As a sequel to an earlier article, Why You Need to Move Out of Your Parents’ House ASAP, today I am writing a beginner’s guide to renting your very own first bachelor pad. I understand that some younger guys out there are thinking about moving out on their own for the first time, but are a bit unsure about what to look for. Being someone who has lived on my own in 5 different cities across 2 continents, I feel that I have some experience on this subject.
Tired of your parents nagging at your heels all day and night? Frustrated by the lack of privacy or peace at your frat house? Disgusted by your immature roommate’s filthy trail of trimmed pubic hair littering the bathroom floor? It’s time to finally get your own place.
Of course, getting your very own bachelor pad is gonna cost you a bit of money. But, if you have a decent income flow (job, stacked scholarships, rich parents, etc.) and can afford it, then it’s totally worth every penny. I have been living on my own on-and-off since I was 19, with intermittent tenures back at my parents’ house or in houses with roommates, and I can tell you with 100% confidence that living alone is by far the most comfortable, especially if you are an introvert like myself (most people are introverts). You are on your own agenda, 100% of the time, and you do whatever you want, whenever you want. If I feel like sitting on the couch naked, eating stinky tofu, and watching an entire season of Walking Dead on a Saturday, I can do that. No need to worry about roommates’ having obnoxious friends visiting or parents telling me to go be doctor. The above scenario is hypothetical, in case you were wondering. I don’t eat stinky tofu.
Alright, time to cut the rambling. You need to consider the following things when looking for your first bachelor pad:
Location is perhaps the most important thing to consider if you are a 20-something fella looking for a man-cave. The main reason you are moving out is to have your freedom and be able to fully enjoy life in your wonderful 20’s. In order to do that in the most efficient manner possible, you need to consider the logistics of your home base. If you are interested in meeting new people, partying, attending events and festivals, then you need to choose a location that is suitable for doing so. In this case, the best choice would be to live in the center of the city, or in a neighbourhood that’s full of bars and restaurants. However, for many people this is either impossible or simply unwise, due to the ridiculous rent prices often found in these neighbourhoods. This is especially true if you find yourself in one of the top-tier “World Cities” like London, Paris, New York, or San Francisco. However, if you live in a “second- or third-tier city” like Montreal, Minneapolis, Denver, or Pittsburgh, and assuming you have a decent entry-level job, then you may find it possible to live in some very central areas of these cities. Having killer logistics can make all the difference when it comes to things like growing your social circle, or (especially) getting girls to come over. Imagine this – you went on a successful second date with a lady at a romantic little wine bar in the center of the city, and you are about to ask her to come to your place to chill for a bit and watch some Netflix. You say, “hey let’s go chill at my place for a bit and watch a movie, I live in Suburbville, it’s only a 20-minute bus ride from the end of the yellow line”. She hesitates for a brief moment, realizes that your place is on the opposite end of the city from her place, further realizes how big of an investment it is to get there, and remembers that she has to work at the downtown Forever 21 the next morning, and politely declines. Alternatively, if you had your bachelor pad a mere 10-minute walk from the wine bar, you go, “hey let’s go chill at my place for a bit, I live just down the road, practically on your way home”. The excellent logistics make the invitation sound so casual and low-investment, and she is much more likely to say yes.
If you cannot afford to live in the central parts of the city, then the next best option is to find a location that is near major transit terminals. Many cities have areas that are moderately priced and are conveniently reached due to the presence of major transit stations. Find a place that’s near a metro station, which would allow you to get to downtown within 10-20 minutes on the train. Additionally, take into consideration the fact that in most cities the metro stops running after midnight or 2AM, and make sure there are night buses in your area that connect you to the downtown districts. If you are concerned by the cost of rent, then you certainly don’t want to be spending $50 for a cab ride home every Friday night.
As well, social outings aside, you want to consider other logistic items near your home. Do you have a vehicle? If yes, then obviously you need to ask if there is parking available. If not, then again, familiarize yourself with the transit system, and ask yourself the following questions:
How long would it take me to get to the nearest grocery store? Is it a 10-minute walk (ideal), 2 stops on the metro (also good), or 2 bus rides (not ideal)? How far is it from my school/work? If you are looking at over 45 minutes of one-way commute to school/work everyday, then it’s probably not ideal, unless you have great concentration and are able to productively utilize commuting time for reading or writing. Again, for some people this is the reality because they live in places like NYC or London. Other logistic things you need to consider include the location of a gym (if you don’t already have one at school or work) or whatever hobby venues you may frequent (e.g. basketball court, skate park, hospital for volunteering, knitting club, etc.).
