December 17, 2020
Moving into Your First Apartment During a Pandemic
A modern, open-concept apartment with a beige couch and office spaceSource: Adobe Stock
Moving into your first apartment is already an exciting whirlwind of a transition — now add a pandemic into the mix and it may seem even more daunting.
Depending on how the pandemic has taken hold of your area — between case rises and the population’s view on mask-wearing — your move may or may not be heavily impacted by COVID-19 restrictions.
Once you’ve found a place, make sure to ask the property management what their rules and regulations are. For example:
- Are you allowed to have movers help you?
- Are masks required in the hallways/stairways?
- Did the previous tenant test for coronavirus/have there been any virus outbreaks in the complex that management is aware of?
Is Now Really the Right Time to Move?
In a time where coronavirus has already canceled graduation ceremonies and holidays, it’s perfectly normal to wonder: is now really the time to move?
This requires a bit of soul searching that you’ll have to do on your own.
From a financial standpoint, maybe. Again, depending on where you’re moving to, the pandemic has either sharply decreased or increased rent, according to Zumper’s national rent report.
Furthermore, you’ll have to consider your financial situation — if you’re temporarily (or permanently) laid off due to another pandemic lockdown, do you have another steady flow of income you could rely on to pay your rent?
From a safety standpoint, this again depends on where you’re moving to. If cases are on the rise, do you really want to live in such close quarters to a bunch of other strangers who may or may not believe in social distancing?
From a personal standpoint, is it time to change up your space? Are you seeking to gain some independence? Do you need to move closer to school or work?
If you still decide to go forward with moving after giving it some thought, here’s what you should prepare for next.
Tips For Moving into Your First Apartment During a Pandemic
Get Your Finances in Order
First, calculate your income v.s. your monthly expenses. What expenses can you cut and is there any way you could increase your income (i.e. through gig work, freelancing, etc…)? How much do you currently have saved and is there enough surplus for you to dip into your stashed cash for furniture or groceries?
Next, take account of any debt you currently have — credit cards, student loans, etc… Before adding in the additional expenses that come with living on your own, pay down your debt.
Lowering your debt raises your credit score. The higher your credit score is, the lower your security deposit will be.
Plus, having some wiggle room on your credit cards will help you finance furniture and appliances for your move.
Figure Out Your Apartment “Must Haves”
Just because there’s a pandemic doesn’t mean you’re not entitled to be picky. Some common apartment must-haves include:
- In-unit washer and dryer
- Flat rate utilities
- A particular square footage
- Being within close proximity of your job or your school
- Living within walking distance of public transportation
- Having a grocery store nearby
- Pets being allowed
- Having a gym or pool on the property
- Having additional storage on the property
- Having a parking garage
Your must-haves are unique to you. Additionally, you may find it helpful to organize your “must-haves” into two lists: “Absolute must-haves” and “Amenities that would just be nice to have.”
Ask Your Landlord/Property Manager About Any and All Moving Fees
Generally speaking, you’ll probably be required to pay the first month’s rent plus a security deposit, but there could be additional moving fees involved.
You should also ask your landlord about utilities and extermination. How much are utilities? Are electricity and water included? Do you pay a flat rate or do you pay depending on your usage? Is exterminating included?
It’s better to know of these fees before you move, rather than finding out after the fact.
Say Yes to the Virtual Tour
If you’re given the option of having a virtual tour, go for it. You may be given the option of a real-time virtual tour or the listing agent may send you a video of the apartment.
If you do a real-time virtual tour, ask the listing agent if you’re allowed to record the video call. That way, you can watch it back as many times as you’d like before making your decision.
Before signing your lease or agreeing to anything, you should go see the apartment in person, too.
In the event that you can’t do an in-person tour, do your research. Read reviews of the property online — but keep in mind that older reviews may have been left while the property was under different management, so some opinions may no longer be applicable.
You should look at the property and the surrounding area on Google Maps, as well.
Take Note of the Essentials
Moving into your first apartment is a lot like starting a new game on “Animal Crossing.” You don’t have a whole lot at first (after all, you start in a tent on “Animal Crossing”), but saving your bells and building up your place is the most fun and rewarding part of the game.
Unless you’re starting off stacked, it’s a very similar process in real life. Don’t expect to have a fully-furnished place right away — hell, you might even be sleeping on an air mattress and drinking out of a coffee pot for the first week or so. But that’s what makes it so memorable.
Editor burgundy bug drinking coffee mixed with protein powder straight from the coffee potSource: The Burgundy Zine
At this point, you should have pretty good bearings of what your finances are and what your upcoming expenses will be.
Taking those into consideration, figure out what you absolutely need when you first move in and what you already have. Make lists. Lots of them.
Personally, here are some of the things I prioritized while moving into my first place:
- A coffee machine
- Groceries — start with items that have a good shelf life
- Cleaning supplies and toiletries — vacuum, mop, paper towels, toilet paper, an all-purpose cleaner, a wood cleaner
- Towels — bath and dish towels
- Floor pillows
- Desks and an office chair
- Shelving and storage
- Kitchen supplies — a cookware set, utensils, plates, and mugs. Lots and lots of mugs.
- A Bed
- A TV
- A dining room set
Some purchases will come later down the road and that’s okay.
For example, I didn’t purchase a couch until about a month after my move — and my goodness was that a game-changer.
Furthermore, it doesn’t always pay to be cheap. Sure, there are some items you can get at a better price, but other things — like a memory foam mattress or a nice couch — are worth saving and waiting for.
After all, you may end up taking this furniture with you when you move into your next place, so it’s important you really love it before throwing away money on items your heart isn’t totally set on.
Cut Costs Where You Can
Even the most frugal individuals have some bank account blind spots where they may be bleeding money excessively. But it’s fairly easy to turn this around, just start with:
- Signing up for free memberships with all the grocery stores in the area so you get rewards and coupons
- Taking advantage of coupons and savings as often as possible
- Asking your internet service provider if there are any promotions or specials you’re eligible for — especially if you’re a student
- Deciding whether you actually need cable or not — especially if you’re already paying for three or four streaming services
- Prioritizing groceries over eating out or ordering in
Moving into your first place is an incredibly exciting and rewarding experience. It’s also a learning process that requires patience and careful consideration.
Although the pandemic has put a pause on life as you once knew it, you can still have these milestone moments. It’ll just… be a little different. But that’s okay, so long as you’re doing your part to stay safe.
Regardless of the pandemic, slow and steady wins the race while moving. Pace your purchases and don’t rush into your first place. Take your time and enjoy the process.
You only get to move into your first apartment once, so really allow yourself to take the experience in for what it is.
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