Tips & Other Notes
Fed up with sharing your bathroom and eating cafeteria food? Maybe it's time to move into your own apartment. But before you start packing, learn what you can about the big move.
Finding an Apartment
The good ol' days when the university residence hall association found available housing for you are no more. Finding an apartment takes research and time. Be on the lookout for ads placed by landlords, sublet announcements or "roommate wanted" notices. Look in the classified section of your local or college paper and check the off-campus housing office and Web page. Talk to your friends and classmates, too—they might know of some great open spots.
Rent and Amenities
How much you pay in rent depends a lot on where the apartment is located. Apartments that are closer to campus or near the most active streets are generally pricier than those that are farther from campus or the downtown area.
Find out what is included with the rent. Sometimes garages, parking and storage spaces are included with the advertised price; a lot of times they're additional. For places that are advertised as 'furnished,' find out what furniture specifically comes with the apartment. Also check to see if appliances (refrigerator, dishwasher, etc.) are included, and if laundry facilities are provided in the building.
Decide whether you want to look for roommates. Living by yourself gives you more freedom, but paying for everything on your own can be expensive.
When it comes to leases, be sure to read the fine print! Discuss the contract with the landlord and make sure everything you agree to is in writing. Be sure to ask:
- Is the lease for an academic or a calendar year? If it is a 12-month contract, can you sublet the apartment in the summer?
- Is there a charge for each additional person living in the apartment?
- What happens if you break the lease? Is there a fine?
If your campus or community has a tenant union, have them look at the lease before you sign it.
Security deposits range from $100 to a full-month's rent. If you have a roommate, each of you will probably be charged separately. At the end of your lease, your deposit will be returned or used to pay for any damages to the place you were renting.
Review all of the policies regarding security deposit return. Find out what you need to do to be sure you get your deposit back (as well as what would lose you your deposit!).
If you have a pet, you may also be charged a pet deposit, which can range anywhere from $50 to $300 and is not always refundable.
Rent often includes heat and water, but not always, so be sure to ask. If it's not included, you could spend from $15 to $50 a month (depending on the climate).
Almost always, you're the one who has to pay the electricity. This bill will go up during the months you use air conditioners and will be affected by appliance use. And don't forget to include any hook-up fees required at the start of your service.
Also remember to figure in the cost of things like Internet access, cable television and telephone lines.
The cafeteria food might have been hurting your stomach, but a new gourmet lifestyle could hurt your wallet. When using your new kitchen, try to budget your shopping lists and develop your cooking skills. Using pre-packaged foods and eating out can get expensive.
Don't think nothing will happen, because it will! Renter's insurance covers the cost of your possessions if disaster strikes. The $100 to $250 you'll spend annually will be worth it.
Living farther from campus might mean cheaper rent, but when you add in transportation costs, the cheaper apartment could be the more expensive choice.
Owning a car can be the most expensive way to get around. Factor in registration fees, city taxes, insurance and permit fees. Check into costs for parking on campus as well.
Public transportation can also add up. The $1.50 or so for the train or bus amounts to about $45 a month and nearly $300 a year.
If you're not that far from campus, walking can cut down transportation costs. But remember to consider the weather, the safety of your neighborhood and your class schedule (are you taking night classes?) when budgeting how much money you'll need for public transportation.
There's a lot to think about when moving into an apartment. But plan it out right, and you'll be on your way to life on your own.
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