I’m writing to you after my very first day as a Washingtonian—which included taking my dog on a walk at the National Cathedral, conquering the DC DMV, and, of course, having my first real “meal” in my new place. I’m still on cloud nine and cannot wait to share stories of my experiences in this new city! For today, though, I thought it’d be helpful to share some tips from my very recent experience of renting, moving, and now living in an apartment for the very first time. If you’re soon to enter this first phase of “adulting” hopefully you’ll get something out of this!
Finding An Apartment
If you’re not local, find someone who is to give you advice on where to live. Nothing beats on-the-ground advice. Figure out which neighborhoods have things that you want—is there public transport available? Parks? Nearby grocery stores? While a quick scout on Google Maps will provide some of this information, knowing somebody there who can actually tell you how it is can really help in your apartment search.
Know and LIVE BY YOUR BUDGET. Your apartment budget should include three things: rent, utilities, and insurance. This is huge when figuring out how much you can afford. For example, my apartment was slightly more expensive than others I was looking at, but all of my utilities were included, making the total cost cheaper than the other apartments. Also figure out if renter’s insurance is required for your building and factor that into your monthly costs. In addition, be prepared to pay a significant amount up front for your security deposit, amenity/pet fees, and first month’s rent. Figuring these things out beforehand will make sure you don’t fall in love with an apartment that’s out of your budget and cause you to commit to something you can’t afford.
Reference and cross-reference apartment listings. In addition to using a variety of apartment search engines (I used Trulia, Zillow, Padmapper, Apartment List, and Apartments.com) make sure that you read reviews of the apartments on Yelp and Google. Read ALL the reviews—not just the horrible or glowing ones. Make note of persistent problems or compliments—is the maintenance staff unavailable or do they have a really great community? These bits of information will give you “insider info” that you might not get with the person showing you the apartment.
Come overly prepared for your visit. For each of the apartments that I visited, I brought the following: a cover letter, resume, proof of employment, credit score, and my pet information. In addition, I also brought an apartment inspection checklist for my own use and a list of questions for the manager about the lease, building, security, etc. Being this prepared came as a surprise to the managers, but it boosted my credibility and showed that I was a serious renter. Especially in a market where apartments go fast, give yourself a competitive edge.
If you’re renting for the first time or are easily influenced, bring a friend. Preferably, this would be a friend who has some experience in renting or home ownership and will be able to offer a second opinion on the apartment and prevent you from caving to pressure. My dad noticed a few things in the apartment I totally would have missed and helped me to ask questions that I hadn’t thought of.
Moving To An Apartment
Take measurements on your visit. Especially if you’re moving to a small space! Measuring the floor plan, cabinets, bathroom etc. is super helpful in deciding what kind of furniture to buy or bring. The last thing you want to do is invest the time, money, and energy in stuff that won’t fit in your new place.
Pack smart. I have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to moving, so check this out for some really stellar tips on packing and moving! The most helpful ones were packing a suitcase for the days when you move, learning how to pack and label boxes, and bringing all the clothes in your closet in trash bags (it saves you from having to hang them up again!) Don’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to packing—learn from the pros (and by pros, I mean Pinterest).
Get some help! Moving is stressful—don’t go it alone! I was super lucky to have the help of both my parents when it came to moving in, but your friends/church/extended family are always great too. Whether it’s packing up or watching your pet while you’re getting settled, having someone else there will help keep your stress to a minimum.
Stay calm. Moving is inherently stressful. No matter how much you plan, things will happen and not turn out exactly how you expect them to. Realize that you’re doing a big old brave thing by making it out on your own and that everything will fall into place the way that it’s supposed to.
There are still boxes on the floor and I haven’t actually cooked a meal in my apartment yet, but I couldn’t be more excited to make this little place my home. Here’s to new adventures and baby steps towards growing up!