Written by Yentil (click the link for her career profile!)
Searching for an apartment requires a self-awareness of your habits from a holistic view.
My experience: My apartment search officially began in August 2015 and didn’t move into the apartment of my dreams until December 2015.
Preparation: During the early stage, a majority of my time was spent researching different areas of town, styles (houses, townhouses, apartment buildings, etc), and loads of other factors since I am a very detail oriented person. I chose to live downtown in the city which is only a short drive to work and in walking distance to any and everything (well, except for Trader Joes *shrug*). Choosing to live downtown was an “easy” decision, made after weeks of planning and research of all available options within a 30-minute drive to my office.
The search: There are waiting lists, upon waiting lists for apartments in downtown Cleveland, and they go quickly. The process was strenuous and daunting. After 2.5 months of hunting for my apartment, I decided to be patient and wait until something became available in what I would describe as the “perfect” building - located downtown and less than 4 miles from work with indoor parking and 24/7 security. One day, I dropped by for another tour of the building and was offered a unit that would require me to move in less than 2 weeks — 11 days to be exact.
The move: Two words: Be ready. Luckily, I had a moving plan in mind which involved booking labor via www.movinghelp.com and reserving a truck separately via Budget. I have an incredible older brother who offered (after I asked, lol) to drive the moving truck and assisted the movers a great deal. All in all, I spent $215.00 on my move. I’d also saved using tips from Elyse (remember this post?).
Below are four factors I highly recommend considering before signing a lease.
While many experts advise that 1/3 of your monthly salary should be budgeted for rent— I must respectfully disagree. I’d recommend one-fourth of your income to ensure that you have the funds to enjoy and decorate your new place. There’s no worse feeling than stretching your bank account which adds another layer of stress every month. It will be easier to stick to your housing budget if you avoid visiting buildings/units that are outside of your price range…because this will make everything else look like the projects. If you can afford it, then schedule a tour. If you can’t, stay far away. What can you afford that wouldn’t break the bank? Related: Making a budget (and sticking to it!)
Elyse: hahahaha. I'm spending 2/3 of my monthly paycheck on housing in NY. I threw affordability out of the window for location, security, and the peace of living alone. I'll keep you posted on how bad of a decision this was.
LOCATION (and proximity to work)
For me, location was key because I hate driving and enjoy nice long walks. Take time to consider if you don’t mind a 30+ minute drive to work each and everyday to be closer to restaurants and bars. Or, would you prefer a 40 minute drive to bars/restaurants with a shorter commute to work? Using this as a foundation helped me to solidify that I’d need to live in the city which would require a 40 minute drive to my secondary work location at times, but on weekends I don’t have to touch my steering wheel. Which factor matters most to you?
The first apartment that I almost settled for was 550 sq feet — FIVE HUNDRED AND FIFTY SQUARE FEET — i.e. the size of someone’s living room. For a single person who is a minimalist, it works. For me, not so much. However, the unit and building had everything else on my must have list, washer/dryer - check, indoor parking - check, secured entrance - check, near the action - check, etc. I realized that I was flexible on other must haves, but would be better off with more space, so I wouldn’t be ready to move out after only a year. How much space do you truly need?
Security. Security. Security. Feeling uncomfortable in your own home is one of the worse feelings. Your home is supposed to be your sanctuary. Review this handy checklist from the National Crime Prevention Council. A few things to consider:
- Are there people who congregate regularly in the front or rear of the building?
- Is the path from the parking lot clear and well-lit? How is the walk from your car to the building?
- Is there secured or controlled access to the building?
- What are the crime statistics in the neighborhood?
- How far is the police station? How often to they patrol the neighborhood?