advice... my first apartment

vacuumfreakJune 28, 2006

Hello all. I am a 22 year old college student. I have always lived at home or with "other people" free of rent. Of course that also same with a price... no space to call my own, no privacy and such. Well, the people I live with now are getting a much smaller house and the time has come for me to get my first apartment. I have decided to NOT get a roomate. Firstly, because I need something that I can call "mine" for once. Also, I don't want to have to worry about someone else not paying their part of the rent, or not being able to get in the bathroom when I want to and things of that sort. I already found the apartments that I want to live in and they are affordable AND not in the "nasty" section of town. I don't know what is typical (I live in Florida), but my rent is going to be 410 for a studio. The one bedrooms are on a 5 month waiting list, but when I am able to transfer, it will only be 465 a month. I make 350-500 dollars per week... I work full time and go to school part time, so I should be able to survive. I'll just have to stop eating at Ruths Chris every night :O) Just kidding.

So, just need some general advice since I've never done this before. How to make the most out of the small space? Should I get a top or bottom floor, or somewhere in the middle... or first available? What questions should I ask before I give my depost to hold a unit (even the studios are on a couple month waiting list). Going to have a gas stove for the first time in my life, so need advice about that as well. Tips on budgeting and balancing so I can eat and pay the rent? There is a laundry center at the apartment complex, but I was thinking of getting one of those portable washer/drier all in one units. The units do not have hook ups, but the model I am considering hooks to a faucet and is also a ventless drier. What would you suggest for laundry? Anything else I should know? I already know that I am going to buy earplugs so that my neighbors "music" will not disturb my studying or sleeping. I hope I don't have other peoples' smoke blowing into my apartment like some on this apartment... I'll just die (literally... that's what it does!). Thanks for any advice!

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Just reading over my post... It wasn't very lucid. Where I said units when talking about the washer, the first "unit" was meaning the washer/drier appliance. By the second "unit" in the next sencence, I meant the apartment itself. And in the next to last sentence the word "apartment", should be "forum" instead. I guess that's why they have the preview button, huh? Sorry for any confusion... thanks for any responses.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2006 at 1:34PM
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I think its always best to live on the top floor, no noisey neighbors on top of you!! Do you have AC? Apartments tend to be hotter the higher up you go. If one can't have a top floor unit, i wouldnt take the bottom suite, Don't prefer people looking in at you, and its a bit more secure if your ur up a few floors(no one can get in through ur balcony or window) Best to check with your lease, I had one that stated one was not allowed to have any type of washer/dryer in unit. Check out for other peoples opinions on certain buildings. Cheers

    Bookmark   June 29, 2006 at 9:20AM
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I'd see where your apartment ends up being floor-wise before you consider getting the washer/dryer. We'd dearly love to get a portable dishwasher in our place, but the thought of having to drag it up and down our narrow staircases killed the idea almost as soon as we thought of it. Dealing with the laundry center may end up being less of a hassle.

As for budgeting, when I got my first place, I sat down with a two column steno pad, and made a list of the date of my paychecks, and assigned bills to them by due date in one column. In the other column, I noted the extra leftover from the bills and tried to estimate what I thought I'd need for food, gas, fun, etc. Took a little while, but helped me a get an idea of where my money was coming and going. After a couple months, I'd gotten to know the pattern well enough that I didn't need the list anymore. I've done this since whenever I'd have a major change in how I've had to pay my bills (due date switch, new rent, etc.)

    Bookmark   June 29, 2006 at 11:48AM
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I didn't mind the laundry center when I was in my early apartments--it was sort of nice, actually. Enforced "sit down and be still" time. I did a lot of reading then. And for one stretch, I felt I could leave my laundry, so I'd just go for laps around to block to get my exercise at the same time. And, I could do all my laundry in one shot.

$410 is good for a studio. Best of luck--I think you'll succeed bcs you know you need to budget and watch the money. You'll be fine.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2006 at 4:47PM
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Dont get your own washer -dryer. If you are trying to budget it isn't cost-effective; takes up floor space. Talley is right about the ease of doing all the laundry in one swoop.
Also I have a portable dishwasher which hooks up and sometimes the drain gets loose and you have water on the floor. It would be worse with the washer.
The biggest storage boon in an apt is to get a really tall heavy duty bookcase. I have one that is 7 feet high x 36 wide. It has one inch thick shelves. It is all purpose storage including books, and only 12 inches deep. It was made for an office.
About the stove, gas is cheaper than electric and easier to regulate. Get a cookbook and start simple. Thats the biggest money saver ever.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2006 at 1:19AM
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Don't invest any money in property you don't own--unless it's a new washer for the faucet, or a little rug for the bathroom. Take only the stuff into the apartment that you can carry out--nothing that needs to be plumbed or connected directly to the electric box. If you have spare money, invest it in good-quality furniture. A nice bed, for instance. One of the not-nice things about apartment living is the laundromat, but unless the landlord installs a washer-dryer for you, it's not worth it to install one yourself, because chances are it can't travel with you because it won't work with the next place you move.

After renting for more than 25 years I now own my own house (took a while to raise a down payment), and one of the great joys is having the appliances I want and colors on the walls, and when something needs fixing I can just do it myself or hire someone instead of waiting on the landlord.

Good luck! Your first apartment is a big step. Good for you. Put away a little every month for a house--don't wait as long as I did!

