My First Apartment http://www.myfirstapartment.com Wed, 25 May 2016 14:10:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Solving Roommate Conflicts the Smart Way http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2016/05/solving-roommate-conflicts-the-smart-way/ http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2016/05/solving-roommate-conflicts-the-smart-way/#respond Tue, 24 May 2016 14:14:14 +0000 http://www.myfirstapartment.com/?p=19832 Did you wake up this morning to find a passive-aggressive sticky note waiting for you? Have you been giving your roommate the silent treatment because you are annoyed and she hasn’t even noticed? Maybe you’ve thrown a few passive-aggressive comments into your conversations lately? Roommate conflicts arise quite often. They are almost inevitable, but there…

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Did you wake up this morning to find a passive-aggressive sticky note waiting for you? Have you been giving your roommate the silent treatment because you are annoyed and she hasn’t even noticed? Maybe you’ve thrown a few passive-aggressive comments into your conversations lately? Roommate conflicts arise quite often. They are almost inevitable, but there are simple ways to resolve issues without breaking your roommate’s things or trying to poison them with Windex (I swear this really happened; it was in the news last year).

These solutions might seem quite obvious, but it is surprising how little they are used.

Clear the air. Two Chinese friends sitting on couch

This should always be your first step in conflict resolution. You may think you already know what the problem is, but sometimes the roommate is mad at something completely separate from what you are thinking. Sit down in a quiet environment and talk about it. It is as simple as “Hey, I’ve noticed that you have been annoyed with me. What am I doing wrong?” or “Hey, I don’t mean to annoy you, but your dirty dishes that have been in the sink for days really bother me, can you please clean them?”

Acknowledge your mistakes.

You need to take the responsibility for your actions. There is no need to make an excuse for why you are so loud getting ready while your roommates are sleeping.  Apologize, and try to be more considerate in the feature.

Be a more courteous roommate.

Maybe your roommate is just a clean freak and is tired of the mess you make in the kitchen. They have every right to live in a clean apartment. But there are also a million other reasons that they might need the place to be clean, that you have never even thought about. For example, I am currently living with two of my best friends (Only for a few more weeks, yay! When people tell you not to live with your best friends, LISTEN. They are right.) Anyway… I have an immune system illness. Living in even a slightly unsanitary place, such as one with dirty dishes that have been left for days or floors that haven’t been cleaned in over a week, could be really detrimental for my health. This is something that my roommates often forget or don’t consider. It is understandable for something like this to slip your mind from time to time, but it is really important to make the effort to be considerate of the people you live with.

Maybe you don’t know about your roommates illness and you keep getting really annoyed that they ask you to take part in cleaning almost every day. But keep in mind that you never know what other people are suffering through, so please just do your best to be a great roommate and respect everyone’s wishes.

CompromiseGroup Of Friends Enjoying Breakfast In Kitchen Together

A few months back, one of my roommates and I clearly had some tension between us. I finally sat her down and asked her why she was upset. It turned out she felt I was being too loud in the morning when I got up for the gym. I apologized, and told her that I was tired of cleaning her dishes for her. We talked it out, and both promised to work on our issues.

I have worked on being more quiet, and she hasn’t had a problem since. She cleans her dishes fairly quickly, and if I ask her to, she will clean them on the spot. We are closer than ever now that we learned how to talk about our issues!

You are going to have multiple sources of tension in your apartment at times. All it takes is a discussion, and some effort, and things can be resolved.

What not to do.

I used to be the queen of passive-aggressive sticky notes, and I didn’t even realize I was doing it. Using notes to avoid the confrontation when you want your roommates to do something or to stop doing something, is not a great option. Your roommates will get annoyed, and you will have tension on your hands. The same goes for throwing passive-aggressive comments into your conversations. There is no reason to hint at what you are annoyed about, when you can just say it.

Don’t ignore your roommates request that you take out the trash every now and then, just because you don’t want to do it. You are a resident of the same apartment, so it is your responsibility as well.

Don’t get mad at your roommate because they simply wanted to talk out their issues with you. Be as receptive as possible, and use the time to build your relationship with that person.

