The Process of Renting in the City

My first move to Philly was a very easy process. I moved into an apartment building that I had been to many times before because a friend of mine lived there. I drove down, signed a lease and moved in two weeks later. At the time I was fun-employed during a transition between jobs so I had a lot of free time to do this move in the least stressful way. Lots of organized packing and labels and to do lists. A year and a half later, my next move was a bit more challenging. I spent months trying to decide what neighborhood to move to, what a fair price was for certain square footage, a townhouse or apartment… there were a lot of decisions to be made before we even got started. This move was challenging. It was hard to find a place while working during the week and with personal things getting in the way like interviewing and getting a new job, a family illness and a million other things that kept popping up. Trying to find a new apartment was like a full time job.

Here’s a list of a few things I learned while trying to find a new place to rent in the city. Once we signed the paperwork, I was finally able to breath. It was a lot harder than I thought it would be and we hope to be staying in this house for a long time! Once we had the check submitted, the paperwork signed and a date to move in, I realized there was still a lot more to be done! We have been in our house for six months now and we are still unpacking!

Make a list of things that you cannot live without.
That can be laundry in unit, close to public transportation or a really big closet in the master bedroom. Some things are cosmetic and will have to be reevaluated again to determine if you really can’t live without it. Then there are some things like laundry that are essential to have and can help eliminate options that don’t meet your criteria. If you are working with a realtor or looking on Zillow, you can put in your must haves to shorten the list of available options. This also allows you to have an honest conversation with yourself and the person you will be living with to make sure you know what you can afford financially and what you both need.

Walk around the area you are interested in moving to.
While I loved my old apartment building, I learned quickly after moving there that there wasn’t much around the building. This time around, I did enough research to find out where the food store was, the restaurants and coffee shops in the area and what my commute to work would be like. Spend a full day walking (or driving!) in each direction so you can get your bearings to see if the neighborhood has everything you need. We are still exploring and finding a new CVS or Starbucks in our area but I am happy we got to see what the area had to offer before we committed to anything.

Know your budget.
Jake and I had an honest conversation about our finances and came up with a real number of what we could afford each month. We made a list of what expenses we each had and what our monthly income would be after rent and expenses coming out. We both wanted money to be left over for experiences and available to put into savings so we considered that as well before coming up with a figure. We wanted to make sure that both of us could afford rent and not just one of us. It takes some back and forth to figure out what rent range we could look at and I’m happy we had that conversation first before we started looking at options.

Who is paying for what.
I read an article once that one of the worst things you can do when moving in with a significant other is to split things 50/50. Seems like odd advice but the more I thought about it, I realized that this helps having honest conversations about what each person can afford. Jake and I split rent, electric and gas evenly and sometimes will just pay the full gas bill if it’s low enough and we are feeling generous. We turned one of our extra bedrooms into a media room that has most of Jake’s stuff and his own tv for video games. It is technically a shared space, but I let him do whatever he wants with the space. Since it’s square footage I don’t use, we agreed that Jake would pay the Verizon bill for cable/wifi. He’s the tech guy so I let him pick what type of service to sign up for. By letting him pay for it, I didn’t care about what plan we had or costs. I pay for most groceries because I’m the snacker and I bring a packed lunch to work more often. Jake also does most of the cooking so I think this compromise works for us! We will take turns paying for groceries too when we are stocking up on essentials too! Find a system that works for everyone and that everyone can live with.

The same way you network to find a job or to make friends, you should do the same to find an apartment. I joined Facebook groups that often posted rentals that were available and reached out to realtors to assist us in finding the right home for us. You can also get email notifications on Zillow and other home rental websites – that is actually how we were able to find our place!

Be ready to take action.
I found that the good places go quickly so be sure to have enough money for a down payment and paystubs easily available. We scheduled to tour our current home just minutes after it was posted on Zillow and spent less than 10 minutes in the house during the open house before we walked to the realtor office with a check and a filled out application. Because we had done all of the steps above, we didn’t need much time to talk things over. We fell in love with the house, knew we could afford it and it had everything on our list!

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