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Five things to think about when getting your first apartment

June 02, 2015

By Pam Leibfried

You’ve graduated from college. You got your first job. Now it’s time to get an apartment. What are some of the factors you should consider when apartment hunting?

Location, location, location!

Is the apartment close to where you work? Near where your friends and family live? Close to public transportation? A location that is close to the places you go most frequently will save you time and money.

  • Save time. When your apartment is conveniently located, you’ll cut down on the number of hours you spend commuting to and from work during the week and traveling to get together with friends or family at night and on weekends. Less time driving means less stress and more time you can spend doing the activities you love.
  • Save money. With a short commute, you’ll spend less on gas. You’ll pay less for auto insurance. And if the location is an urban or suburban one near public transportation, you may be able to get by without a car at all, which will really reduce your transportation costs. If you can save on transportation costs, you may be able to afford a nicer apartment.

Safety considerations?

The safety of an apartment involves more than the obvious issue of whether the neighborhood is a safe one. You also need to consider the seemingly small safety features that can be big issues when they are missing.

  • If you’re in an apartment building with a secure lobby but the intercom system doesn’t work, it might mean that your neighbors will buzz in anyone who rings the bell, reducing the level of security in the building.
  • When you’re looking at a ground floor apartment, windows should have locks and patio doors should have security bars. If they don’t, it doesn't have to be a deal breaker. If you really like the apartment, you can buy your own security bars to secure sliding windows and doors. Just be sure to factor in that expense when calculating the cost of the different apartments you are considering.
  • Does the building have sprinklers? Fire escapes? Are there working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors? 

Cost of utilities

If you have to pay all of the utilities for your apartment yourself, the costs can add up quickly. If you’re comparing two apartments, with one including utilities and one requiring you to pay your own utility bills, be sure that you consider the additional expenses for utilities when you calculate the cost of the apartment without utilities. Utilities being included won’t make up a massive difference in rent, but if the apartment with utilities included is only $50 or $100 more each month, you may actually save money by renting the pricier, utilities-inclusive apartment.

Neighbors and noise

If you’re like me and you can sleep through pretty much anything, you might not care how loud your neighbors are, but if you are a light sleeper, you may want to find a building with quiet hours or explicit noise policies. That type of building might be a bad option for someone with atypical sleep/wake patterns. If you want to get up and blast music for your aerobics workout at 5:00 a.m. or if you’re a night owl who likes to do laundry at midnight, living in a building with strict quiet hours is probably not the best fit for you.

Your personal must-haves

If there are features or amenities that you know you can’t live without, don’t waste time looking at apartments that don’t have them. Want on-premise fitness equipment? Can’t live without air conditioning? Hate going to laundromats and want on-site washers/dryers? Need an elevator building because a parent or friend has a physical limitation and can’t do stairs? Keep these needs in mind as you look at apartments.