Looking for your first apartment is exciting, but it can also be overwhelming. If you have never rented an apartment before, you may not realize the range of things you need to think about to ensure your new home is a good fit for you. To prevent yourself from being swept away by first impressions, it’s a good idea to take a systematic approach, listing your needs, wants, and priorities, and then comparing how well your various choices can satisfy them. The main things to think about are what you can afford, how convenient it is for you, and the community culture. If all three of those aspects suit you and you like the place, then it’s likely a good match.
What can you afford?
When determining how much rent you can afford, it’s important to think about not only how much you earn but also how much you’re spending on other things. Some sources recommend aiming to spend no more than one-third of your monthly income on rent. For a more accurate idea of what you can afford, however, tally all of your regular monthly bills, such as gym memberships, cell phone plan, car payments, student loan payments, insurance premiums—basically, anything you have a recurring charge for each month—and aim to have that total plus your rent equal no more than half your monthly income. No formula is one size fits all, of course, so always take your individual circumstances into account.
There are several ways to make your first apartment more affordable. Living with roommates has long been a popular way for young people to make ends meet, and many people enjoy sharing a larger space with other people. If you don’t want to share your space, renting a studio or micro apartment can be a great way to get the privacy and autonomy you want with a manageable price tag. To offset the smaller square footage, many communities that feature micro units offer expansive community amenities such as game rooms, cinemas, business centers, and community rooms, allowing residents to spread out and have space to entertain when they like. Reducing your transportation costs or even eliminating your need for a car can be a great benefit of living downtown, and if you pay for a gym membership, an on-site fitness center could save you that monthly cost as well.
How convenient is it?
It’s important to consider how easy or difficult it will be for you to get to the places you regularly go. If you find an apartment you love and can afford, but it’s a 40-minute drive from work, then you might end up regretting your choice after you settle in. Just remember that your commute time essentially adds time on to your work day. Some people get around this problem by walking or biking to work, transforming commute time into a time for exercise and enjoying the outdoors. Living close to where you need to go makes this possible.
It can also be nice to live near some of your favorite spots for spending leisure time. Another perk of downtown living is proximity to a host of choices in restaurants, bars, music and art venues, and cultural events.
Amenities can also make an apartment community more convenient. An on-site gym, for example, saves you not just the gym membership but also the trip there. A business center can make it convenient to get work done from home without needing to take up space in your apartment with a desk and computer.
What’s the community culture?
You’ll want to look at both the apartment community itself and the neighborhood it’s in. The condition of the building and amenities will show you something about the level of pride the management and residents take in the community. The neighborhood may be urban, suburban, near a college campus, or in a small town. Each will have a different feel.
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