One of the most exciting parts of college and post-grad life is signing a lease to live with friends! The search for places is usually pretty easy in college, since most campuses have designated areas of student housing or off-campus living. Things get more tricky in post-grad life, when options open up. There are a lot of things to consider before you sign a lease, so read through these questions to make sure you sign the best lease!
1. What location do you want to live in?
This is the first question to ask when you start your apartment or house search. If you’re unfamiliar with the area or are moving to a new city, try asking people in your network who have lived there before. It’s best to get a good idea of what the desirable neighborhoods are before you even think about signing a lease. Consider if you want to be able to walk to your local coffee shop or grocery store, if it’s near a lake or the ocean depending on where you’re looking, and what types of gyms and workout studios are nearby. It’s also smart to think about your commute to work, even if most of us are working from home right now.
2. How many bedrooms and baths do you want?
If you’re living with more than two friends, you’ll probably want at least two bathrooms. I think, and I’m sure most of you would agree, that it’s more desirable to have your own room. But, if you’re living in a city where rent is expensive, like New York or Los Angeles, consider sharing a room for the first year to save on rent. Prices go up as you add more bedrooms and bathrooms, but with more people the divided cost goes down. So consider what’s your ideal number of roommates, and then how many people you’d want to share a bathroom with. Three girls with only one bathroom does work out okay, trust me!
3. When do you want to move in?
The answer to this question will dictate when you start looking, but of course different cities have different markets. If you want to move in June, you should start your search in April at the latest. That way you can see what’s out there, without the pressure of having to make an immediate decision. For most larger cities, you’ll want to sign a lease a month or two before your move-in date. If you start looking early, you can narrow down what neighborhoods appeal to you and what features are must-haves in your new place.
4. What kind of amenities are you looking for?
Do you want a pool or a brand new gym in your new place? Or are you more interested in having a backyard and easy access to bike trails? Whatever amenities are important to you will help narrow down your search as well. If you want a place with new appliances and in-unit washers and dryers, then it’s probably best to focus your search on newer apartment buildings. Think about what kinds of things you can’t live without, or what would be nice added bonuses (like an outdoor hot tub), and go from there.
5. Do you need parking or access to public transportation?
Depending on what city you’re looking to sign a lease in, access to the bus or subway might be really important. Even if we aren’t moving around as much as we used to, those days will come back and you’ll still need easy access to the subway to get to work or the airport. If you have a car and drive a lot, then it might be important to consider a place with either a designated parking spot or underground parking. Especially if you live somewhere where it snows! One winter we had so much snow in Minnesota that the city shut down parking on one side of all the streets. It was a nightmare to not have a parking spot!
6. Is the landlord or property manager available for questions and maintenance concerns?
In my last apartment, I lived on the second floor of a house and my landlord lived below. It wasn’t an ideal situation when my roommates and I wanted to throw a party, but it was great when we had any type of problem and they could just come right up to fix it. We knew they would be attentive because it was their house too! Make sure that before you sign a lease, you’ll be receiving support should any issues arise. In one of my college apartments, we got to know the maintenance workers and whenever they came by to look at something, they left us candy! It was a relief to know we’d be taken care of, should we need anything.
7. Are there any noise constraints?
Speaking of parties, make sure you’re aware of any noise constraints or what the vibe is of the neighborhood. If you’re young and like to entertain, it may not be wise to sign a lease on a block of houses with young families. Signing a lease is a big commitment, and you want to be sure that your lifestyle will match your new accommodations.
8. How safe is the neighborhood and the apartment or house?
As a female, I prefer to live on the second floor or higher in any building I’m in, because it’s just safer than the ground floor. When you sign a lease, make sure you take safety into consideration, (unfortunately) especially if you’re a woman. Will you feel safe walking home from the bus stop? Can you walk to the grocery store even if it’s dark? Aside from the neighborhood, does the apartment itself have property safety features, such as new locks, fire alarms, and carbon monoxide detectors?
9. Are utilities included with rent?
Before signing a lease, knowing the price of rent is one of the most important things! If gas, electric, and/or trash are not included in your monthly bill, make sure you find out a good estimate of what those costs will be each month. This way you will have a better idea of how much you will be expected to pay each month, without those costs being worked into your rent total automatically. Consider that your utility bill will fluctuate with the seasons, if you’re heating your place in the winter or cooling it in the summer.
10. Can you see yourself being happy living there?
The most important question of all! Some places just give you that special feeling of home. When I first walked into my last apartment, I felt comfortable immediately and was so excited by the prospect of decorating it. It was as if I had lived there already in a past life, and took no time to adjust to it. If a place doesn’t spark that joy or familiarity in you, don’t push it. The right place will come along if you keep looking, so don’t feel pressured to sign a lease just because the clock is ticking.
Are there any other questions you make sure to ask before you sign a lease? Share them in the comments below! Happy apartment/house hunting!
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Maggie is the blogger behind The Artful Everyday, a travel and lifestyle blog dedicated to living intentionally and finding beauty in the ordinary. She loves the idea that we get to escape our normal lives when we travel, and that it allows us to be more open to the world and its cultures. Maggie lived in Florence while studying abroad, then was an au pair in Rome last fall. She is very passionate about traveling in Europe, especially Italy, and living abroad. Maggie studied Interior Design at the University of Minnesota, but is currently pursuing a career in writing.