If you're like Lauren Crain, a digital marketer, you've always lived with either your parents or a cadre of roommates — and you've been dreaming of living on your own for a while.
Crain realized her dream but only after living with her parents for a year to save up before she could afford being on her own for the first time. During that time, she learned that there were a lot of details that she needed to figure out before she settled into her own place. Some of those details included saving for things like moving costs, fees, and deposits. She also had to deal with the logistics of finding and moving into her new home all by herself.
If you're thinking about making the move and renting your own place, here are some helpful tips:
Figure Out Your Budget
You might like the look of that swanky condo you toured, but you don't want to blow your budget on rent every month.
When Nick Corlis, moved to Houston after receiving a job offer, he knew how much he was making. Armed with that number, he took some financial advice he had heard on how much to spend on rent to help him figure out how much he should budget.
"I factored in my utilities, such as electric and gas, tenant's insurance, and internet with my rent and I considered the entire cost of that when looking for apartments," he says. "I remembered hearing that your monthly rent really shouldn't cost more than 2.5 percent of your yearly salary — which ended up being pretty sage advice."
Add In the Extra Costs
While both Crain and Corlis knew that there would be extra expenses, they were both surprised by how much they ultimately cost. Before committing to a place, make sure you understand what all the extra costs are so you don't overspend, for example:
- Application fee — This upfront cost covers the processing of your application which includes a background check.
- Deposit — Some landlords or property managers may ask you to pay the for the first and last months rent along with a security deposit which is designed to cover any damage to the property.
- Pet deposit — If you own a pet, you can expect to pay a separate deposit and possibly an additional amount in rent for your furry friend.
- Move-in fee — You may be charged a fee to cover damages to common areas like elevators, hallways, and lobbies when moving in.
- Parking fee — These fees can add costs to your expenses, especially if you plan to live in a large city where parking is a premium.
- Utilities — Many rentals do not cover all utilities. Make sure you understand who pays for each of them.
Understand Your Lease
If you've only ever lived in dorms at college, or if your parents previously cosigned your lease for you, you'll want to make sure that you understand what you're agreeing to before you rent on your own for the first time.
"I would suggest that everyone read their lease," says Crain. "The biggest thing that I got from it is the amount of time I need to give my landlord before moving out – 90-days' notice."
You'll want to pay close attention to the wording in your lease for things like condo board or homeowner association fines and rules if you're renting a condo; whether you're allowed to sublet your place; rules around pets, damages, and parking; and the length of your lease term and how you renew it.
Also look for things like clauses that give the landlord access to your suite, large late fees for rent, clauses that suggest the tenant is responsible for repairs, and clauses that say that the landlord has a right to change the lease at any time. These things may be illegal or burdensome and could be a sign you shouldn't rent with that landlord or that you should try to negotiate a better rental contract.
Move In and Furnish Your Place
Even if you don't have much furniture, moving can be stressful and a big expense. While Crain borrowed her friend's truck, professional movers could cost you anywhere from $200 to $500 for a one-bedroom apartment, according to ConsumerAffairs.com.
Then you need to buy furniture, something that both Crain and Corlis struggled to do.
"The only furniture I had when I moved in was my bed," says Corlis, "which was due to the rushed nature of me moving and having to locate an apartment in 5 days. I began to save up and eventually bought a couch, TV, coffee table, lamp, dinner table with chairs, and a desk. While I'm not finished decorating my apartment, it does feel cohesive and more homey with the furniture."
Crain similarly put off buying furniture. "I set aside no money for furniture," she says. "I had a bed, a small nightstand, and a TV when I first moved in. I got a couch from Goodwill for $80, and a TV stand from there as well, which ran me about $25."
While you can get by with cheap furniture, one tip for living alone is to expect to spend around $3,000 to $5,500 to fully furnish a studio apartment, according to Furnishr.
Living Alone Can Be Worth It
Although living on your own for the first time might be expensive, Corlis believes it's worthwhile.
"Every time I wake up uninterrupted or come home to a clean apartment after a vacation, I reflect upon how much it actually is worth having my own apartment," he says. "It's a personal preference of course, but I love living by myself and will always think it's worth the money."
Crain also loves living alone. "At school, I lived with roommates for four years," she says. "One night, my roommates and I had to have a serious talk about our fridge because it was filled with items that had expired over a year ago. It's nice that I don't have to deal with that now."