In Your Quest for a Home

Welcome back! It now has been officially a year on the Writers Team and I couldn’t be more excited.
I’m heading into my final year of college (thank goodness) and I had been living in the dorms for the last few years. While convenient, with the expense, little privacy, and some interesting roommate situations (except for the two girls I’m living with this next year), it quickly fell out of favor with me.
Add in the fact I’ve run into an interesting financial situation, and you get a girl who’s never had to rent an apartment, looking for a place to live. It started with an internship I got away from home for the summer and added in a place to live in my college town (two different places I might have you) and I was scrambling to figure out what I needed to do to find a decent place to live.
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My parents haven’t rented in years, and while they wanted to help, a lot has changed. My friends and future roommates did the best they could (including a lot of the grunt work for the college-town house), but for the summer, I was on my own.

It is and was the first time I was living completely by myself.

We all watch house finding shows and we all know the basics, but there were definitely some things that I had to think about that I hadn’t thought about before.
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My responsible side took hold – doing research. After successfully now signing two leases in the last four months, I feel like I can share some of the tips I’ve learning with the rest of you searching for a place to call home.

1 | what’s the climate?

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Strange question to ask, I know. But it’s important to figure out what the climate is like where you’re moving. If you’re staying in the same city, it’s pretty easy. But if you’re like me and moving somewhere where no one knows your name, it’s good to figure out.
If it snows/gets below freezing temperatures in the winter, you need good insulation and heating (or a bunch of blankets and sweaters as @clemthekraken does where she’s from). If it’s scorching hot in the summer, do you want air conditioning?
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Currently, it’s summer at my internship and it’s supposed to be a dry heat. At least that’s what the internet and coworkers said. Unfortunately, with climate change, what we “think” is going to happen and what “does” happen are two different things. Just try to get a general idea and plan accordingly.

2 | what do you actually need?

Now, I’ll be the first to tell you that I grew up in an affluent family. My mom especially worked hard to make sure we could have the things we wanted. But as the college has progressed, my "needs” have changed.
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When looking for a house for the coming school year, my flatmates asked what I wanted in a house. What I “want” versus what I “need” are two very different things. I could say I want a jacuzzi tub, a movie room, and a master suite, but it really boiled down to three things:
  • my own room
  • two toilets
  • safe neighborhood
I care about my safety, and as a woman in a college town (which is rather safe), I still don’t want to feel unsafe in my own neighborhood. And it gives my parents piece-of-mind, which is great too.
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Also, I’m living with three other wonderful ladies and I came to the realization that we need two toilets. We could make do with one, but honestly, there’s four of us. If one of us is sick or currently using the toilet, there’s another one there.
And with my own room – I shared a room for two years in college, and while it wasn’t the worst experience, I realized how much I appreciate being alone. I used to just go out to my car and sit and watch YouTube or scroll through We Heart It, just to be by myself doing it.
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Think realistically because the more stuff you “need” the more $$$ you need, which leads into:

3 | what can you actually afford?

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Most online resources and financial people tell you that you shouldn’t be spending more than 1/3 of your income on your rent/mortgage. And, most places that rent will ask to see income requirements, some more stringent than others. My summer apartment asked to see proof of 2.5 times the amount of rent, and my college house asked to see proof of 3 times the amount of rent. [When you’re renting with other people, all of your incomes go into the income requirement, you don’t each have to be able to meet it.]
This is to show that you have the ability to pay rent. Rental companies don't want to kick people out and they want their money.
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Some places will allow co-signers. This is a person who also signs on to the lease, who doesn’t live in the house, who meets the requirements, in a way, for you. This person is also on the hook for rent, and any other late fees, if you don’t pay. Usually, this is a parent, but some parents can be unwilling or unable.
It’s important you try and find a place that fits within your budget. You might have to get a roommate, or two, or more or give up something like a second toilet or a dishwasher.

4 | how much are utilities?

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Ah utilities. As a teenager and even living in the dorms, I didn’t really know or care about them. But, unfortunately, they are a part of renting/owning.
Some basic utilities include:
  • water
  • sewage
  • gas
  • electricity
  • garbage
  • recycling
  • cable
  • internet
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Some places may not include some of these things, and others, like cable and internet, can really be something you live without. We chose not to have cable in our college house, and at my summer apartment, I don’t have either. [I do in fact have a personal hotspot and unlimited data, but my personal hotspot runs out so I’m sitting at a Starbucks writing this.]
You can do some research online about the city and see what the average cost of utilities is. It also is beneficial to ask the landlord or real estate agent, since they should have a better idea for the specific location of house or apartment.
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That’s all I got for today – there are obviously many additional things, including whether or not you need rental insurance, the location, the location within the apartment complex, if you're renting whether to lease month to month or lease for nine months or a year, etc., but I think I’ll leave it here for now.
Let me know if you’re interested in a Part 2.

As always,

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This article was written by @sborek on the We Heart It Writers Team.