10 tips to help you find the perfect apartment after college

Congratulations! You did it! You graduated college and got your degree. But once all the college graduation parties and final hangouts with your friends come to an end, it’s time to hesitantly glare into the next phase of your life. It’s time to get your first apartment.

A lot of us know roughly where we want to go — “I’m moving to New York!” or “I’m off to Chicago!”

But most of us have no idea what we’re in for.

All that hard work in school may have helped you find your dream job, but it won’t help you find your dream apartment. That’s up to you.

“Moving to LA has a lot of unique challenges,” said Katie Goralski, a recent graduate from Syracuse University. “[My roommate and I] constantly were looking for an area that fits both our safety and budgetary needs.”

Katie Goralski, a graduate of Syracuse University, now lives in Los Angeles.

Source: Katie Goralski

That’s really tricky. A lot of times, you find a neighborhood in a city that you love but are soon deflated when you realize you can’t afford to live there. If you opt for a neighborhood where the rent is really cheap, it might not be that safe. You have to find that balance. And it’s not just the rent you have to worry about – it’s everything else. If you’re moving to New York City, for example, you’re going to find that everything costs more. A LOT more. You have to factor that in when you’re figuring out how much rent you can afford.

“Living in New York City is expensive,” said Matt Kennedy, a recent Marymount Manhattan College graduate. “I knew that coming in but didn’t really understand it.”

This may seem daunting, but you’re not alone. Hundreds of thousands of people your age are going through the exact same thing you are. So, first thing: start crunching some numbers.

It’s important to understand your budget and the average rents in the city you want to move to. Pick a neighborhood that’s right for you and try to find a roommate if possible. Start scouring the internet for trustworthy apartment listing sites. Don’t forget to include the cost for utilities and transportation in your budget. And, most apartments will be empty when you first walk in, so you’re going to need some money for furniture.

There’s a lot to think about when looking for the right apartment out of college. Here are a few tips to help you find what’s right for you.

1. Pick your city

For many, this may not be an option based on the job you were hired for. But surprisingly enough, you don’t have to live in the city you are working in. If you can’t afford to live in the city you work in, there are plenty of other surrounding areas that may have cheaper housing.

“Don’t get emotionally caught up in an apartment that you can’t afford and doesn’t suit your budget,” said Bola Sokunbi, CEO of Clever Girl Finance, a company that aims to help young women manage their finances right out of college. “Everyone wants to live in a big city out of college, but if it’s not affordable, you may want to consider working your way up and starting in smaller cities.”

More from College Voices:
College Money 101: From student loans to setting up a budget
Here’s what you need to know about your student loans — before it’s too late
An easy guide to help college students set up their first budget
I want to move to New York after college graduation. Can I afford it?

This factor should be taken into consideration when applying to jobs. Do I really want to live in this city after college? Is it too far from home? Can I afford to live in this city? Don’t apply for a job in a city you don’t want to be in when you graduate. At the end of the day, you want to be happy where you work.

“It’s important to balance your desires with what is realistic for your scenario,” said Erin Lowry, author of the “Broke Millennial” blog and book series. “But you should also find a city that you would want to stay in for at least a few years.”

If you can’t afford anything yet and need to live at home, there’s nothing wrong with that either.

Matt Kennedy, a graduate of Marymount Manhattan College, decided to stay in New York City after graduation.

Courtesy: Matt Kennedy

“Not everyone moved … after graduating college,” Kennedy said. “Some people went home to save money.”

2. Pick a neighborhood

3. Know your budget

4. Visit apartment listing websites

5. Roommates

Getting a roommate is one of the best ways to save money. Not only will you be splitting rent, but also utilities, appliances, furniture and food. The more roommates you have, the less you’ll be paying for housing costs. But again, you have to be careful.

“You really want to find someone that you can trust,” Sokunbi said. “So preferably starting with your friends or someone that you may have previously gone to college with.”

You can even look to friends of friends. Put the word out on social media that you’re looking for a  roommate. A lot of people have also had success finding roommates on Craigslist or other sites. It’s important to add that if you are planning on rooming with someone you don’t know or just recently met, you should do as much research on this person as possible. Ask them where they work or where they went to school. You can try to find some mutual friends and verify as much about them online to make sure they are who they say they are. If you’re going to be living with this person, there needs to be a certain level of trust.

“I moved out to LA with a roommate,” Goralski said. “We’ve been starting to navigate the city together and explore everything that it has to offer.”

When you do find a roommate, there are several conversations that need to be had. How will you be dealing with groceries? How do we handle chores? How much air conditioning will we be using? How do we handle cleaning? What appliances and furniture do we need? What is our policy on overnight guests? These conversations should happen early so you can decide whether living with this person is going to work.

6. Networking!

7. Hidden costs

8. Moving

9. Furnishings

Now that you’re no longer in college, don’t expect your apartment to come furnished. Furniture will likely take a heavy chunk out of your budget.