    Bookmark   July 1, 2006 at 10:45PM
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This is how I budgetted when I was single/in my first apartment. Consider "take home" pay,not your gross. Figure no more than half for rent, and always allow some savings. Savings can be for emergencies or future goals (like buying a house,etc). Then list regular expenses, mine were student loans, utilities, car payments, gas and other car bills, and health insurance. Make sure you have enough to go around. Food and entertainment are last, can be as variable and flexible as you want. Example, no Ruths Chris Steaks. There are also expenses for clothing, hairdresser,etc. And remember there are apartment set-up costs like furniture, bedding, pots and pans, bath towels,curtains, etc. when you get your apartment, you can ask family and friends for basics. I remember my mother let me take towels, blankets, some furniture. You can also buy cheap at second-hand stores. Good luck! A home of your own is a wonderful feeling!

    Bookmark   July 3, 2006 at 3:01PM
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tell *everyone* you know about what sortsof stuff you need for your new place--there are tons of people w/ way too much stuff who would love an excuse to give it a good home. They won't just toss it, the Goodwill seems too much like tossing it, they don't have energy for a yard sale, but they'd love to give you:

coffee tables
end tables
twin beds
dinette tables

That's the sort of stuff I was given when I got my first place. Even a sofa! All I had to do was be the one who got it out of their way and into my home.

Also, is a great place to try to round up stuff like that if you're without a large circle of people you know. And, if it's in your town.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2006 at 5:28PM
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OMG! GET THE TOPPEST FLOOR POSSIBLE!!! if stairs arent an issue for you go for the top floor, make sure theres no kids beneath you, and that you dont have a family of four living in a one bedroom. go to the complex with only one bdrms usually there will be no families there and make sure your walls are plaster or cement (vintage building) becuase if you share a bedroom wall or ceiling with someone else's you will share all of their "private" moments with them and you will be miserable!


i hope you heed this advice so you dont have a miserable first time renting expierience like i did. as a student we need sleep and quiet study time, no way on the first of middle floor of an apartment will you find that

    Bookmark   July 13, 2006 at 3:00AM
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I am so excited for you... huge kudos to taking the plunge and going out entirely on your own. It won't be easy, but what you risk is made up for in being ENTIRELY on your own without having to worry about a roommate. Plus, there's a lot to be said, psychologically, for having the experience of taking care of yourself and not having to rely upon someone else, but that's a separate discussion...

Anyway, spending half of your income on rent seems a bit excessive-- most guides will tell you to keep it at a third (or less) of your take-home pay. So if the rent is $410/month and your take-home is $350-500/week, you should be fine.

To start with, ask the landlord of the units what utilities are included and what are not. At our last place, NOTHING was included; we had to pay water, sewer, trash, and electric (no gas), plus the stuff that usually is NOT included: cable, phone (cell and landline), internet, and renter's insurance. (RI, for us, was about $100/year, paid once annually. Some landlords require it, but even if they don't, it's a good idea.) Other things to remember to include are student loans, credit card payments, car payments and insurance, gas and routine car maintenance, public transportation fees, parking fees, laundry money (and I agree, don't bother with buying your own W/D yet), routine medical expenses, and the floating stuff like groceries, clothes, "fun money," etc.

Sit down and add up all of these expenses (the landlord should be able to tell you what the utility bills average for your unit; if not, you can find this info out directly from the utility company). When all is said and done, figure how much you have available every week for the incidentals-- cup of coffee on your way to work, lunch with coworkers, dinner and a movie, etc. This is your "fun money" budget. best way to stick to this limit is to withdraw that amount at the beginning of each week from your bank account, and tell yourself that is ALL you have to spend on non-necessities all week. If you start using your credit and/or ATM cards for all of your impulse purchases, you can drown very quickly.

As for cooking with gas vs. electric... I've used both, and quite frankly, aside from seeing an actual flame with a gas burner, which you can eyeball to see how high or low it is, you just cook as your normally would. The nice thing with gas cooking is, the heat is much more "instant on" and "instant off" than electric, which makes it easier (IMHO) not to burn things.

Important things to ask your landlord before renting: get specifics on the security deposit, and on what grounds you get it back when you move out. Ask what you are allowed to do to the walls-- some places let you paint, some places won't even let you put up a nail to hang a picture. Ask about quiet hours. make sure you know how to contact maintenance in case of an emergency. Ask if there is mail delivery on-site, or will you have to get a PO box.

Make VERY sure, when you move in (and before you bring in a stick of furniture or a bag of clothes) to document each and every single defect or flaw in the apartment, no matter how minor it may appear to you. Go over the walls, make note of all discolorations, tiny holes where nails may have been, etc. Stains in the carpet, scuff marks on the floor, etc. Take pictures if you can. Flush the toilet, turn on all the faucets, heaters, A/C units, stove burners, oven, etc., and note anything unusual. Give a copy of this list to your landlord (you should both sign and date it), and keep a copy for yourself somewhere safe. (Now is a good time to purchase a fire safe for valuable documents like this, BTW). When you move out, you can reference this list if there are any arguments regarding damage you may have caused.

I hope all goes well for you, and best of luck in your journey... You are taking a brave step forward that you will never regret!

    Bookmark   July 13, 2006 at 6:16PM
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My advice is to find the cheapest apt you can live in. Save your money to purchase a home instead.... or better yet purcahse your own apartment building.

I bought my first 4 plex when I was 20. Best decision I ever made. Bought a few more at age 22 and by age 30 was semi retired!

    Bookmark   July 18, 2006 at 9:40PM
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I too am now beginning the apartment life...
I was looking high and low for a magazine geared toward the apartment lifestyle. NOT an online magazine, a monthly mag. i find plenty of house magazines but I want one for decorating , living issues for apartments/condos.
I swore i have seen them but wouldnt you know it...when i want to subscribe...cant find it. any titles for me?

    Bookmark   August 12, 2006 at 11:00AM
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