We’re going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that “post-college” means “graduated.” Congrats! Actually, congrats either way; you’re done with sketchy dorm food, sketchy dorm carpeting, and hopefully sketchy college kids. Ah, but now you have to face the Real World, you know, the One They’ve Been Throwing In Your Face for years now. Even if you’ve rented an apartment before, there are some things you should think about when contemplating how to find your new place.
Proximity to work
Not everyone can live close to work. Just ask my friends who work in downtown San Francisco. But do consider the fact that you’ll be making the commute every weekday. The same number of hours, and, not insignificantly, the same amount of money spent on transportation. Consider how much you can spend on the bus, or a car, before your earnings start to pale in comparison. Are you willing to bike? Will your commute change with the seasons? Think about all of this. Then again, if you’re like most of us, you don’t even have a job, so this is a moot point.
Proximity to friends
It might seem like a secondary issue, and certainly you might not be able to find a place close to where your friends live, but do consider the change you’re about to undergo. You’ll be leaving a ready-made social circle, with people you can meet easily and with whom you share things in common, to…nothing. No frat parties (we hope), no new-semester friend-making, and probably no three-people to a room to save on rent, although the latter really depends on you. The point is, many people find the year after college to be surprisingly lonely. Plan ahead, and try not to live a two-hour commute from everything you hold (socially) dear.
Within your budget
When I say “budget,” I don’t mean “some random number that seems reasonable for the area and for how cuuuuute this apartment is!” I mean, sit down, and calculate all your expenses. Do you have a student loan you need to pay off? Credit card debt? How much is your cell phone? How much do you normally spend on food? On clothes? What other expenses might you incur, like traveling home for the holidays? Are you trying to save? How much per month? When you’ve gone through all of this, compare your expenses to your income, and figure out the real amount you can afford to pay for rent, month in and month out. Conventional wisdom holds that you should not spend more than a third to (in pricier areas) a half of your salary on rent.
Easy to maintain, and generally not skeezy
You’ll have enough on your plate in this life transition without dealing with leaky faucets or the embarrassment of having your friends to dinner when your apartment smells funny. Find a nice, clean place that won’t cause you too many headaches, and that you can invite people to without hiring a professional cleaning service first.
Why go it alone?
Having a roommate may not be your ideal scenario, but spending a grand or more on a studio might not be feasible. Talk to your older friends—what worked for them when it came to renting after college? What didn’t? What mistakes did they make, and what made them happy? The more you can learn from the ones who have gone before, the better. At the end of the day, you’ll make mistakes of your own, but forewarned is forearmed, as they say.
And good luck!
If you need help finding your first post-college apartment, go to www.mynewplace.com and enter your city or zip code — you’ll get a list of great properties in your area!