Facebook Marketplace is probably the best place to get furniture for cheap. People in your area will be selling furniture that they don’t need anymore, and this may be a nice way to get a good bed, mattress, tables and maybe even a couch. You’d be surprised how many people are willing to sell furniture at a discount – or even give it away for free just to get rid of it.

And don’t worry about getting all your furniture at once. It may be tempting to completely furnish your apartment with expensive pieces as soon as you move in, but you need to put your budget first and save for the long term. Focus on the most important furniture first, like a bed and desk.

“You want to budget accordingly based on your financial goals for each month,” Sokunbi said. “Then see what else you have left to spare to furnish your apartment.”

Here’s a pro tip: If you wander or drive around some high-end neighborhoods on garbage day (or the night before), you may be surprised by some of the items you will find on the road. It might be hard to believe, but often people throw out some really amazing stuff just because they need to move it out – they don’t have room, don’t have time or interest to try to sell it, etc. Use this to your advantage! It could be a great opportunity for you to pick up some free pieces of furniture for your apartment!

10. Costs for utilities, groceries, transportation

Outside of your monthly rent payments, there are other costs that you must consider in your budget. Many of these costs will vary based on your consumer behavior, but it’s important to control how much you spend on things like utilities, groceries and transportation once you move in.

“Make sure you’re aware of how much you’re using electricity in your apartment,” Lowry said. “How much air conditioning will you use in the summer? Does that appliance really need to be plugged in all night?”

You’d be surprised how much you can save if you make a habit of looking at everything in terms of how much money it costs and then trying to save and conserve wherever you can.

If you have a roommate, plan on sharing the price for groceries if you know you’ll be cooking together. This is another example of how much you can save with roommates. When I lived with three other guys, we would split the receipt based on which food items we would all eat, and then pay for our individual food items. That way, we wouldn’t be spending money on food that we know we wouldn’t be eating.

Lastly, and likely to be the most costly — transportation. If you live in a city like New York, odds are you will take the subway or train to work every day. However, not all cities have public transportation. When moving into that first apartment, you need to consider how far your place of work will be, and whether you will need a car.

“You want to factor commuting costs into where you want to live,” Sokunbi said. “If there’s an apartment that’s $1,000/month that’s closer to work but there’s also an apartment for $500/month with a commuting cost of $100/month, then you’ll be saving $400 a month.”

If you have a car, you’ll be saving on public transportation, but you’ll also have other costs to consider. Car insurance and gas prices are very expensive nowadays.

And, if you currently have a car but are moving to a big city with public transportation, you might consider giving up your car.

“There are a lot of cities in this country where you 100% have to own a car in order to live there,” Lowry said. “But if you want to live in a big city in an expensive apartment, you may have to sacrifice that car for public transportation.”

It’s a lot to consider, but just be smart about it. Take the time to consider all of these factors. After all, this is where you’re going to be coming home at the end of every day, and this is where you’re keeping all of your stuff. So, you want it to be safe, you want a roommate or roommates you can trust and you want to make sure it doesn’t break the bank.


This may seem overwhelming, but there are plenty of resources that are tailored directly to college students who are looking for that first apartment. These are just a few of the websites that recent graduates told me were most helpful in their search:

  • Craigslist: Not only helpful in finding an apartment, but also great for networking and finding roommates.
  • Apartments.com: A reliable apartment listing website with options for all budgets.
  • Zillow: Another reliable apartment listing website.
  • StreetEasy: NYC apartment listings as well as guides to the city, neighborhoods and more.
  • Facebook Marketplace: Great way to find discounts on furniture and appliances.
  • U-Haul: One of the most well-known moving companies.
  • Social Media! Instagram, Tik Tok and Twitter are great resources to see where people are living out of college and what it’s like — if they love it, hate it or have pro tips.

And just remember: You’re not alone! This is an adventure that you’ll be taking on with millions of other recent graduates. So there will always be people to share stories and advice with. And sometimes it’s just comforting to know that there are other people on the same wild ride that you are!

College Money 101″ is a guide written by college students to help the class of 2022 learn about big money issues they will face in life — from student loans to budgeting and getting their first apartment — and make smart money decisions. And, even if you’re still in school, you can start using this guide right now so you are financially savvy when you graduate and start your adult life on a great financial track. Josh Meyers is the production intern for CNBC’s 5 p.m. ET show “Fast Money” and multimedia program “ETF Edge.” He is a junior at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School. The guide is edited by Cindy Perman.

SIGN UP: Money 101 is an eight-week learning course to financial freedom, delivered weekly to your inbox. For the Spanish version Dinero 101, click here.

CHECK OUTCalculate how much you need to save each paycheck to reach your money goals with Acorns+CNBC

Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.

Source link