Tips for Apartment Hunting Pre-Graduation

After graduation, most young adults are eager to get out into the world, explore, and live independently. Whether you’re looking to move out solo or with roommates, it can be tricky to coordinate your graduation, move-out, and new apartment move-in just right. Whether you’re hoping to move just across town after walking across the stage and collecting your diploma, or planning to move across the county, check out these tips to get a jump start on your search!

Location, location, location

Try to secure a job before graduating. If you have not done it yet, now is the time to clean up your resume, refresh your networking connections, and start applying for jobs that interest you in locations where you’d like to live. Securing a job before graduation will give you more time to find an apartment in a nearby location and eliminates a ton of stress.

If you haven’t yet secured a job, narrow down the location/city you will move to, job or not. Then try to target neighborhoods in that location/city with these qualities for your safest bet:

  • Near public transportation or highways
  • Extremely budget-friendly, just in case your job’s pay is lower than expected
  • Growing location / location near jobs you are interested in

This will be an expensive option, unless you have VERY good friends in your target city who will let you stay with them until you get a job and find your own place.

Make an early decision about roommates

Planning ahead is crucial when moving out, especially because of the multitude of changes that occur after college graduation. If you want to have roommates, identify them early so you can all search together and secure an apartment within budget. Remember, adding roommates can make the process tricky, as each member of the apartment likely has a certain area of town they’d like to live in, and may have other specific preferences. However, if you find them early in the process (a few months before graduation!), you should have time to find something that works for everyone involved.

If you don’t want roommates, make sure to calculate what you can afford in rent each month solo. While this gives you complete control over where you live, you will also have to pay for all expenses yourself, which can get expensive. Be extremely budget-conscious if you’re planning to live alone, especially during the apartment hunt!

We have tons of tips on finding roommates here and here, or check out our Roommates page for more.

Use the internet as a resource

Search online as much as possible. Even though it’s probably too early to zero in on a specific apartment, you can research:

  • The various neighborhoods in your target city
  • Find the best or safest parts of town
  • Rent levels and timing when rentals become available
  • Transportation options
  • Internet and phone company choices available

Limit end-of school expenses

At the end of your university experience, it’s easy to spend a lot of money on parties, dinners and graduation supplies, but remember that you’ll need cash in the bank for moving expenses as soon as you cross that stage and become an official graduate. (Our rule-of-thumb is that you should have in the bank an amount equal to three times your estimated monthly rent to cover your first month’s rent, security deposit and other moving related costs.)

Instead of spending extra cash, try these tips to build up your savings account before move-in date:

  • Sell all textbooks and return all library books to avoid fines
  • Sell furniture you don’t need to underclassmen or locals
  • Host nights-in instead of going out to dinner with friends
  • Use what you have (furniture, decor, etc.) to limit furnishing and decoration expenses in your new place
  • Skip buying university-branded gear during graduation time, since they generally increase in price
  • Start a temporary side hustle to make cash pre-graduation

Budgeting is crucial

Your first few months after graduation can be a rude awakening! Bills, like cable TV, internet, utilities and cell phone that may have been covered in your university housing or funded by your parents become your responsibility! Thus, make sure you don’t search for apartments beyond your means. Instead, focus on low-rent apartments and housing that you can clearly afford. That way, you’ll be left with enough money for other expenses and savings each month. (Don’t worry. In a year’s time, once your finances improve and you know your city better, you’ll be moving to a nicer place.)

The key here?

  • Calculate your maximum rent expenditure (the maximum you CAN afford on your pay) using this calculator or this chart
  • Target rent at 80-90% of that value (Value * .90 = 90%)
  • Search for apartments at that lower rent rate

Use that extra money (the 10-20% you COULD afford) to pad your savings account or cover moving expenses

So, say the rent calculator says you can afford $500 in rent each month. Find 90% of that value ( $500 * .9 =  $450 safe rent payment). Use that $50 each month to add to savings or for unexpected expenses as they come up. Instead of spending everything you can afford, you’ll spend less and keep your expenses under control!

Check out this budgeting tip as you prepare.

Plan B

Robert Frost — ‘Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.’

If you don’t have a job by graduation and no money to move somewhere while looking for a job, there is no shame in moving back home. According to CNBC, about a third of 2016 grads did exactly that. Get a job locally and get your savings in high gear.  Time goes fast and you’ll be moving out sooner than you realize.

Congratulations on your upcoming graduation and move into your first apartment! How do you feel about looking for your first apartment? Excited? Scared? Ready? Or not? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Author My First Apartment
Sarah

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Sarah is a dog lover and advocate for conversation & laughing at your own jokes. Since finishing her college career in communications, she began working (and living) in Atlanta. After living in a few different apartments over the last few years, she's ready to share experiences. Stay tuned for adventures, tips and advice!

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