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Thursday, May 18, 2017

What I Learned as a First-Time Apartment Renter


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Eighteen years spent in suburban New Jersey, four years spent in central Jersey, and one year in Hoboken, New Jersey.  I am creeping, ever so slowly, closer and closer to NYC.  It has always been my dream to live in the Big Apple; the best city in the whole world.  I never thought it would be possible to feel at home in a place with so many people and so few backyards, but somehow I always do.  As my New Jersey lease reaches an end, my roommates and I have decided to begin searching in New York for a new place to settle in.  I have never been more excited! 
That being said, we are going into our second apartment search with a whole lot of new knowledge.  I don't want to say my first experience as a renter was worse then I ever thought imaginable but...well, let's just say we are more than thrilled to get the heck out of there.  I learned quite a lot about living on your own and searching for the right apartment, so I thought I would share some of that wisdom with you.

1.  Only Put In the Work Once You're 100% Sure You're Staying

My roommates and I were so overexcited to have our own space, decorate, and Pinterest the heck out of our new apartment, that we started with our own renovations before getting a feel for the place.
We spent two full days painting the dingy walls a fresh coat of white, and scrubbing the carpets with a professional cleaner that we rented.  While I recommend both of those things to feel more at home in your new digs, I would suggest spending a few days really falling in love with your home and making sure you could see yourself living there past the end date on your lease.  If we had waited a week longer, we would have realized that the apartment was not an ideal fit and saved some money on paint.  At least the next renters will have nice white walls!

2.  Make a Work Only Space

Posters, flowers, and temporary wall paper were the first things in my Amazon shopping cart when we signed our lease.  I pinned hundreds of living rooms and bedrooms for decor inspiration.  What did I not think to make a Pinterest board of?  A small workspace.  If you are a recent grad, chances are you will be moving to a fairly small space with little rooms for a desk, but there are tons of ways to get creative and make a study corner.  I learned my lesson and created a new board (Take a look!) filled with fun tiny work space ideas.  I especially like the idea of using a low shelf, instead of a full desk with a chair that can tuck underneath.  Whatever you choose to do, sectioning off some of your apartment for work will help you accomplish your goals easier and stay focused for longer!

3. Love Your Roommates (The better the roomie, the better the experience!)

I was so lucky to end up having two of the best roommates anyone could ask for.  We all suffered through our rocky apartment experience together, and I can honestly say I don't know what I would have done without them.  We originally met through friends, and, in my experience, this is the best way to meet roommates.  If there is anyone who will tell me honestly about what someone might be like to live with, it's my closest friends.  Always ask candidly about your potential roommates cleanliness, loudness, and going-out habits. Don't hold back! You are going to have to LIVE with them, so getting an honest opinion is key.  My biggest piece of advice is Don't Be Afraid to Say No.  I know it can feel like you are obligated to say yes to someone who asks to room with you, because you don't want to be the reason they don't have a place to live.  The truth is you're doing both you and the other person a favor, if it isn't going to be a good fit.  A year is a long time to be annoyed with each other, so try your best to get it right the first time.


4. The Charm of An Old Building Can Quickly Turn Against You

Those beautiful cracking walls, that charming victorian fireplace, those romantic gas lamps.  I exaggerate, but it is very easy to be swept off your feet by an old-school interior.  The truth is, an old building has a ton more problems than a newer one including, but not limited to: leaky faucets, everything breaking all the time, doors falling right out of their frames (which really did happen to me this year), lights going out, no air conditioning, heat breaking down, the bathroom ceiling filling with random bubbles (yes, that also happened), and more roaches and rats.
I'm not saying to stay away from all old buildings, but I am saying to be a bit more cautious when you are looking into one.

5. Track Down the People Who Lived In the Apartment Before You

This point leads directly into my next point, but if you want to know the truth about living in a building you should always track down the people that lived there before you.  Whether they loved it or hated it, once out of earshot of a landlord or realtor, they will give you the low-down about the truth of living there.  We all know the realtor won't do that for you.


6.  DO NOT Live With Your Landlord In the Same Building

Many buildings in Hoboken, particularly the older brownstones, come with a landlord.  In my case, my apartment came with a nosey landlord that lived on the floor below me.  One that questioned where I was going each time I left my apartment.  One who threatened to call the police if more than five people came over on a Friday night, and one who threatened to call my parents to let them know what a horrible child I am.  
This, my friends, is an extreme, but gets the points across.  Don't make the same mistakes I made.  Don't live in a place where your landlords are a part of your everyday life.  You moved away so that you didn't have to live with your parents anymore, right?  All of this, of course, could have been avoided if I had only spoken to the people who lived in the apartment before me.  The fact that they were basically sprinting out of the place as they moved out makes a whole lot more sense now.

Best of luck to all the new college grads out there, and happy apartment hunting!



~Stephanie~
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