This is about the age where people begin to move out and get their own places, or at least begin to consider it. I lived in the dorms at UCSD last year, which is similar in the sense that I was out on my own, but still a very distinct experience from having your own apartment, as I now do. I know a lot of people aren't quite sure where to start when searching for an apartment, so I've put together some suggestions to make the process a little easier:
- Figure out a budget: Rent obviously varies based on the city, size, and number of rooms in the apartment-- you'll want to figure out how much you expect to spend. I find that Rich Blocks, Poor Blocks-- though intended for an ENTIRELY different purpose, for which I also encourage you to use it-- is helpful in that it provides the average amount of rent paid in every neighborhood in the U.S, giving you a rough estimate to work with. Size and number of rooms is ultimately dependent on whether or not you intend to live with roommates. On top of rent, you'll probably be spending quite a bit of money on groceries, gas, and other miscellaneous expenses, so you'll want to account for these.
- Conditions: Once you've found an apartment you're interested in, you'll want to know whether rent includes utilities, what utilities, if any, whether the apartment is furnished, and what kind of physical condition the place is in. Utilities can be incredibly expensive, and furniture depends largely on personal taste. The apartment should be in good condition-- repairs or pest control can be costly and time consuming.
- Renting vs. Leasing: It's definitely important to know the difference. Leases involve a contract and tend to be longer-term, which isn't the best for everyone, particularly not at this age. They also will more likely require a (good) credit score. Renting is on a month-to-month basis. So while leasing provides more security, renting provides greater flexibility.
- Roommates: Make sure you'll be compatible with your roommates given the living situation. An extra bedroom can make a world of difference. It also doesn't hurt to lay out a set of ground rules; who keeps the apartment should a disagreement arise, how much rent each person pays, expectations for cleaning and general housework, etc.
- Save up: You'll want to AT LEAST have three month's worth of rent saved up. Many places require that you pay a deposit as well as first and last month's rent up front, and moving is a costly endeavor in itself. In addition to obvious essentials, there are also decorations and miscellaneous household items (i.e. paper towels) to consider, and it certainly adds up.