5 Housing Tips for College Grads

It’s graduation season, which means thousands of Millennials all over the country are currently figuring out not only how, but also where to live now that they’re out of college. While Accenture reports that more than 40 percent of American college graduates plan on moving back in with their parents, becoming a “boomerang kid” doesn’t have to be the only option for the class of 2016. Whether you’re a Millennial yourself or the proud parent of one, here are five housing tips for college grads from higher education to the real world:

Start Online

While friends and relatives can be great resources for finding a place to live, a more reliable option is to start with sites such as Trulia, Zillow or StreetEasy. All offer property reviews by local residents, as well as price trends and crime reports for a particular area. Another helpful site is Padmapper, which filters apartments by price and number of rooms.

Use a Realtor

Sure, realtors can cost you a month’s rent or more for their services. But when you consider how many housing scams and other pitfalls can be avoided by using one, that fee can seem like a small price to pay. Not only do realtors provide you with a variety of rental properties to choose from, but they also represent your rights as a tenant and guide you through the lease-signing process – which can be confusing and potentially lead to legal problems. If possible, secure a realtor at least 90 days before you plan on moving. That way, you’ll have plenty of time to discuss your price range and the ideal place you’re looking for.

Know Your Limits

Generally speaking, your rent should cost around 30 percent of your monthly salary. So if you’ve landed a job that pays $35K a year after taxes, you shouldn’t be spending more than $1,000 each month on rent. Most landlords in cities like New York and San Francisco require your salary to be at least 40 times your monthly rent. If, like most post-grads in an entry-level job, you don’t have that kind of money in the bank, consider asking a parent or relative to act as your guarantor or co-signer. While they’ll technically be liable if you default on rent, they may prefer this risk of having you move back in with them.

Get a Roommate – or Three

Sharing an apartment or house with someone is the easiest way to split costs and use your living space efficiently. And since you’ll be more likely to secure a larger and more luxurious place than you could afford on your own, it’s a great way to improve the quality of your living conditions. As a preemptive measure, meet with your potential roommates before you begin looking for a place. Discuss budgets, living habits, must-haves, and nice-to-haves to ensure compatibility and improve your chances of finding a rental that meets everyone’s expectations.

If you’ve already secured a place but need to find roommates quickly in order to make your rent, check out EasyRoommate or Roommates.com. Sites like these allow you to post listings, view profiles of potential roommates, and even hire professional services to match you with ideal candidates. A more old-fashioned alternative is to ask family members, friends or co-workers if they know anyone who’s looking for a place. While it may take longer to find a roommate this way, you’ll be more likely to click with someone who’s been vetted by people you know and trust.

Don’t Be Impulsive

Both realtors and landlords are infamous for pressuring prospective tenants into renting a property with lines like “If you don’t take it, the next person will,” or “Somebody already put in an application, but if you act now there’s still a chance you can have it.” While it’s easy to get caught up in the hysteria of finding a place to live, resist the impulse to make a snap decision. Instead, make sure you ask the right questions.

How long will your commute be? Is there a grocery store, a drugstore and a gym nearby? How far away is the nearest hospital? Is the neighborhood safe? Is there a superintendent or maintenance staff on call? Are utilities included? Will you have your own washer and dryer? Is there an elevator? Has there been any pest control or structural problems in the last five years? Getting answers to these kinds of questions is crucial when it comes to making an informed decision about where you want to live – and ensuring you end up in a place that will truly make you happy.

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