You've been living under your parents' roof for 18 years, and you are SO READY to move out to a place of your own. With a little forethought, you'll be ready (as in psyched) but also ready (as in prepared). Here are a few pointers about what it's going to cost, what you have to sign, and who you choose to room with."
Rent is the biggest single expense of living on your own. It easily can amount to a third to half of your monthly income. Set a limit on what you'll spend before you start looking for housing. Otherwise, you could end up too short of cash to do anything but sit in your apartment.
Housing rental rates vary dramatically around the country, or even across town. And you'll pay more if you get your own place, rather than sharing a flat or apartment with roommates.
The monthly outlay for rent is only part of the picture. You'll also pay utility bills, including telephone. The landlord should be able to show you how much heat and electric bills usually run each month.
Then there are up-front costs you pay only once, yet these take a big bite out of your wallet. In addition to the first month's rent, your landlord will ask for a security deposit (to cover any damages you cause), usually equal to one month's rent. Sometimes you'll also have to pay in advance for the last month's rent of the lease period (more on leases later). In other words, you could owe for as much as three months' rent before you even get the keys to the place. Your security deposit will be refunded when you vacate the apartment, if you have met all the terms of your lease and leave the apartment in the same condition as you entered it. But it still is a major up-front cost.
Utility companies charge hookup fees to start your services, and they often require security deposits. The phone company charges an installation fee to connect your phone, even though you have your own phone and the jack is already in the wall. Moving takes money, too. If you have lots of worldly possessions, you may need to rent a van or truck. If friends help with your move, you'll probably want to pay them with pizza.
That's not all (sorry). You'll need lots of other stuff to make your apartment livable: furniture, curtains, cooking utensils, towels, even rings to hang the shower curtain. And think about all those supplies you've used in your parents' home without ever having to pay for them--everything from toilet paper to shampoo to dish detergent.
|It's a good idea for all roommates to sign the lease. It makes everyone responsible.||
Finally, remember renter's insurance. You can get a lot of coverage for a small premium. If your CD player walks out the door or your belongings go up in smoke, you'll be glad you had insurance to replace what's gone.
All these up-front costs add up to a hefty sum. By knowing what you're in for in advance, you can start budgeting for these expenses well ahead of moving day.
A lease, or rental agreement, is a legally binding contract between you and your landlord. The lease period usually is one year, although this can vary. Once you sign this document, you're committed. So read it over first and check all the details.
For instance, does it stipulate that the landlord cannot raise the rent during the lease period? What services does the landlord agree to provide? What's the policy on pets? What are your responsibilities as a tenant, and what conditions must you meet to get your security deposit back at the end of the lease?
To help with the last point, it's a good idea to take a walk-through with your landlord. Note in writing all defects or needed repairs you notice in the apartment, and if and when the landlord promises to fix them. Do this when the apartment is empty, so you can get an unobstructed look at the premises. Both you and your landlord should sign the walk-through list, and both keep a copy. This is your assurance against being held liable later, and possibly forfeiting some or all of your security deposit, for damages already present when you moved in. And it gives you clout to get the landlord to make good on promised repairs.
"Ten Tips Every Tenant Should Know" will tell you more about leases and rental agreements, rent and security deposits, renter and landlord rights, roommates, and more.
Chances are you'll share housing with one or more people. It cuts your housing costs and provides you company. The key word here is "share." Roommates are people with whom you share not only a common roof, but also a bathroom, kitchen sink, refrigerator...
|When signing a lease, be careful but don't be afraid.|
You might prefer to live with someone you already know. Or you may end up with a stranger. Whatever the situation, people living together need special types of compatibilities. Talk out your expectations up front. Discuss such matters as cleanliness standards, chore sharing, and privacy needs. And try to continue communicating once you're actually living together. That way you'll keep the peace--at least most of the time. And you won't end up wishing you were back living with your parents.
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