As a campus ambassador for two years at the University of Florida, I believed that the problem that most students had trouble overcoming was their lack of knowledge when it comes to housing. Now, as a graduate of UF and an employee for a local property manager in Gainesville, my suspicious have been confirmed.
Every day, I deal with young students who have moved away from home and find themselves facing the culture shock of dealing with your own apartment or house. Lease contracts; separate bills for utilities, rent, internet, and cable; cleaning and maintenance; security deposits; move-out procedures; pet fees; repercussions for violating a lease; the list of things to worry about goes on and on.
So what’s the good news? The good news is that you will, undoubtedly, get to know and understand all of the intricacies of apartment and house renting. This article, however, is to get you prepared ahead of time, so you don’t find yourself wasting time, money, and stress, on something that should be a very enjoyable experience. Here are some housing tips on making your first housing experience a good one.
1. Investigate an apartment before you move in
Drive by the apartment or house late at night. Make a trip at midnight and see what you can identify. Are you ok with loud partying? Would you rather live in a neighborhood that was quiet through the night? Is any shady activity going on? Get a glimpse of the apartment or house and the neighborhood when the leasing agent isn’t showing you around, and decide if it fits your lifestyle.
Make sure the property also has the right amenities. Do you walk home often? If so, check that there is ample lighting on the streets. Do you use public transportation at night? Determine how far of a walk the apartment property is from the bus stop. If you like to work out or play basketball to keep in shape, how is their gym? Is their basketball court packed or is it getting overgrown with weeds?
2. Talk to your neighbors
Get to know those around you. Participate in any potlucks or house-warming parties your neighbors throw. Or better yet, throw a neighborhood get together yourself for everyone to get acquainted. Next time you go out of town and need someone to watch your pet, you’ll have someone to ask. If you get locked out of your house or apartment, neighbors can have a spare key. Talk and interact, neighbors are a great opportunity to connect and network.
3. Have a bill-paying plan
Put a calendar up in the living room or any common area where all of your roommates will see it. Make sure everyone knows which date certain bills are due. Rent is usually the first, but maybe utilities will be due on the 10th, and then cable on the 16th. Things can get confusing quickly, but not if everyone is on the same page. Make sure you’re communicating with the people you’re living with and making sure they have the same plan you do regarding your bills.
4. Clean, clean, clean
Things can go from excitement to disgust very quickly regarding a new apartment. If you aren’t on top of things, within a week or two there are flies and other bugs in the kitchen, mildew or mold in the bathroom, and heaps of laundry strewn about the bedrooms. Set a schedule for each roommate to do their part. This can be on the same calendar that lists the due date of your bills or you can use a more crude method. My roommates and I used to put dirty dishes on the beds of those who wouldn’t wash them. Needless to say, they got the point rather quickly.
Most importantly, understand that you are renting a home. Make sure that the apartment or house fits your personality and lifestyle. Network with your neighbors and partake in social events in your neighborhood. Make sure you and your roommates are all on the same page with cleanliness and financial responsibilities. Combine all of this advice to take the stress out of your housing experiences and free yourself up to focus on the things that really matter.
Our Guest Blogger, Josh Steppling is a graduate of the Warrington College of Business at the University of Florida, where he was an ambassador to the UF student union. Currently, Josh is a marketing professional, real estate investor, and freelance writer in Gainesville, Florida, and writes for a blog covering the Innovation Square science and technology community.