“My Post-Grad Apartment Hunt Starts” by Elyse
May is here and so is my college graduation. While it’s exciting to celebrate the end of writing papers and reading for anything besides pleasure, it also means the end of being coddled by my student status. With graduation comes getting a job, and a post-grad apartment. (Aka, one with rent I can afford on my own.) While I am on the job hunt right now, the end of my lease is coming up and I need to get a new apartment, job or no job. So how does one go about finding an apartment while their job status is still kind of, well, up in the air?
The big dilemma is: how do you decide on a price cap when you don’t have a job yet, and don’t know how much you can spend? The way I handled it was I figured out how much I would make a month if I earned minimum wage. After doing the math, I knew that in the worst-case scenario, I would have that much money in my account to pay the rent check at the end of the month. So even if I had nothing else, I would still have my apartment to go back to. For the rest of my expenses, well, I have the buffer of my parents, my savings, and a really good credit score until I can find something better? I include utilities in my budgeting and my math told me that I could cap at around $800, up to $900 if utilities were included.
(Ed comment: If you don’t have savings/parents as cushion, at a minimum wage of about $15,000 a year, your rent target should be closer to the $500 range.)
With the timing of my move, I luck out since I’m in an apartment already and don’t have to leave the dorm in the middle of the month. Finding the apartment is trickier if you live in a dorm. In that case, it might be best to just find something with a 1st of month move-in date instead of the more elusive mid-month move-in, or having an awkward couple of weeks between moving out of the dorm and moving into an apartment.
I’ve been doing the Craigslist by-owner only listings to avoid paying extra fees. The key to this route is vigilance. It’s just like getting that free tv on Craisglist, you have to find it first and respond immediately. Be prepared to look at places the next day (or even the same day.) But don’t rush the actual decision! Take your time in the apartment when you visit, and don’t be afraid to try and negotiate. I have a friend who has never actually paid the rent the owner originally priced an apartment at.
The best part about by-owner listings is that you have more flexibility with your timing. Using a realtor, if you want a June 1st move-in, you need to be looking on May 1st. But with by-owner, the people trying to get tenants on April 25th still want to try and fill it for the first of the month. (I’ve even seen listings on the 29th advertising a move-in date of the 1st!) That gives me more leeway to hold off on signing a lease until the job prospects get a little better.
In the end, graduating in New York City offers a dilemma, if you want to stay here. Usually when you graduate, you move back home, find your job and then find that apartment. But in New York, getting a job depends on being here which means you need an apartment and may have to start paying rent before you have a job. In a way, it’s kind of a good thing. It gives you that impetus to really make it on your own. Living at home and having all your food and laundry taken care of can get pretty comfortable, and I know would make me pretty lazy. Finding an apartment before I have a job might be risky, but it’s a great way to avoid that weird 20-something state of arrested development. And if things really don’t work out, well, that’s what sublets are for, right?