Hannah’s Guide to Apartments: Furniture

Most apartments don’t come furnished.

You probably don’t want them to come furnished, because then if you damage the furniture you’ll be the one paying.

But you probably don’t want to live in an empty apartment.

Here’s what you’ll need:

-bedframe

-mattress

-at least 1 couch

-a TV (obviously not necessary, but nice)

-coffee table

-kitchen table

-chairs for kitchen table

-storage

But Hannah, where do I get these things??

One of the BEST PLACES in my experience is Free & For Sale pages on facebook, ESPECIALLY those for universities. Everyone’s looking to get rid of furniture fast and cheap after graduating/leaving for the summer, so that can be a really great way to get a couch, a few tables, a desk, and bed things with lots of storage. Also, a TV!

It’s also a good idea to wait for big sales (Memorial Day, Labor Day, Black Friday) to buy things like couches or beds or mattresses (or TVs). Keep in mind that if you might be moving around soon, investing in a nice couch isn’t a great idea. HOWEVER, futons are pretty cheap and a good option that guests can also sleep on. Plus, it can be sketchy to buy couches from a stranger. My suggestion here is find a friend of a friend or buy a futon.

Now, you may be tempted to go to IKEA – and IKEA is great for a lot of things. Like children’s bedrooms. But honestly, you can find cheaper and better stuff on amazon, and buy assembly. Amazon’s got a lot of great home goods, especially when it comes to things like curtains, sheets, bathroom storage, etc. Yes, IKEA has great entertainment centers, bookshelves, desks, etc. – but you should really be getting those secondhand if you’re on a budget. My advice? Go there for the cheap food and maybe a toilet brush and then head home.

If you’re looking for really cheap decor, tapestries are always a good way to go. Shein (previously mentioned in my cheap clothing post) and Amazon are also good places to get things like wall stickers, neon signs, and other basic decor. It’s probably best to adopt a minimalist style, unless you’re very crafty and want to fill the walls up with your own artwork. In my first apartment, my roommates and I had a Paint Night where we got drunk off Rose and painted stuff, then hung it all up – that’s a great way to fill up wall space. Also, buying just one large framed photo or painting for the biggest wall makes a huge difference. Society6 has a great selection of art, but it can be expensive (bonus: the money actually goes to the artist!!) Etsy has some cheaper options. Another good option if you have a lot of books or a lot of records is to display them in hanging shelves or displays on the wall! Buying cheap movie posters for your favorite films at allposters or amazon and framing them is a great option too, as is installing a couple shelves with plants. You can find ideas for DIY wall art crafts here, here, here, and here! Making these is also a great bonding activity for new roommates.

If you’re in a gross apartment or your used furniture is gross, there are a ton of ways to spruce it up:

upholster/cover cushions, seats of chairs, and couches: You can actually do this correctly and save a lot of money. Or you can just do what I did and buy a slipcover or a large sheet and cover your couch with it. If your couch is really hard, you can cut a hole and put more stuffing in, or cover the cushions in memory form and then the slipcover. Another good idea is getting a large decorative blanket and draping it over most of the couch. Lots of decorative pillows are also a great way to hide an ugly couch!

-put up wallpaper: there’s a how-to article here, but it’s as basic as peel and stick it on the wall. Target sells some good ones, but you can find them online for even cheaper. This is a great way to temporarily transform a room.

-stick-on backsplash and countertops: basically the same as above. Stick-on countertop also works well on old or cheap desks!

stick-on handles for cabinets, drawers: really the list here is endless

-large area rugs cover gross carpet or hardwood: Wayfair, Walmart, Amazon, and Overstock have good options, but sometimes the best option here is to go to a massive rug store and pick out the pattern you like. Up to you!

And that’s about it for the bigger basics!

Hopefully you don’t get in fights with your roommates over their ugly furniture!!

Hannah’s Guide to Apartments: Utilities

Here’s something that was a complete mystery to me when I got my first apartment: you have to set up utilities.

Even, oftentimes, when it is included in the rent and subsidized by the landlord. If you do not call and set them up, you will not have power or water or anything when you move in (well, you might the first day, but not after).

