Living Away From the Dorms: Management Tips for Your First Apartment

For many college-bound young adults, moving into their first apartment feels like a rite of passage, a step toward responsible adulthood after living in dorms or other on-campus housing. Living in an apartment would have marked a lot of firsts–the first time to pay the rent, manage the monthly bills, and even devise a workable budget for groceries. So, whether you have opted to rent a studio apartment or share a rental property with a roommate, these tips help ensure a smooth-sailing apartment living. 

Finding Your First Apartment

 Make a detailed list of qualifiers for your ideal apartment. Are you looking for a rental unit that already comes with appliances such as a washer-dryer combo? Or is proximity to key locations–like grocery shops or the university–your main criterion? Being able to articulate these details will aid in sound decision-making because you can then easily narrow down your choices of rental properties.

With your list of descriptors in hand, go online and begin making local searches. Sites such as help make the task of searching for local rental properties easy. Don’t forget to check out your school’s website, too. There is a big chance that it has a webpage or two devoted to specifics on student accommodation. Here’s an example from Durham University.

Don’t just rely on the online reviews of your prospective apartment units. Find a way to talk to the current tenants. Ask them if the landlord is responsive to requests involving repairs, for example. You should also be mindful of the safety considerations in the area where you intend to live. You are not getting a great deal out of renting a cheap apartment in a neighbourhood known for its high crime rate.

Cleaning and Maintaining Your First Apartment

You no longer live in a dormitory complex where bathrooms and toilets are cleaned regularly by a team of professionals. If you share your apartment with a roommate, remember to designate cleaning responsibilities beforehand the same way all payment-related arrangements are made. Nobody wants to live with a freeloader or a sloppy roommate who refuses to clean up after himself. If you live alone, then cleaning your living space should be a walk in the park. Consider devoting an hour or two per week to tidy up your apartment.

Mind the terms of your lease. Large apartment complexes typically handle all repairs. If you are renting from an individual landlord, you may end up dealing with minor repairs all by yourself. So, it pays to keep your living space in tip-top shape. For instance, the gunk you have allowed to accumulate in the small kitchen of your apartment may accidentally damage the wall. If you are responsible for the cost of such repairs, then that’s one more needless spending you’d be facing.

Managing Your Bills

Create a system that enables you to efficiently manage all your monthly bills (rent, utility bills, internet subscription, etc.). Don’t add late fees to your already-mounting financial burden. Either set up an auto-debit account or deposit your payments a few days before their respective due dates.

Renter’s insurance is crucial. In case there’s an emergency or a disaster that ends up damaging your belongings, your renter’s insurance will provide you with a financial cushion. Check if your lease comes with insurance coverage. If it doesn’t, consider buying one.

Co-signing the lease with your roommate, if you have one, will make both of you jointly liable. This means if one does not pay his share of the rent before the termination of the lease period, then the other is still held accountable for the full unpaid amount.  

Living on a Budget

Your newfound freedom and independence must not come at a price and later bury you in debt. It helps to go through the practical tips for budget-constrained students, which this British Council Education UK webpage has made available.

When it comes to food, you are better off cooking in your apartment than eating out. For variety, use a cookbook. If you have roommates, make arrangements for cooking and grocery shopping. A relatively inexpensive alternative to cooking in your apartment is to sign up for an on-campus meal plan. This is like what you will get if you live in a dorm and have access to a well-appointed dining hall or a cafeteria.

Furnishing your apartment on a fixed budget is easy. Go to garage sales and flea markets. Cheap furniture can also be had as hand-me-downs from other students whose term is about to end. 

Isaac Walters provides support to students in his work and has first-hand knowledge of property searching and related issues. He enjoys sharing his tips and ideas online and writes for a number of different websites.

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