For college seniors, commencement is approaching fast. If you haven’t already found a place to live after graduation, now is the time to start your search. Even if you plan to live in the same city as your alma mater, campus apartments are notoriously lackluster.
It’s time to match your home to the professional work you’ll be doing. Here are four things to consider as you search for the right place.
1. Age Appropriate Décor
Decorating your first apartment usually starts with getting rid of your college furniture. It’s time to recycle the indoor folding chairs you borrowed from your parents’ garage freshman year. As you get more comfortable in your new professional life, you may decide to have co-workers over for drinks and games. Spring for some real furniture that can’t be knocked over and broken too easily when groups of people are mingling.
If you don’t have the budget to shop at a big box store, check garage sales and flea markets. People often sell beds, couches, dressers and even silverware at discounted prices. If something isn’t the exact color you want, paint or stain it to match the other items you’ve already acquired. Bedding, throw pillows, paintings and quirky knick-knacks that make your place unique can often be found inexpensively at garage sales or online marketplaces like Etsy.
2. Enough Space for Work and Play
As more professionals are telecommuting, home offices take precedence over spacious master bathrooms and culinary-grade kitchens. And, as a recent graduate, you’ll probably lack access to the many campus libraries and study rooms you relied on during your academic years. Unless you want to work out of distracting coffee shops every day, you should look for a rental with at least enough room to fit a desk.
Keeping work out of the way is ideal, but not always practical. If you can’t find an affordable apartment with an extra bedroom or den, hang curtains to block off your “office” from spaces designated for relaxation. Maintaining a work-life balance is important, and when the weekend comes the last thing you want is your job staring you in the face.
Speaking of the weekend, you’ll likely need enough room to have a few friends over. As you get older, it’s common for 20-somethings to host dinner parties, networking events and cozy hangouts instead of venturing out to the hottest bars every Friday night. If you’re working with a tight budget, prioritize large entertainment spaces in your new apartment and put less emphasis on your bedroom size. If you’re in a warm climate, decks and patios are beneficial year-round. Open-air living spaces are great for entertaining family and friends without taking up valuable indoor square footage.
3. The Right Price for Your Financial Future
Money is probably going to be a bit tight during your first year or two after college. Your apartment should be something you wouldn’t mind staying in for at least a few years – but it’s critical not to go overboard on rent when you first venture out on your own.
Find an apartment that’s one-third or less of your monthly take-home pay. That will give you plenty of room for utilities and other necessities, plus a nice chunk to allocate toward savings. Just because you’re working now doesn’t mean you should spend every last penny. Save some for the day you want to buy that new car or splurge for a larger, more comfortable apartment.
4. Convenient, Fun and Safe
If you don’t have a car, choose a location that’s close enough to work so you can walk, bike or ride public transportation easily. Proximity to work is important, particularly if you’re working more than 40 hours a week on a big project. You can maximize your sleep and still make it in on time without accommodating a long commute.
Most young adults partake in a little nightlife action, so it’s wise to factor restaurants and clubs into your neighborhood selections. Being close to the action is beneficial – especially if you live in a particularly cold climate and want to get out of the house without freezing for extended periods. Once you’ve settled on an apartment and locale, drive around at different points during the day to observe traffic patterns, sidewalk congestion, livelihood and overall safety. Pretending to be a local is the quickest way to see if the neighborhood is a good fit for you.
Graduating college marks the beginning of a major transition – make your apartment a reflection of your new, young and professional lifestyle. Share your apartment tips in the comments below or catch up with us on Facebook.