Your First Place: A Guide

Freedom at last.

Let’s set the scene: graduation is rapidly approaching, and for the first time in four years, you’re leaving the nice, comforting (if not unbearably thin) walls of your dorm for your own apartment. Or maybe you’ve escaped dorm life, and you’re looking for a place to call home that’s near campus but far enough so you’ve got a little room between you and the frat parties.

Whatever the case, here are some points to consider when signing the lease to your first apartment.

Roommates. Step A: you’ve got to figure out whether you’ll be living by yourself or with one (or maybe two or three) roommates. Living by yourself may sound great, but remember: it’s nice to have another person around when something goes bump in the night… and when the water bill comes. It’s also incredibly important to find the right roommate fit. When lifestyles clash, it can make for a tough living situation, so choose someone with a similar schedule or personality. (Trust me on this. My roommate cooks all the time and never cleans up the kitchen. My idea of cooking is preparing mac and cheese from a box. Dishes have always been an arguing point in our place.)

Location, Location, Location. Almost as important as who you live with is where you live. Make sure it’s not too far away from work or school and will be easy to get to all of your favorite haunts. I know it sounds crazy, but I made a GoogleDoc of all the apartments I was looking at and how far away they were from work. It was super helpful for figuring out what wouldn’t absolutely kill me on gas.

Safety. Along with location comes safety. I know this may be a no brainer, but as someone who didn’t have to worry about my safety for the four years I was in a dorm, it became really important to me in an apartment. Know that apartment complexes are not required by law to tell you about any crimes that happen on their property. Check with your local police station for incident reports if you are concerned.

Rules. Once you’ve chosen where to live and who with, make sure you know the rules of the complex. It’s not cute to get kicked out of an apartment, and it will seriously mess up your chances of getting another lease somewhere else. If you’re not sure whether something is allowed, ask! You have a right to know.

Bills. What are they? How much per month? When are they due? Who is paying them? I cannot stress how important it is to come up with a plan for handling bills. The average Jill moving into her first place may not have ever paid a bill before. Paying water, electricity, cable, internet, and rent on time are so important; late payments can affect your credit score, in turn, making it hard to get loans and even a place to live. Make sure you know who is responsible for what bill and make sure they are divvied up evenly. Nothing is worse than having a roommate who is getting a free ride. It only builds resentment and will make you a very unhappy camper. Fast.

Those are five basics I feel are most important when considering getting your first place. If you’re looking for ideas on where to live, check out review sites for what current residents are saying. Just make sure to keep in mind, people love to rant more than rave, so if there are mostly negative reviews, take them into consideration but with a grain of salt. Happy home hunting!

♥AUTHOR: JORDAN SWAIM of “Early Twenties”

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