College is a time to learn … and make mistakes. And probably one of the steepest learning curves—aside from “don’t live on credit cards” and “no sleep, Red Bull, and midterms aren’t a great mix”—has to do with finding your own apartment. Sure, graduating from dorms to your own digs is exciting. However, far too many are so eager to snag their first apartment, they make decisions they end up regretting long before a school year ends.
That’s why, in this latest installment of our College Student’s Guide to Living on Your Own, we highlight some of the biggest mistakes college students (and grads) make when renting their first apartment. Make sure to study up on what not to do so you can find a place you adore—and can afford—for the long haul.
1. Going over budget
A good rule of thumb is that your monthly rent should be equal to one-third of your take-home salary. So, if you earn (or have access to) $3,000 a month after taxes, your rent should be no more than $1,000—at least in theory. If an apartment doesn’t fit into this budget range, you may have to settle for something with less pizzazz.
And remember, you still have to pay for food, utilities, student loans, transportation, and a host of other things that come with living on your own. Here’s more on how much rent a college student can afford.
2. Renting an apartment without seeing it in person
Many college grads do their apartment hunting on the internet, a great way to see what’s available from the comfort of your couch. However, it doesn’t always show the whole picture.
“More often than not, apartment agencies or landlords post photos of a display room,” says Carlee Linden, a real estate expert at Home Loans. “However, not all rooms are guaranteed to be exactly the same.”
To avoid any surprises, Linden suggests asking the landlord or agency to walk through the apartment you’d be renting or at least one similar to it. Ask when the last…