And finally, please, whatever you do, don’t try to poison your roommate with household cleaning products. I can’t believe that needs to be said…

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Paperwork You’ll Need for Your Rental Apartment Application http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2016/05/documents-youll-need-apply-rental-apartment/ http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2016/05/documents-youll-need-apply-rental-apartment/#respond Sun, 22 May 2016 14:00:33 +0000 http://www.myfirstapartment.com/?p=20149 Before you hit the apartment hunting trail, make sure you have all your paperwork ready to complete a typical rental apartment application. Your future landlord will judge you mainly on two things: your financial history and your personal background.  First and foremost, he wants to be comfortable that you can pay your rent on time,…

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PaperworkBefore you hit the apartment hunting trail, make sure you have all your paperwork ready to complete a typical rental apartment application.

Your future landlord will judge you mainly on two things: your financial history and your personal background.  First and foremost, he wants to be comfortable that you can pay your rent on time, every month.  Second, he wants to know that you will be a responsible tenant and not wreck his beautiful apartment or building. How does he do that if he doesn’t know anything about you? By asking you for all kinds of documentation, of course.

Financial Documentation:

1. Credit Check

The landlord will ask you to fill out a form that allows him to run a credit check and get your FICO* score. This tells him how you have handled your past credit card, auto loan, student loan, and other payment obligations. (Typically, you have to pay for this report $50-75.)  It is essential that you run your own credit report before you let anyone else to see it, so that you can correct any mistakes or be able to explain any problems. You can do that FREE once a year on annualcreditreport.com. If you also want your FICO score — which is a good idea — you may have to pay extra for it, up to $19.95.  However, you may already have your FICO score reported free on your monthly credit card bill or you may get it free through your bank.

The landlord will use your FICO score (range 300-850) as a shortcut to judge your financial fitness.

  • Score over 700 – you will most likely meet the landlord’s guidelines
  • Score 650-700 – you will be OK in most markets, except the most competitive ones
  • Score below 650 – you may have difficulty qualifying for an apartment and need to find someone to guarantee your rent or pay an extra high security deposit

Read our tips on what to do if your income or credit score is too low to meet landlord’s guidelines.

2. Pay check stubs

You typically need to show your three most recent pay stubs to prove that your income is what you claim.

3. Letter of Employment

Instead of pay stubs, or in addition to, the landlord may require a formal Letter of Employment from your department head or your company’s HR Department, stating your salary, position and length of employment.

4. Tax returns

You may also have to show your two most recent tax returns, especially if you have different sources of income, your income fluctuates or you have changed jobs.

5. Bank statements

The landlord may require you to prove that you have sufficient funds in the bank to pay the first month’s rent and security deposit and perhaps also the last month’s rent, before he will take the apartment off market.

Personal Background:

6. Proof of Identity

A copy of an official photo ID.

7. Previous landlord’s contact information

If you are a new grad, you can list your parent’s address, with explanation.

8. Personal references

Typically two references who can vouch for your good character. Make sure to ask your references first for a permission to use their names.

9. The landlord may also run a criminal background check.

Keep copies of all your documents in a neat folder, together with a few checks that you can use to pay for the credit check and other application fees. During the most competitive summer rental season you have to be prepared to move fast when you find your dream apartment.

After you have your paperwork under control, check out Alex’s tips on how to sound like a rental pro even if this is the your first time in the game.

*What is a FICO Score? Check here for an explanation. For a real deep dive into FICO’s secrets there is also a downloadable  PDF pamphlet, “Understanding Your FICO Score.”

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20 “Roommate-Night” Ideas http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2016/05/roommate-date-night-ideas/ http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2016/05/roommate-date-night-ideas/#respond Sat, 21 May 2016 14:00:39 +0000 http://www.myfirstapartment.com/?p=19982 One of the best things about having roommates is the chance to become great friends with them! While it’s definitely possible to have challenges when living with another person, it’s important to do your best to get along and have fun together. Doing so can often make both of your living experiences much better! For…

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Roommates-Main-ImageOne of the best things about having roommates is the chance to become great friends with them! While it’s definitely possible to have challenges when living with another person, it’s important to do your best to get along and have fun together. Doing so can often make both of your living experiences much better!

For those of you who love your roommates already, or for those who are trying to think of new activities to help bond with roommates you don’t know too well, here’s a list of 20 roommate-date-night ideas to spend some fun time together!

