What to Look For When You’re Apartment Hunting

In almost two weeks, my husband and I will be moving to Denver. That means we’ll be living in a brand new city, starting new jobs and careers and living in a new place.

What to Look For When Youre Apartment Hunting

That also means we barely have two weeks to find a place to live.

When you’re apartment hunting virtually, like we are, it’s hard to find a place you love. When I was looking for an apartment for my first place out of college, I relied on my future coworkers to recommend complexes. But since we’re looking for a house, it’s a little harder.

Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re looking for a place to live and can’t house hunt in person:

What’s the square footage?

I have a terrible sense of math, but I know that the last solo apartment I had was 600 square feet. That’s the frame of reference I use when I look at new places. Too often you find a place that’s great, only to realize that their bedrooms won’t be big enough for your queen bed.

You can look up property listings of your current place if you don’t know how much space you have now and use that to compare. If you’re going from a low cost of living to a higher one (like we are), you can expect to have less room.

What utilities am I responsible for?

Every rental I’ve lived in has had different standards of what utilities the renter is responsible for. In my first college apartment, we didn’t have to pay for electricity, so we used space heaters instead of running gas. In my next two apartments, I paid everything so I was more conscious of how I was using water, electricity AND gas.

You can also ask about average monthly payments for utilities – depending on how well the place is insulated, these can make or break your budget. Add in internet and trash fees, and you’re looking at expensive utilities.

Is there a washer/dryer included?

This seems like an obvious one, but I’ve seen a few good places that haven’t had washer and dryers come with the rental. This doesn’t have to be a big deal. You can buy a used set for a few hundred and sell them back when you’re done. If the place has everything else you want, it might be worth it.

But if you’re trying to save money wherever you can, then spending a few hundred on appliances might be harder to justify. This is when having a separate moving and furniture budget comes in handy.

Stay under the 25% rule

It’s always tempting to disregard price when it seems like you’ve found the perfect place. But since rent is usually everyone’s biggest expense, it pays to be careful. Most experts recommend paying 25% or less of your monthly take-home pay on rent. That way, you have enough money for your other necessities as well as savings.

This is even more important if you’re trying to pay off debt quickly, like I was last year. It was only by paying 14% of my take-home for rent that I was able to put half of my salary toward my loans. If you want a new car or a trip to Ireland, you might stick to a lower percentage.


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