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7 Essential Things to Know When Moving Out

By: Davina Ward
August 24, 2020

If you're like most young adults, moving out of your parents' home when you turn 18 is one thing you look forward to most! It's the first time you get a taste of independence. It’s also the first time you get to create your own space according to your style and comfort.

However, it's easy to get carried away with dreams of not contending with a curfew and living on your own. The reality is that moving out is a major challenge, and when you actually do it — a major achievement. It takes careful planning and execution of everything from budgeting to choosing a place that best suits your needs.

In short, moving out isn't easy. Most young adults need a guide to successfully transitioning from mom and dad's home to their own apartment.

Luckily, this is that guide! Here's absolutely everything you need to know about moving out and how to nail getting your first apartment. Let's dive in!

1. Figure Out How Much Rent You Can Afford

Usually, the biggest hurdle to moving out that young adults face is actually being able to afford their first apartment. Apartments aren't cheap. Neither are the supplies to furnish a home completely. That doesn't even include moving costs.

Beyond the cost of moving out, there are other financial factors that you'll have to plan around. These include your credit score, an emergency fund, and whether you can provide evidence of your financial health when applying for apartments.

Here's a breakdown of the financial aspects of moving out to your first apartment.

What's Your Budget?

If you want to be in a healthy and stable financial position before moving out, you'll need an accurate budget. A budget helps you get an in-depth look at your financial situation. That includes your income, necessary expenses, and savings.

Start by figuring out your gross monthly income before tax. Generally, your rent payment should not be more than 30% of this number. Alternatively, you can use our rent calculator to help you find the right number.

Once you have both your income and your max estimated monthly rent payment, you can start factoring in the following costs:

  • Utility Bills (state-by-state breakdown here)
  • Moving Costs (varies from $500 - $6,000 depending on household size and distance moved)
  • Application Fees (generally between $25 - $75)
  • Security Deposit (varies, but is generally set at the same cost of one month's rent)
  • Household Essentials (varies greatly, but includes groceries, appliances, furniture, cleaning products, and more.)

To set an accurate budget, you're going to have to do some research... like a lot of research. List out all the things you'll need for your new home, then price them online.

Make sure to account for every last item, from a couch to a stick of butter. It's tedious, but the only way to ensure that you can afford everything is knowing exactly what everything is and how much it'll cost you.

What Does Your Credit Score Look Like?

If you're just moving out, it's unlikely that you'll have an established credit history. People establish credit histories when they take out loans, utilize credit cards, or have overdue bills that companies report to a credit bureau.

However, if you have established credit, you'll need to ensure that your credit score is high enough to rent. You can check at AnnualCreditReport.com. Generally, the minimum credit score that's required to rent an apartment is 650.

If you lack established credit, that doesn't mean that you can't rent. However, you’ll need to provide proof of your financial stability through pay stubs, bank statements, or other documents.

This serves as evidence that you’ll be able to pay for an apartment, even if you haven't had time to establish credit. You can work to improve your credit score over time. However, it's not an immediate solution.

Will You Need a Co-signer or Guarantor?

If you're just moving out, lack an established credit history, and don't have an income that impresses your landlord, it can be challenging to convince a landlord to rent to you. Most landlords see first-time renters as a liability.

However, with a co-signer or guarantor, your landlord might be more willing to rent to you.

A co-signer or guarantor will sign the lease agreement and generally agree to cover the cost of rent, whether explicitly or inherently. Though the two terms are often used interchangeably, a guarantor generally has to cover any debts left by the renter, whether the guarantor lives there or not. A co-signer generally lives in the apartment unit and is treated as a tenant. They are inherently responsible for covering the rent.

If a landlord asks you to present a co-signer or guarantor, be sure to ask them to clarify their meaning of the term.

2. Narrow Down the Location

Knowing that you want to move is the easy part. Choosing where to move is where things get difficult.

With a literal world of options available, it can be overwhelming to choose where you should live.

Wherever you move, be sure to consider the commute time to your common destinations. Those include work, school, loved ones, the grocery store, and wherever else you spend your time. You don't want to live inconveniently far from these places.

When you've sufficiently narrowed down your options to a single city or town, you can make final decisions regarding the neighborhood in which you'd like to live. This’ll require a bit more research and some consideration on your part.

What do you want in a neighborhood? Be sure to consider the following when deciding which neighborhood to move into:

  • Safety
  • Convenience
  • Proximity to Important Locations (school, work, etc.)
  • Walkability
  • Entertainment
  • Shopping Options
  • Parking
  • Public Transportation
  • Demographics of the Neighborhood (you don't want to be the only young adult in a neighborhood of retirees!)

Once you make a final decision, you'll be able to start the apartment hunt! It's arguably the most exciting part.

3. Find your Perfect Apartment

Everyone has an apartment that's perfect for them, one that meets all their needs. Before starting your apartment search in vain, you'll need to consider what you want in an apartment and how you can get it.

There are many details to consider. But once you're lounging in your comfy living room, you'll thank yourself for the effort you put into finding your perfect apartment.

Here are some essential questions to ask yourself when planning out your perfect apartment:

  • Do you want to live in a large or small community? (i.e., apartment building or multi-unit house)
  • What amenities do you need in your apartment or within your apartment building? (i.e., doorman, laundry facilities, gym, outside area, dishwasher, pet-friendly)
  • How many bedrooms do you need?
  • What features complement your style? (Do you absolutely need exposed brick? Large windows? Vaulted ceilings?)
  • Would you prefer a garden, basement, or top-floor apartment?
  • Will you be living with roommates?