  1. Cook a fancy meal together
  2. Rent a new (or old!) movie, pop popcorn, and relax at home
  3. Take a walk around your complex or at a park nearby
  4. Hit the gym together (this helps accountability, too!)
  5. Find a new board or video game, learn the rules, and play
  6. Try a local restaurant
  7. Wake up early and visit the weekend Farmer’s Market
  8. Search Pinterest and create an apartment craft
  9. Take a painting or pottery class
  10. Visit thrift shops and go apartment shopping
  11. Play loud music and clean the apartment
  12. Plant a vegetable garden for your patio
  13. Take a yoga or fitness class
  14. Get tickets to a concert
  15. Spend a night out with mutual friends
  16. Search for local bands and visit restaurants where they’re playing
  17. Get a manicure/pedicure
  18. Take a cooking class
  19. Visit an animal shelter and play with the animals
  20. Volunteer at a local charity

The key is to try something new or something you both enjoy, and not everything has to cost a lot of money! If you’re not great friends with your roommates (yet!), choose activities that eliminate the chance for awkwardness. Invite them along to activities you’re already doing, or use daily deal sites, such as Groupon, to find new things to try out together!

Any other fun ideas of activities to do with your roommates? Leave them in the comments!

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How to Find Time to Clean the Apartment http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2016/05/tips-for-the-busiest-of-people-on-finding-time-to-clean-the-apartment/ http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2016/05/tips-for-the-busiest-of-people-on-finding-time-to-clean-the-apartment/#respond Wed, 18 May 2016 14:00:15 +0000 http://www.myfirstapartment.com/?p=19577 Everyone likes a clean home. Not everyone likes to clean. Not everyone seems to have the time to clean. Whether or not you enjoy the process, keeping your place clean is necessary. Its better for both your physical and mental health I am a clean freak. When the place isn’t clean, my stress levels are…

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Everyone likes a clean home. Not everyone likes to clean. Not everyone seems to have the time to clean. Whether or not you enjoy the process, keeping your place clean is necessary. Its better for both your physical and mental health

cleaning stain on a carpetI am a clean freak. When the place isn’t clean, my stress levels are through the roof. Not much stresses me out, but dirtiness does. The problem is, I live with two very messy roommates, and I have absolutely no time slot to dedicate to cleaning the apartment every week. My schedule just simply has no room for a cleaning day. I work three jobs, go to school full-time, and spend at least 10 hours a week volunteering. For a while, I really struggled with managing to keep the apartment clean, but then I came up with a new plan. Since then, I have managed to keep the apartment tidy, and my stress levels down. My plan won’t fit your schedule exactly the way it does mine, but here are some tips to come up with your own cleaning plan:

1. Make a list of the tasks you need to complete in order to have an entirely clean apartment (i.e. vacuuming, dusting, windexing, etc.).

I never schedule cleaning for Monday, because this is my most hectic and exhausting day of the week. Sometimes I do end up sweeping the floors or something, but I don’t stress myself out if I don’t get to it until Tuesday.

2. Split your tasks into different days of the week, or open time slots in your schedule.

  • How many rooms do you have to clean? You can make a plan to clean one room each weekday, so that by the time your weekend comes, you have a spotless place. Maybe you have time to clean two or three rooms one day and only one room the next. Do what works for you.
  • Would you prefer to split your cleaning schedule into tasks instead of rooms? Maybe you want to dust all rooms on Tuesdays, vacuum on Wednesdays, do kitchen on Thursday and bathroom on Friday.  Design a schedule that fits your life.

3. Accept that there will be days when no cleaning gets done.

  • Sometimes life just gets too overwhelming to find the time to clean after work or school.

4. If you are anything like me, you like to have at least one day a week completely free.

  • I always finish all of my cleaning by Friday afternoons, so that Saturday I can focus on volunteering, and Sunday I can have some time to relax. I found that I preferred powering through my exhaustion after class during the week in order to clean, so that my weekends were free of any cleaning obligations.

5. If you have the money, it wouldn’t hurt to invest in one of those robotic vacuums.

  • They are much more useful in one-level apartments, and are most useful if you have pets. Floors take up a lot of time to keep clean. Vacuuming once a week is almost never enough, but not everybody has time to do it more than that.
  • Investing (perhaps splitting the cost with roommates) in a robotic vacuum means coming home to clean floors every day, which means having one less thing to worry about. You are still going to have to clean the floors every so often, but at least the filth won’t build up during your busy week.

