7 Important Steps to Take Before Moving Into Your First Apartment
At first, living with roommates seems like a great idea!
Perhaps you both love the same movies and have the same political opinions. And, of course, there’s no doubt it’s a smart financial move. However, a few months down the line, you may find yourself fantasizing about the day when you don’t have to ask your roommate to wash their week-old dishes or turn down their music at 12 am.
You dream about the days when you’ll get to wake up whenever you want, invite friends over without asking permission, and other freedoms—but it’s important to stop and think before you start packing and moving into your first apartment on your own. Start preparing with the steps below!
1. Decide if You’re Really Ready to Live Alone
When you live by yourself, you have to make an effort to see people. If you haven’t ever lived alone before, it’s hard to tell how you’ll handle this change—particularly if you’re extroverted and get lonely easy.
Start by thinking about your personality and judge how you feel when your roommates are out for more than a couple weeks. Do you start feeling depressed easily? Do you find yourself talking to the cat far more than you’d like to admit? Do you tend to jump at every noise? Assess your temperament and decide whether you can really handle the solo living experience.
2. Figure Out What You Can Afford
Many financial advisors will tell you to spend less than 30% of your income on rent. However, that can feel nearly impossible when you’re apartment hunting in DC or another metropolitan city.
First, you must have a good handle on your budget. If you’re already out of control financially, choosing to move into your own apartment will likely worsen your situation. Spending habits don’t just change when you want them to. You must make an effort to stay within your budget, or risk losing your new apartment. However, 30% is pretty tough to swing when you’re planning on living in a safe, relatively nice apartment. Start by using this handy dandy rent calculator.
3. Start Apartment Hunting Early
When you hunt last minute, it’s usually the landlord that has the upper hand. You’ll feel more desperate if your current lease is ending in a month, and you’ll be more likely to settle on an apartment that isn’t right for you or your budget.
A four-week move might be entirely possible, but it’s not exactly ideal. Try to give yourself as much time as possible, and let your friends know you’re looking for an apartment. That way, if something opens up, say, four months from now, you’ll have a better chance of getting to rent it before anyone else. Hey, the DC rental market moves fast! Take the additional time to slowly build up money for rent, and you’ll have a better chance on getting your dream apartment if you’re able to pay for the fees, first month’s rent, and more (depending on the apartment manager or landlord’s requirements) up front.
4. Separate Needs and Wants
How will you find the perfect apartment if you’re not even sure what it looks like? Start by writing up a list of your non-negotiables in an apartment. Do you need to have abundant outlets because you work from home and use a lot of electronics? Do you require a washer and dryer, or is that optional? Are you OK with washing dishes the old fashioned way or will they never get done without a dishwasher? Do you have to be close to the Metro (more on that in #5) or will you need good bike paths? Figure out what the best features and amenities look like to you.
Everyone’s answers to these questions will be different, which is great, because every apartment is different. This could take some time, but you’ll thank yourself during the dizzying apartment hunt if you can eliminate apartments based on a targeted list.
5. Pay Attention to Transportation Options
You’ve heard that apartment and home hunting boils down to three crucial factors: location, location, and location.
An apartment might be within your budget, but pay attention to the location. If you’re living way out in the suburbs, calculate the cost of transportation. If you’re going to spend hundreds of dollars on gas or Metro cards every month, it may not be worth it. Also, think about your social habits. Do you love going out or do you love inviting people over to your place? If you’re the former type of person, you’re likely to spend a hefty sum on cabs if you live far away from the action. Plus, your friends might be less willing to drive or ride all the way out to see you. Consider this before you jump on a lease!
6. Check Out Neighborhood Walkability and Safety
This is another important thing to consider. Walk around your future neighborhood in the morning, at night, and at other times of the day. You may feel perfectly safe walking to work in the morning, but do you feel safe while walking home at night? Or after a long night out with friends? How about on the weekend? It may take more time to invest in neighborhood walks, which is why #3 is so important.
Narrow down neighborhoods to your top five and start hanging out with friends or spending weekends exploring local shops, restaurants, and activities. (Psst…Tenleytown, DC has plenty!) Beware the shiny brand new apartments in crime-ridden areas or neighborhoods vacant of shops and restaurants. Just because they’re up-and-coming doesn’t mean they’re ideal for you right now.
Follow this list, and you’re sure to enjoy a less stressful move to your first apartment! If you’re looking for a beautiful apartment that’s surrounded by shops, restaurants, and more, look no further than Tenley View. There’s no safer, more beautiful place to live in DC, especially if you’re planning on apartment hunting solo. Take a tour of our brand new apartments this weekend.