The next thing you need to keep in mind is: what does the place offer?
Do you have your own furniture? If not, then, is the place furnished? Or do you want to buy your furniture? My personal advice for a first-timer is to get a furnished place – you are likely to move again and again later on anyway, so it’s best to have as little baggage as possible at the beginning. Plus, new furniture can be very expensive. However, if you found a perfect but unfurnished place, you can also find fairly new and high quality used furniture on Kijiji or Craigslist. Just make sure to check out the living environment you are getting your used furniture from – make sure the place is clean and you are unlikely to run into any issues with bedbugs. Don’t fret – personally I have bought mostly used furniture over the years and I have never encountered any bedbugs. Regardless, you should always do your research, and The Bedbug Registry is a useful resource to check into your potential new apartment building or your second-hand furniture’s neighbourhood for any bedbug alerts.
Some other things to pay attention to – does the kitchen have all the appliances you need? Most apartments these days will have a fridge, stove, and sometimes a dishwasher. Some places may only have kitchenettes though or no kitchen fan above the stove – this is a problem if you like to cook your own meals (you should, it’s healthier and cheaper). You should also remember to check out the parking situation if you have a car, and whether or not there is in-suite or in-building laundry. Laundromats suck, and you hardly ever see pretty girls in a Laundromat, unlike what the movies tell you.
The luxury amenities are what they are – luxury. They are not necessary so unless you’ve got the extra money to spend, I wouldn’t worry about whether or not there is a killer view, pool, sauna, or gym at your building. They are helpful for impressing your guests, but they are not nearly as important as the location. If you have an extra couple hundred dollars to spend on rent, get a smaller/older place in the city rather than a fancy new apartment tower near the suburbs. Location always trumps luxury amenities. I am a bit of a snob when it comes to the view though, because when I’m looking at the back of another apartment building through my living room window I feel like I’m trapped in a communist housing compound.
The final thing to consider is, of course, the price. Indeed, the price of rent for a property can make or break a decision for many of us. Before you set your mind to any particular neighbourhood, make sure you check ads to get a sense for the market price of that neighbourhood. I use sites like Kijiji, Craigslist, or Padmapper to do my searches. Once you have a good understanding of what to expect in terms of paying rent, then you can weigh the various factors (location vs. amenities vs. price) to determine the best options to set up viewings for. If the ad doesn’t say so already, make sure you ask them if the rent includes utilities (water/heating/electricity) or cable/internet – that could easily be $200/month difference. Also, be wary of prices that are significantly lower than everything else you find in the area – offers that are too good to be true are hardly ever true. They are often either hiding some major flaws or they are scammers. Scammers exist in every market, and there are quite a few of them in the rental market. I once saw an ad of a sweet place and emailed to set up a viewing, the guy replied saying that he was out of town and couldn’t show me, and that I had to decide based on the pictures. Needless to say, I shut him down. NEVER EVER commit to a place without seeing it in person first. This seems like common sense but, I already know of two people in my life who have made this mistake and 1) came to regret it to the point of crying after actually moving in, 2) got scammed for a deposit with no actual apartment. Bad people are out there, and you can never be too trusting with strangers!
Another piece of advice: if you are a young guy starting at an entry-level position or living off scholarship/TA money in grad school, and want to be able to save some money each month – don’t get a place where the rent costs more than 1/3 of your monthly income. If it goes over by a couple hundred dollars, that should be fine, but don’t rent a sweet pad that costs you a half-month’s salary. Chances are you will want to be eating well and plentiful to go along with your gym commitments, and food costs will cut deep into the remaining half-month’s salary. Add some entertainment costs to that, and things you inevitably will want to buy, and you are left with almost nothing to save. Rent should be no more than 40% of your monthly salary, that’s the golden rule.
So there you go folks, those are the things you must consider when moving out on your own for the first time. Again, this is advice meant for people who are interested in getting their own place for the first time, with little experience. If you are an extroverted person who prefers to live in the company of other people and noises, then by all means stay with roommates. I am not saying that everyone needs to move out and live alone, although I do feel that living in solitude is an important step in a man’s path to maturing. If you have any other questions that I didn’t cover, leave them in the comments section below.