Hopefully these tips will help you keep a clean home! I found that after I broke my cleaning schedule up into different days, my roommates (who HATE cleaning) were more motivated to help out sometimes. So whether you are busy, or just hate to clean, cleaning a little bit per day might be the solution for you!

Chloe natural-cleaning-photoP.S. I also love this 5 minute daily cleaning routine my fellow blogger Sarah has suggested. She has a detailed weekly cleaning calendar that you should check out, too.  And cleaning is tough without some tools, so check out this post by Chloe for the basic 5 starter cleaning tools everyone needs to have and this one for environmentally friendly cleaning products.

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12 Questions Every Subletter Needs to Ask http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2016/05/looking-to-sublet-ask-these-12-questions-first/ http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2016/05/looking-to-sublet-ask-these-12-questions-first/#respond Sun, 15 May 2016 14:00:34 +0000 http://www.myfirstapartment.com/?p=20109 As new grads start flooding to the housing market, subletting a roommate share is the time-tested way of scoring an apartment when your budget is not high enough for a place of your own. Whether you are looking for a short term sublet of a few weeks while you hunt for a permanent place or…

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room for rentAs new grads start flooding to the housing market, subletting a roommate share is the time-tested way of scoring an apartment when your budget is not high enough for a place of your own. Whether you are looking for a short term sublet of a few weeks while you hunt for a permanent place or a more ongoing arrangement, there are some things you must ask before you hand over your money. Ideally, you will be able to ask these questions when you meet all your potential roommates in person, but if you have to sign on long distance, make sure you at least meet by Skype or Face Time and get a virtual tour of the apartment and your room.

12 questions every subletter needs to ask:

  1. When can I move in? When do I have to be out?
  2. How much is the rent and when is it due?
  3. Is there a security deposit? How will it be held? By whom?
  4. Are utilities included in rent or paid separately and how much?
  5. How are the payments made? If by check, to whom? By Venmo or other app?
  6. Will the room be furnished? How? (Ask for photos.)
  7. Will the closets be empty?
  8. Is the room lockable or is there an open doors policy? Can other roommates go into my room when I’m out?
  9. What are the house rules about smoking or drug use?
  10. What are the housekeeping rules? Is there a chore wheel or assigned tasks?
  11. Is there a schedule for cooking? How about showering?
  12. What is the guest policy?

Warning about scams:

rental scamsSubletting market is prime territory for all kinds of scammers. People advertise places that are not theirs to sublet, or may not even exist. Always check the address to make sure it is legit and use Google Maps and Google Earth to actually see the building to make sure it’s a residential building and not a warehouse.  Check this post for some telltale signs that you are about to get scammed, and read here how our blogger Alex almost fell for a scam.  You can never be too careful before you hand a virtual stranger your money!

Please share your best anti-scammer tips in the comments or your tales of woe if you became a victim.

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First Step: Make the Decision to Move Out http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2016/05/first-step-make-the-decision-to-move-out/ http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2016/05/first-step-make-the-decision-to-move-out/#respond Sat, 14 May 2016 14:00:47 +0000 http://www.myfirstapartment.com/?p=19720 Moving into your first apartment is both a dream and a rite of passage. It will be a place to call your own. A place to give it your own decorating spin, to binge watch Netflix without anyone judging your choice of shows and to test your cooking skills with recipes you find on Tasty…

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Moving into your first apartment is both a dream and a rite of passage. It will be a place to call your own. A place to give it your own decorating spin, to binge watch Netflix without anyone judging your choice of shows and to test your cooking skills with recipes you find on Tasty videos from Facebook. Still living at home it sounds like bliss to me. There is no doubt in my mind that every young adult starting out in the working world dreams of the day when they can get to that point of financial stability when they are ready start looking for their own place. It is the ultimate “adult” move.

Then again, there is the comfy alternative —  living at home. It can be tempting to remain in your childhood home with the benefits of home cooked meals after work, constant access to your parents for advice, and the unconditional love from your pet that you have had all your life. The easy way out is to stay at home, keeping the routine of going to work and reporting back home at the end of the day. Is it the ideal living situation? Probably not. Do you get to save while living in a place for free? Yes. Can you stay there forever? No, but when to make the break is a really tough decision.