Basically, you need to set up the essentials: water, power, and gas. Now, these may be with 3 different companies, or all with one. Oftentimes it’s going to depend on your area. The best thing to do is to ask the former tenants or landlord what they use, or even your parents or a friend if they live close by. If you live in Los Angeles, your building probably uses LADWP for water and power and SoCalGas for gas.

You’re also going to need Wifi. Now, back in the day everyone packaged wifi with telephone and cable services – so just think of what company you got your cell phone at, or what company your family had cable through, and they probably have wifi. They’ll try to sell you on the packaged three, but in today’s age you really only need internet. You should be able to find this for about $50/month. I have mine with Time Warner but there are plenty of good options! If you really want cable you can package that in.

Utilities are annoying, and you can only have one person paying each. If you live with multiple people, a great option is for one person to just pay all the utilities and then charge everyone through an app called Splitwise. You just put in what you paid and who you’re splitting with and it’ll do the math! It also connects to venmo.

The person who takes cares of the all the utilities should definitely get a discount on the rent for their extra work.

Checking your bank account after paying utilities for the entire apartment:

Hannah’s Guide To Finding An Apartment

**Obviously this will be very CA-based, but should apply around the US!

So you’re done with high school/college and you’re looking for your first apartment. Where do you start?

Zillow and apartments.com are probably the best places to find apartments. Both allow you to draw a circle around the area you want to live, or put in a specific city or zip code, or simply move around on a map. Zillow is better for houses, townhomes, and larger apartments, while apartments.com is better for apartment buildings with amenities. You’ll probably find a lot of the same listings on both, though! Trulia can also be a good resource. You can filter by bedrooms, bathrooms, and amenities!

For shorter term rentals (a few months), one of the best options is actually airbnb. If you set your dates over a month, the prices will start showing up as monthly, and you’ll see which places are available for monthly rentals. Renting a room in a house will probably be pretty affordable, but if you’re looking for an apartment, as it’s short term and will come fully furnished with utilities paid, it will be pretty expensive.

Facebook can also be a good place to find apartments, but make sure you see the apartment and get in contact with an actual landlord, because scams can run amuck here. If you’re looking for housing by a university, though, this is a good option. Students also constantly sublease their apartments during summer/while they go abroad for cheap rates, so if you’re young and want to live by a university, facebook can be a great place to find an empty room in an apartment with students!

A real estate agent is also an option. In New York, I’m told this is necessary. The problem is that the real estate option will take a fee of about one month’s rent, so that can be frustrating. However, they have access to properties that aren’t always listed online and usually have relationships with landlords and property owners that might give you priority over other potential renters. This can be a good option especially if you’re looking for a bigger house to rent.

If you can’t afford a studio or a one-bedroom, or you don’t want to live alone and have no one to live with, you’ll have to deal with finding roommates.

My first suggestion would be to reach out on facebook to school or alumni groups to see if there is anyone you vaguely know who would be interested. Ask around. But if you’re still having no luck, craigslist is always an option. I would highly recommend you meet with potential roommates in a public place, and if you are a girl only pick girl roommates. There will probably be a good amount of interest, especially if you’ve already found a nice place, so make sure to be picky!

Applying for an apartment is a whole new ballgame. You’ll need to have a good credit score, probably an income that’s at LEAST 2.5x the rent (combined between tenants), enough money for a security deposit (at least first and last month’s rent), and good rental history. OR, you can have your parents co-sign, but some renters would rather just not deal with that, and they’d have to cosign on the whole property.

It can seem like they want to know everything from your blood type to how you like your eggs – it’s honestly all standard. But if you feel like the landlord is a little too invested in your personal life – they want to talk to you on the phone like 8x and ask weird questions – that might be time to run, because they’re probably going to be like that the whole time.

Make sure you see the place before you move, and while you’re seeing it TALK TO THE TENANTS to see if they’re happy there! You’ll probably be stuck there a whole year at least, so you want to make sure you’re happy.

Good luck!