I’ve been getting a lot of questions about how to locate your first apartment after college. It can be extremely overwhelming, especially if you are moving to a new city or moving out of state! I walk you through the steps of getting your very own adult apartment below 🙂
1) Determine Your Budget
It can be really easy to think you can spend half of your income on your apartment, but that just isn’t realistic. I’ve always been told 1/3 is a good benchmark, but there are some cities where you’ll have to up that. Just make sure you have a set number in mind that you know is the limit before you begin searching. It’s easy to think “$50 more a month won’t matter” once you find a beautiful unit, so you need the cutoff.
2) Research Neighborhoods
Find out the average price of units in neighborhoods. Look up crime rates and use Google Street View to get a glimpse into each neighborhood. Chances are, just by Googling “City Name Best Neighborhoods for Young Professionals” you’ll get some names to start looking at.
3) Find a Roommate (If Needed)
You may consider finding a roommate to help lower costs and get you more amenities than you’d be able to afford alone. There are lots of roommate groups on Facebook. You can also reach out to local alumni chapters of your college, fraternity or sorority to see if they have any programs because an awful lot do!
4) Make a List of Non-neogiables
Since this is your first real apartment, this list can’t be very long 🙂 but it is still good to write down what you absolutely need. For me, this was a dishwasher and AC. I wanted a washer and dryer so incredibly bad, but I knew that in the area of Chicago I wanted with my budget, that wasn’t a possibility.
5) Start Searching
Zillow, Trulia, Hotpads and Craigslist were the sites I used to find my first apartment. However, there are some city specific sites that will be good resources as well. Don’t be sketched out by Craigslist, either – there are a lot of older landlords who only use it and I’ve found that the best deals are only listed there!
6) Consider Transportation
Look for units close to public transit or with parking spots. I didn’t really consider how far my first apartment was from the L, which was a rookie mistake. Luckily, I was close to a bus stop, but I still wish I was within a 10 minute walk to the train. I’d use Google maps to figure out the potential commutes you’d have from each unit you’re interested in. Sometimes a 30 minute walk to a train station is a deal breaker, even if the unit is super cheap!
7) Tour Units
DO NOT SIGN A LEASE UNTIL YOU TOUR THE UNIT. I had a friend of mine move to Chicago from out of state with just FaceTiming a landlord to see the unit. She moved in and saw that the unit was not the same that was shown to her on FaceTime – can you imagine?!?! Buildings often post pictures of nicer units with the same layout as the one available to you, so I strongly suggest going to see the units yourself.
8) Weigh Your Options
I am a big fan of pro / con lists, so get out some pen and paper to write out the good and bad of each unit. Similar to the House Hunters graphic, it’s helpful to see what each unit offers compared to the others.
A lot of applications nowadays are online which makes things super convenient. You will fill out information about your job, proof of income (offer letters work for this) and the leasing company will run a credit check on you. Only apply to the unit you want most. Applying multiple places at once can lower your credit score – steer away from that!
Happy apartment hunting!