Fresh start chapter one printed on an old typewriter

Fresh start chapter one printed on an old typewriter

While living at home has all the conveniences of living by yourself with the exception of actually being by yourself,  there is always that tug from independence saying “Hey, I think its time to get your own place…” Although you are 100% aware that this is the next step you must take at some point, you push that notion aside in the hopes of saving up more money or for some other reason you keep on making up. Trust me, I doubt myself all the time. Should I finally  start looking? Do I even earn enough to move out? In order to get out of living with your parents, you have to want it badly enough to be willing to give up the security and comforts of home. You must make the executive decision that you will move out, set a timetable and do everything possible to make it happen. That is step one!

Don’t get me wrong, there are many factors surrounding moving out, and all of them should be taken into serious consideration. Is it affordable? Will I be able to save enough money? Can I find an apartment that is both affordable and in a safe neighborhood with infinite food take out choices? Will I be living by myself? With friends? With a boyfriend? However, after the decision is made, stick with it.  The rest is just execution. And life is all about moving forward one step at a time.

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Organized Chaos: Planning for the Move-in http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2016/05/organized-chaos-the-move-in/ http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2016/05/organized-chaos-the-move-in/#respond Wed, 11 May 2016 14:00:53 +0000 http://www.myfirstapartment.com/?p=19958 Moving into your first apartment is never going to be stress-free. In fact, the move-in may be one of the most anxiety ridden things you have done in a while. You are leaving home, living on your own, and have no idea where to start. Moving days are always chaotic, but here are some ways…

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Young Man Moving SofaMoving into your first apartment is never going to be stress-free. In fact, the move-in may be one of the most anxiety ridden things you have done in a while. You are leaving home, living on your own, and have no idea where to start. Moving days are always chaotic, but here are some ways in which you can keep things organized and reduce your stress.

1. Cleaning Supplies First

The first things you are going to want to unpack is your cleaning supplies. Obviously, your apartment should already be pretty clean, but there is going to be some dust somewhere that you will want to take care of. Before you start unpacking your things, it is best to disinfect all surfaces!

Counters, door knobs, appliances, and most other things could be covered with unknown germs or whatever else you could think of. Spending that extra 30 minutes to clean quickly is going to be worth it, trust me.

2. Have a system in mind

Normally, you are going to have friends or family members helping you move in. This is great! But without a system, you are going to get frustrated with everyone and there is going to be a lot of tension. This is your show, so have a plan and make sure everyone knows it. You need to dictate exactly what you would like people to do and where you would like them to put things.

Have your boxes labeled by room, and ask everyone to place the boxes neatly in the correct location. You can decide from there what you would like them to do.

Nicely make it clear from the beginning that you are grateful for everyone’s help, but ask them to listen to what you want, because YOU are the one who is living here.

3. Take Breaks

moving day pizzaI understand that you want to get as much unpacking done as you can so that you can feel settled in your new place. However, if you don’t take breaks throughout the day to eat and relax, you are going to get burnt out early on, and the stress and tension will rise.

Also, your helpers deserve breaks. They aren’t your slaves, they are just trying to do you a favor. You should definitely provide everyone with cold water at all times, and you should probably also order some food for them to eat! Pizza and beer are sort of moving day traditions.

4. Accept that you aren’t going to finish in one day

Getting settled into a new place takes time. Days, weeks, months even. Stressing over finishing everything is not worth the energy. Focus on the most important things first (Bed, clothes, kitchen supplies, bathroom things) and leave the decorations and maybe even electronics for last. Also take into consideration which things you need multiple people to help with. If you need two people to build a piece of furniture, you should get that done on the first day when your helpers are already there! You can do the easy things on your own, later in the week.

5. Leave the pets somewhere else for the day

cat-1347176_1920For those of you that have pets, one of the most important things I can say about move-
in day is to leave the pet behind. Get a sitter; leave them at a friend’s house; do whatever you need to do. You aren’t going to want them in your way, and you definitely don’t want to worry about them getting hurt or escaping while you unpack. If it is possible, pick them up when you are a bit more settled so that they have their own space and can explore their new home safely.

