My First Home

Ah, the first post-collegiate dwelling.  It’s a great experience moving from college campus or your parent’s house to a little space you can call your own.  You sort out who gets which bedroom, decorate, stock the fridge, and feel like a real adult.

Until the faucet in the shower slows down to a trickle.  Or a steady steam of ants appears in your kitchen.  Or your upstairs neighbor enjoys a side gig as a traditional clogger.  Or you realize that the girl you loved to party with in college makes a terrible roommate.

These are all real life scenarios that have happened to real graduates.  The first rule of Zen-like living after college is to embrace the fact that things like this will happen.  Here are some tips for minimizing the pain:

  • Research, research, research. Remember how you used to spend hours in the library doing research for papers?  Utilize those skills before they get rusty.  Before you sign any papers for any living situation, do research.  Find real people who have rented in that building or from that company.  Make sure you’re getting a fair deal and don’t be afraid to negotiate.
  • Reality check. This is my foolproof plan to make sure you don’t get overexcited at the first place you see.  Go visit one apartment/home that is WAY out of your price range.  Ooh and aah at the fancy appliances and hard wood floors.  After that initial excitement, get real and look at places you can afford.  They will not be as nice as the first place thus helping you zone in on what the place is really offering.
  • Know the neighborhood.  I love living in a part of town where I can walk to local eateries, bars, and the grocery store – especially in the winter and the roads aren’t plowed!  Factor in your work commute and personal living habits when scouting a location – “name brand” neighborhoods tend to be just that – more expensive for the same benefits as other parts of town.  Spend a couple days in the ‘hood before you sign a lease – figure out if you like the vibe and if it’s a conducive living environment for you.
  • It’s takes money, honey. Sit down and write out all the real costs of living on your own.  Rent is just a piece of the puzzle – there are security deposits (which rarely come back), moving costs, utilities (many of which require a down payment), and other associated costs.  Renting a house?  Be prepared for the cost of landscaping and snow removal.  Apartment doesn’t have a microwave?  You’ll have to buy your own.  Be sure to discuss all of these costs with your living partners as well before you sign any contracts
  • Read what you sign. This seems simple but it’s very important.  If you don’t 100% understand what you’re signing, show it to someone who does.  Make sure you know the length of your lease, the terms if you want to buy-out, the process for renewing, additional fees for things like trash pick-up or maintenance, etc.  Keep a copy in a safe location for reference!

Each of these guidelines comes down to one thing – time.  Whenever possible, take as much time as necessary finding the right place in your budget.  This may mean living at home while you look or spending a little money to scout possible locations but it’s worth it for a stress-free transition.

Ten basic things to check out in your new home:

  1. Water pressure and drainage – look for leaks, low flow, and draining issues for every faucet in the place
  2. Mold – especially in the bathroom and basement areas
  3. Appliances – what comes included and do they work?  Some places will upgrade appliances if requested for a fee usually less than the cost of purchasing yourself
  4. Look inside the cabinets – it gives you a sense of your storage space but also any pest issues
  5. Outlets – get a sense of how many are in each room and consider bringing something small, like a phone charger, to test a few out
  6. Windows – find out if they open, how secure the locks are, and if there are screens.  Remember that windows that aren’t sealed will leak out valuable heat/air, driving up your utility costs
  7. Lights – how many are in each room and what type?  Will the lighting souces be sufficient or will you need additional lamps?
  8. Floors – examine if the flooring is coming up in any areas  or if there are stains, etc.  If the place has hardwood floors, they may require floor coverings for noise purposes.
  9. Walls  – check for stains and cracks.  Make sure you understand the rules for hanging decorations, fixtures, shelves, etc.
  10. Safety – this is very important.  Be sure you feel sufficiently safe in your new home – do all the doors have locks?  Is the building well-lit?  Who has access to the building?  If you’re looking at renting a house, introduce yourself to your neighbors so you have people looking out for you.


‘Rents as Roommates

First, I want to take a quick minute to say THANK YOU to everyone who has been reading this blog, sharing it with friends, sending me emails, and leaving comments.  It’s been a really exciting experience to watch the pageviews grow each day and to get such wonderful feedback from old friends, new friends, and complete strangers!  During this holiday weekend, as I enjoy grilled meats and cold beers, I will be thinking of each of you.

One topic that has come up a lot recently is the idea of moving home.  Not only have several of you written me about your experience, but my own parents often suggest the idea.  I left home at age 18 for college and despite changing schools, moving towns, and losing my job, I have yet to move back.  That’s not to say it’s not an option – it’s just not part of my plan as of yet.  For those of you who have met my parents, I’m sure you understand.

Moving home is a tricky endeavor.  It’s something that should take as much time and consideration in preparing for as any other major life decision.  A few things to consider:

  • Be honest – with yourself and your parents.  Take some time to lay out the reasons why you’re moving home, what you hope to accomplish, and what you need to make the best use of the experience.  Moving back home is not an effective means of avoiding the real world [this holds true for grad school as well, folks.]
  • Don’t hate, communicate. Parents are people too.  Set up some ground rules and remember to respect the rules set by your parents.  You may sacrifice some of your independence in exchange for the financial and emotional benefits of living at home.  This is part of the package but if you talk openly about it, it won’t be so jarring.
  • Set a time line. Have a plan to get out of there and be realistic about it.  No one expects you to find a job in two weeks but you would be surprised how quickly two weeks can turn into two years.  Make it a graduated time line so you can feel accomplished and build momentum crossing things off your list.
  • Don’t be a mooch. One of the benefits of living at home is saving money – not mooching.  If your parents won’t accept financial contributions for rent and utilities, consider other ways you can help out.  Do the yard work.  Purchase a few groceries.  Sign your parents up for a couple months of Netflix.  A little bit of reciprocity can go a long way.
  • Enjoy it! Life is short.  Whatever your relationship with your family, remember that your parents won’t be here forever.  My own little sister chose to move home after graduation and while she may call to complain about some aspects, she also keeps me posted on the hilarious things my dad wears or the hours-long card tournaments the family plays.  It’s those moments that she’s going to take with her when she finally moves out.

Did you move home after graduation?  Are you cohabiting with your parental units currently?  Leave a comment with your experience!

Have a wonderful and safe Fourth of July!