plates & things on) & often overeating because the television would be on.
Recycling! I'm not sure if it varies by state, city, or location in general, but to my dismay, I've definitely lived in places that offer no recycling services. I've grown up recycling for years, so this is a deal breaker. I feel guilty when I don't recycle.
Bedroom space! I really just want enough space for my bed. I've lived in places where my clothes were in separate rooms & I really like that. Keeping my bedroom minimalistic is important to me. It allows me to create a space solely for relaxation & sleep!
What is optional?
Here are my examples of optional features:
2 or more bedrooms would be ideal. I have zillions of purses, shoes, makeup accessories, clothes, everything! My last apartment included two bedrooms. One was my master bedroom & the other was a get ready room. I kept all of my clothing, shoes & makeup in this room. The room included mirrors & a table with all my makeup & hair products. I was able to allow guests to stay in this room during the rare occasions that a friend or family member would visit. I've also used extra bedrooms for pets. That can be a lot of fun!
walk in closet Who doesn't want one?!
What don't you want?
roommates! I'd never go back to the dorm days where I shared a room, but I don't even think I could share a home. There is so much freedom & authority in having an entire space to yourself. Unless you're my sibling, significant other, or pet, I cannot do it!
offsite laundry facility! I'll be humble & admit this is not a deal breaker, but I'd prefer to have a washer/dryer unit IN my place. Public laundry facilities whether included with your complex, or a public store, are a pain in the A**. It's bad enough I have to do laundry, but I definitely don't want to get dressed & travel to do it. Also doing laundry is a great time to read a book, cook, etc. It's hard to multitask if you're sharing a washer/dryer.
Look for photos
Personally, if there are not photos of the kitchen, living room, & bedroom space, I won't consider it. I'd also like to see the outside of the home, bathroom, amenities, etc. too, but it's not a deal breaker if these photos are not included.
The search process is already time consuming, so having a visual idea of what you're considering will save you a lot of time.
Never solely rely on photos though! Catfishing as it relates to homes certainly happens. Make sure you schedule an in-person tour once you've done all your research!
Understand the terms
Your lease should spell everything out, but be sure to also ask lots of questions too. I like to have someone with me when I go to view a place so they can mention things I didn't think of. Two brains are better than one!
Here are some key aspects to investigate:
Maintenance & repairs
Will any leaks, breaks, or other maintenance issues be your responsibility or the apartment manager/company? I've lived in places where certain aspects of the place were my responsibility and others were not. Some places may also have fees associated with certain repair needs. Obviously, my preference is to live in a place that covers all repair/maintenance needs for FREE.99 & does so ASAP.
Do you have to pay for water & other utilities?
Are pets allowed? Is there a pet deposit or rent? I love cats, but for years I was never a pet person. You never know when you may have a change of heart & want a pet.