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Apartment or Townhouse: Which to Rent? http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2016/05/apartment-or-townhouse-which-to-rent/ http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2016/05/apartment-or-townhouse-which-to-rent/#respond Sun, 08 May 2016 14:00:22 +0000 http://www.myfirstapartment.com/?p=20026 If you’re looking for your first (or second) place, the top thing to consider is your budget. It’s absolutely crucial to find something within a comfortable price range that won’t leave you strapped for cash. That said, if you have a little more to spend each month (or have extra roommates to split costs), you…

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If you’re looking for your first (or second) place, the top thing to consider is your budget. It’s absolutely crucial to find something within a comfortable price range that won’t leave you strapped for cash. That said, if you have a little more to spend each month (or have extra roommates to split costs), you may consider renting a townhouse instead of an apartment.

San JoseTownhouses are attached homes, usually with 2-3 floors. Instead of spreading the space out over a large footprint like a traditional house or apartment, townhouses are built tall with multiple, smaller floors and the units are often attached to other townhouses, although each has a private entrance/front door.

As with everything, there are pros and cons of a townhouse versus an apartment.

Cost

Depending on your location, apartments are often a bit cheaper because they generally include less square footage. If your budget is tight, skip the townhouses and focus on apartments to keep it affordable. Even if your rent per month is comparable (and affordable), remember that other utility costs (water, electricity, and especially A/C & heat) will cost more per month in a townhouse, as you’ll have more space to light and climate control. If you have roommates to fill the extra space, costs may not be too much higher, but budget for these extras to make sure you can still afford the rental. If not, an apartment is likely the better fit for you.

Space

Generally, townhouses include more square feet, more rooms, and stairs. That may be just what you’re looking for, especially if you have a handful of roommates or a pet. However, if you don’t need the space, it may be overwhelming to decorate and maintain, and extra space takes more time and effort to keep clean. Consider the stairs as well. If you’re not a fan, perhaps staying in an apartment is your best fit. If you like the idea of 2-stories of separate space, keep searching for a townhouses.

Amenities

Amenities are one of the fun parts of having an apartment, and many apartment complexes include a complimentary gym and/or pool facility. In larger complexes, they also often include walking trails, dog parks, or park areas. If the townhouse you’re eyeing is standalone, in a smaller “neighborhood”, or not part of a complex, you likely won’t get access to amenities. Keep that in mind when you do your search, as you’ll have to pay for a pool or gym membership if you’d use them.

Maintenance

As a renter, most of your maintenance should be covered by your landlord. However, townhouses in suburbs can include grassy yards (fenced or not), so confirm that the front and back yard maintenance is not your responsibility. If it is, you’ll need to invest in lawn equipment (and invest time each week for doing yard work!). Apartments generally have no outdoor maintenance and the complex takes care of everything. Just confirm the maintenance agreement before making your decision!

What other factors are there when deciding between an apartment and a townhouses? There are pros and cons of both…which will you choose?

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Take Advantage of the Spring Weather http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2016/05/4-things-to-keep-in-the-apartment-for-days-when-the-gym-is-not-an-option/ http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2016/05/4-things-to-keep-in-the-apartment-for-days-when-the-gym-is-not-an-option/#respond Sat, 07 May 2016 14:00:55 +0000 http://www.myfirstapartment.com/?p=19852 I find it funny that it is mid-spring, and until a few days ago, it didn’t feel like spring at all. Actually I find it the opposite of funny… Spring is one of my favorite times of year and this year it will be a short season. But now that the weather is finally nice,…

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I find it funny that it is mid-spring, and until a few days ago, it didn’t feel like spring at all. Actually I find it the opposite of funny… Spring is one of my favoritecereals-480691_1920 times of year and this year it will be a short season. But now that the weather is finally nice, there are a million spring activities to enjoy! Get out of your apartment. No matter how cozy it may be, it cannot compare to the beauty of nature this time of year.

Walk your dog. Walk yourself. Run. MOVE!

Ok, so we don’t all have dogs to walk, but get outside and move your legs. (If you do actually have a dog then please take them with you.) Spring is the best time to be outside. It’s not too hot, not too chilly. You can enjoy the sunshine without having to completely stress about getting burnt (but please still wear sunscreen!)

Spring also happens to be the time of year when many people make it their mission to get in shape. Take advantage of the weather and run outside instead of on the treadmill! Those lunges you do in the gym? Believe it or not, you can do those outside too. Really, the Vitamin D will be good for you.

If you are lucky enough to live in an area with many hiking trails like I am, take advantage. You won’t have any regrets (except when your legs are sore the next day, but it’ll be worth it).