Think carefully about the answers to these questions. They're crucial when it comes to ensuring that you find the perfect apartment.

For example, if you determine that you'll be living with roommates, you'll likely prefer a dishwasher and, of course, multiple bedrooms. If you plan on bringing your pet, then you can only consider pet-friendly units.

Also, you'll need to consider the advantages that certain amenities offer. An apartment building with a gym means that you can save money by canceling your gym membership. Not to mention, you'll save on gas and time by eliminating the commute from your morning workout routine.

Draft a list of your opinions on your perfect apartment. Include what you'd like, what you can live without, and what you need.

Be flexible. Even an apartment that doesn’t have everything you want can end up being the perfect fit for you in the long run. Go on apartment tours prepared with questions to ensure that you get the most out of your search.

4. Look Out for Common Rental Scams

Unfortunately, you'll need to keep a wary eye out for rental scams during your search. Since the rental industry is so large and there are many inexperienced applicants out there, scammers are common.

That said, you can avoid rental fraud scams by knowing how to identify them. Here are some of the most common rental scams to avoid.

The “Too Good to Be True” Scam

It's just good life advice to understand that if something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. The goals of a landlord renting out their property are to secure additional income and protect their property by renting to responsible tenants.

If you see a listing for an apartment that is selling well below the market rate or seems lax on requirements for applicants, run the other way. Both of these details imply that the landlord is desperate to get anyone into the unit.

Typically, this means there’s something wrong with the unit that is scaring most prospects off. Or, the unit isn't in the best shape to begin with.

Your apartment isn't something to try to save big on. Stick to listings that sound legit, so long as they're in your budget. This’ll help you avoid renting a terrible unit.

The Third-Party Scam

If the person showing you the unit isn't the landlord/owner or the property manager (or a licensed real estate agent if you are buying), they shouldn't be showing you the unit. More importantly, you shouldn't be letting any third party handle any aspect of the rental application process.

Typically, in a case where you're dealing with a third-party during the rental process, they're actually scammers looking to take your money and run. Do your due diligence by keeping an eye out for identical listings on apartment search sites. Scammers often use these to lure in prospects.

The No-Lease Scam

Anyone who wants you to rent without a lease agreement puts you in a position with no rights. Without a lease agreement, you aren't protected as a tenant. You’ll be completely subject to anything that the landlord wants.

This can include high unexpected rent raises, unfulfilled maintenance requests, and being kicked out with no notice. The takeaway? Never rent without a lease!

5. Prepare for Moving Day

Once you've found your dream apartment and have signed a lease, you can get ready for move-in day!

Now’s the time to prepare for your upcoming move. That includes planning to get your belongings to your new place, changing your address, and ordering all the new things you'll need.

If you decide that you need to hire movers to help out, then be sure to compare prices and read reviews before making a final decision. You might also choose to do a bit of spring cleaning. It can help you get rid of things that you no longer need or don't want to bring to your new place.

Movers often charge by hours of labor and the number of things that require moving. So, be sure to get quotes after you've removed some clutter.

If you don't have a lot of things to move, then you can try to recruit some friends to help you make your move. Consider making it a bit of a party. Offer free beer, some food, and, of course, great company. It can also be a going-away party for you and your family.

6. Shop for your Apartment Essentials

The apartment essentials you'll need will depend on your unique situation. However, it's a great opportunity to make this new space "yours." You can choose decor items, furniture, and even food that's to your liking. That said, there are a ton of things that you'll need for your home.

You’ll likely need an apartment checklist to keep everything straight.

Here are some of the core apartment essentials you'll need to plan on having:

  • Furniture for Each Room: List out each room in the apartment and the furniture you'll need for each one. Take this a step further by creating a budget for every room. Furniture isn't cheap, so this can help immensely!
  • Cleaning Supplies: You'll be in charge of cleaning now, so you'll need to have the essentials on hand. A broom & dustpan, dishwashing supplies, bathroom cleaning supplies, and a mop are just the essentials.
  • Laundry Supplies: Regardless of where you'll be doing your laundry, you'll need supplies, including a dirty clothes bin, detergent, dryer sheets, and more.
  • Groceries: Grab a sheet of paper and create an essential grocery list. This’ll be a longer trip, so plan accordingly. You'll want to hit on the major categories of spices, meat, carbs, fruits, vegetables, and pantry items.

7. Get to Know Your New Home

Once you've moved in, get to know your new home! Explore all the apartment amenities, whether it's lounging in an outside area, getting a workout in the gym, or doing your first load of laundry in the laundry room.

If possible, check out local parks (while the weather is still warm!), visit restaurants, and find a favorite coffee shop! Make the most of your move out, but don't forget to check on your parents!

Final Thoughts

Moving out is one of the hallmarks of "adulting." Most importantly, it's a chance to shape your future by cultivating your own space.

Your home should be your sanctuary, where you can enjoy young adulthood and escape from the pressures and stress of the "real world." So, when you're ready to make the move, it's important to do it right!

You’ve worked hard to determine what you need in an apartment. Apartment List helps you get the most out of that hard work by curating lists of available apartments in your area. Ready to start apartment hunting? Just get started with the quiz above.

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