Ride a bike.

man-791551_1920I’m obsessed with biking, and just recently got a brand new bike that is made for the 30+ mile rides I frequently embark on, so this spring weather is super exciting for me. But all you need is a cheap seat with two wheels and some pedals to enjoy the outdoors. You get great exercise, and can get pretty much anywhere in town without sitting in a car and missing out on the fresh air. Also, it is just fun. Haven’t gotten on a bike since middle school? I know you’ve heard the expression “it’s like riding a bike”. The know-how comes right back to you! Find some wheels and hop on.

Gather some friends and play some sports.

My friends and I LOVE to play Frisbee and soccer when the weather is nice. If I’m lucky, I will be able to recruit enough people for some Wiffle Ball. You will be having so much fun that you will let all of your worries go (even if just for a few hours). You can even turn it into a party with a few coolers and some food!

Relax or meditate in the fresh air.

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Sometimes, we just need to relax and breathe. Doing this from your living room probably works to an extent, but when you have the opportunity to breathe in the fresh air and watch the wildlife flourish, why miss it? There is nothing like taking a few minutes away from busy life and just enjoying the nature around you.

Participate in a charity run/walk.

Spring is full of charity walks in every location. I am positive that your community is hosting a number of them this time of year. Participate! You can volunteer, walk, run, or just support. These events benefit great causes and are a great way to get yourself outdoors and meet new people!

I am in no way advocating sun bathing. Enjoying the spring weather is extremely beneficial for the mind and body, but protect yourself! Skin cancer is more dangerous than many realize. Don’t put yourself at risk just because you want a tan! That tan isn’t worth shortening your life. But I digress…

Get outside, get moving, take advantage of the nice weather while it lasts! Pretty soon we will be avoiding being outside for long (aside from the summer excursions) and cranking up our air conditioning.

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Saving for First Apartment: How Much Money Do You Need to Move Out? http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2016/05/20032/ http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2016/05/20032/#respond Wed, 04 May 2016 16:21:53 +0000 http://www.myfirstapartment.com/?p=20032 This post was originally published in September 2013 and has been updated here for 2016. For many of our readers, moving into their own apartment is the ultimate goal. You want a place of your own, whether that means sharing an apartment with friends, or finding a studio you can call yours.  But how do…

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This post was originally published in September 2013 and has been updated here for 2016.

Man Coming Home From Work And Opening Door Of ApartmentFor many of our readers, moving into their own apartment is the ultimate goal. You want a place of your own, whether that means sharing an apartment with friends, or finding a studio you can call yours.  But how do you get there? How much money do you need to save before you are ready for the big move? Earlier this year, we did a three part series on the topic. Now it’s time for a refresher course on how much money you’ll need each step of the way.

So, let’s dive right in! First and foremost, in 2016, the rental market continues to be competitive. According to Census, the national vacancy rate for rentals is now 7%, and median asking rent is $870. Of course, if you are looking for a place in NYC, San Francisco, Chicago and many other major markets the vacancy rate is much lower and asking rents are much higher. We are talking 3% vacancy rates in LA and $3,590 1BR rents in San Francisco.  My advice for a new grad heading into their first job and first apartment in the most expensive cities: start thinking about who you’d like for a roommate. (Check out the bottom of this post for actual vacancy rates and 1BR median rents in several top markets.)

The sad news is there are likely more people who want apartments than there are suitable and affordable apartments to go around, especially if you are apartment hunting during the summer peak season. Which means that if you’re searching for a discount, or a deal, you’re unlikely to find one. If anything, you may have to pay a premium to get the place you want. So start saving! If you are a new grad making about $40,000, you’ll need $3,000 (detailed at the end of this post) in the bank before you can move.

Your Steady Income

If you’re looking to live in a place of your own, it’s best to have a steady income. You’ll be far more likely to secure a place, and you’ll have piece of mind once you move in. There are two common ways to determine the amount of apartment you can afford. Either:

  • Divide your monthly take-home income by three, or
  • Divide your gross annual income by forty

Or let our our Affordable Rent Calculator do the math for you.

The resulting number is the absolute maximum you should pay in monthly rent. If you’re renting over your means, you’re going to be stressed every single month … and there’s never going to be a let-up. So stick to what you can afford. (If you don’t have a steady income, or you’re looking for work, or you’re looking into renting a share, see our tips for getting an apartment without meeting the income requirement. (Warning: you may need to have even more money saved.)

The Down Payment

Just because you meet the income requirements for a given price range, it doesn’t mean you’re done just yet. Scoring an apartment means putting down a security deposit. The security deposit is usually the same amount of money as one month’s rent. You’ll also likely be subjected to a background and credit check – which you’re often charged for, to the tune of $30-$100, depending on the management company. So that means that you’ll need to have roughly double your first month’s rent, plus $100 or so and you’ll need to be able to cut a check for that amount as soon as you want to secure a place. (Yes, you’ll eventually get back your security deposit, but that won’t be until the very end of your lease, provided you kept the apartment in good shape. In the meantime, it’s a thoroughly non-liquid asset that you need to save for.)

Moving

Don’t overlook this expense. Most likely, it will either be for a moving-truck rental, or for a full-service move. Price each in your area. If you’re renting a moving truck in-town and doing the rest yourself, expect to pay around $40-$150 for the truck and supplies such as tape, boxes, etc. This is the recommended choice if you can live with a few dings to your furniture, you’re comfortable securing stuff in the back of the truck, you can drive a huge vehicle with aplomb, and you have recruit-able friends.

Generally speaking, if you’re doing a small full-service move in-city with a good company, expect to pay around $300-$600. If this seems like a lot, that’s because it is; that said, if you find a good company and you have nice stuff, there’s a lot of value in having someone carefully move it into your new place.

It’s unlikely you’ll get your moving expenses all the way down to zero. If you do, my hardy congratulations: you have great, strong friends and free access to a large vehicle. If this describes you, all you need to consider is the expense of getting your new place outfitted with the basics: toilet paper, cleaning supplies, light bulbs, paper towels, a dish rack, etc, etc. Expect to pay about $50-100 for apartment move-in basics, all told – and on the higher end, if you’re starting from zero.

Furniture

If you already have furniture, you’re in luck – you probably paid more to move, but now you’re done in this department. If you don’t have much furniture, remember that furniture is commodity for which you can pay almost any price. We have articles on how to furnish your place for under $500, under $1,000 and under $2,000. Paying more for furniture doesn’t guarantee a better product, but if you are patient and knowledgeable, you’ll be able to get long lasting, nice furniture if you spend a bit more money. That said, your first apartment doesn’t need to be Versailles. Spend an amount you’re comfortable with – and remember that aside from the basics, you don’t need to buy everything all at once. Consider visiting thrift shops intermittently. End tables, lamps, bookshelves and the like can be purchased gradually – so think of furniture as a recurring expense for the first year, rather than as one lump sum.

Utilities

We’ve ran an article with a breakdown of utility costs  and we have done two surveys of actual utility costs around the country. Executive summary: you should expect to pay roughly $200 a month in utilities (which includes internet, a webstreaming service, and renter’s insurance in addition to the usual heat and electricity) for a typical 1-2BR first apartment. (A quick rule-of-thumb: budget an amount equal to 20%  of monthly rent or 10% in super high rent cities, like the ones in chart below.) Keep in mind that this is per unit, so if you’re sharing an apartment with friends, your individual cost will be significantly less. We’d also like to note that, as tempting as it may be to ignore, renter’s insurance is a must have. It’s less than $200 a year, and should you suffer a fire, flood or break-in, you’ll be able re-purchase your possessions and have someone else put you up in a hotel until your place is livable. So, get renter’s insurance!

Target Pre-Move Savings on $40,000 Salary

1st month’s rent $1,000   – $40,000 salary/40
Security deposit $1,000   – one month’s rent
Moving costs  $0-$500   – depending on if your are moving furniture (bed, etc.)
Furniture  $0-$500   – if you moved with furniture $0, otherwise you’ll need some basics (bed, etc.)
Miscellaneous  $500   – utility deposits, credit check fees, renter’s insurance, starter supplies
Total $3,000

Top Market Vacancy and Rent Levels:

rental vacancySource: U.S. Census Bureau – http://www.census.gov/housing/hvs/data/rates.html

top 10 1BR rents

Source: Zumper – Apartment Rental Data. https://www.zumper.com/blog/2016/04/zumper-national-rent-report-april-2016/

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