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"After Dorm" Life

"Make a wish–list of everything you want in your apartment...As you tour units, keep your wish-list in mind to hone what you absolutely must have to be happy..."



Explore the insights and advice from recent young alumni below.


There’s no “perfect” apartment. We’re young. You don’t need to live in the Ritz. Rent is most likely your largest expense straight out of school, so by limiting your rent payments you’ll be able to save well and feel even better about your financial situation. The right apartment will be the right balance between affordability and amenities. ’16

The pictures you find on the websites can be so misleading. If you can, visit beforehand so you can see the place with your own eyes before putting any money down. ’18

Be sure to read your lease agreement. There are terms that will get you if you do not abide. Such as, how much advance notice you must provide before you move out, etc. ’17

My bosses helped identify a place for me! Although I’m often too proud to seek assistance and want to do things on my own, especially if you’re moving across the country to a place with which you’re unfamiliar, I would certainly ask your new employers and/or colleagues for advice and if they might have any connections or leads in mind. At the very least they’ll probably be able to direct you to neighborhoods and areas that would be of the most interest! ’20

Lots of searching on Zillow! I also made a spreadsheet and have dollar amounts to different features I cared about, so that I wouldn’t overspend on a way more expensive apartment for one or two amenities I didn’t care as much about. ’16

Research your commute to work extensively and do an on-the-ground investigation, if possible, to understand traffic patterns. Figure out what is important to you, such as a gym or nearby park, or nearby restaurants, and narrow your search based on that as well. ’17

If a place seems interesting but doesn’t have great photos, reach out to the listing agent.  t’s probably getting less interest than other places and may end up being a hidden gem. ’20

I looked at location, amenities, what was included, and the price. You’ll have to prioritize since all factors have some sort of trade-off. Definitely find a place you’re OK with living in and isn’t out of your budget. ’19

Never pay a broker’s fee in NYC. ’17

Definitely see the place in person first, and ask a resident how they like living there if you see one while on a tour. ’19

Facebook groups and apartment listing sites can be great, but get in touch with people (VU alumni, friends, etc.) in the city as they will have a better idea of which neighborhoods are worth it. ’18

Unless you absolutely can’t, make sure you or someone you trust sees the apartment in person before you sign your lease. There are so many things that a landlord could be hiding from you online, and you can never quite tell what the place will look like and how big it is unless you see it in person. ’17

Price, location, it’s personal. ’18

Find the right community. ’21

Look at your annual salary and decide what percent you can reasonably dedicate to paying rent. Once you have that upper bound, explore your options (in person if possible) and pick the best place that fits within your budget. Other things to consider …neighborhood/part of town, proximity to place of employment (your commute) ’18

Researched areas, narrowed it down to where I wanted to be, filtered by budget and type of building I wanted and went from there. is great. Streeteasy is awesome for NYC. I wrote a list of three must-haves in my apartment and filtered out any that didn’t have all. I didn’t look until I was ready to apply because the market moves fast, and you don’t want to fall in love with a place if you’re not ready to make a move only for someone else to swoop in and grab it. ’17

Ask co-workers and look for factors important to you—walkability, public transportation, restaurants, safety, etc. Make sure to do in-person tours. ’20

Just like looking for a job, finding the perfect apartment is a marathon, not a sprint. See/tour as many places as you can and write down the things you absolutely can’t live without. For me, that was private outdoor space like our patio. In NYC, working from home can start feeling a bit claustrophobic. It was nice having my own section of open air and sky directly attached to my apartment. ’18

Honestly, it’s a tricky business. Sometimes reviews are misleading and things that look like gold when you sign a lease really are just glitter. That said, make sure it’s in your budget and make a list of things that you prioritize (e.g., gym, location, personal bathroom, parking, concierge, etc.), and then just do your best to get what you want within budget. ’20

Live within a few miles of the city center since that will likely position you closer to popular hang-out spots, restaurants, and other recent grads. Also, if you live in the Southeast, make sure that your apartment doesn’t have brown recluse spiders. ’20

Make sure your cellular network works in your room/house. ’16

Zillow, Craigslist, Facebook. ’17

I hit the streets. It was important to me to know what was within good walking distance. ’17

Ask your friends or use social media, and there’s a Vanderbilt apartment listing platform. Look at reviews online and take into account transportation and parking, whether utilities are included, and how the living spaces are shared. ’16

Reach out to those who have connections in the city you are moving to. They will be very helpful in telling you where to look and to help you understand the wide range of options available to you. 18

Set a budget and then stick to it. Include utilities, parking, gas for commute, etc., in your calculations! You’d be surprised how fast all that extra stuff can add up. ’15

Google reviews & Take the reviews with a grain of salt. ’15

I would recommend reaching out to your professional connections—especially if you’re moving somewhere new. Overall, the most important things to look for are: good roommates, a good price and a safe community. This is probably just one of your first places after all, don’t go expecting an apartment at the Plaza. ’16

Craigslist! It did take quite a while to find the right place, but since I was moving across the country I found it was easiest to find someone who was already living in LA who was looking for a new roommate. That way, they could show me the place via FaceTime/photos before I moved out. ’17

I have two separate savings accounts: an emergency/major purchase savings and a fun savings. The emergency/major purchase account started out as emergency savings, where I’ve saved up enough money to cover a few months’ expenses or expenses for an emergency. I’ve continued to contribute to that account to also have money for some major milestone purchases, including a home. The fun savings account is where I’ve contributed some extra money in my budget to save up for vacations. ’18

Have a realistic goal for how much you can put aside each month. ’17

Saving up to buy my first home is another reason why I like having two savings accounts. Having a separate savings accounts for vacations and other considerable expenses (new computer, TV, etc.) allows me to set aside money to be spent on a short-term schedule, while also having a savings account that is set to build for the long term. ’18

Calculate how much you need and split into monthly payments according to your timeline. Pay yourself (i.e., save) that amount every month. This way you have a clear goal and are more likely to follow through. Don’t be afraid to ask your parents for help as well! There are interesting ways to finance home purchases these days. There may be some local programs available to first-time buyers in your area (mine gave me a free $10,000 toward my down payment) so ask your lender about such things. ’16

Live at home while you save. I know a lot of people cringe about moving back in with their parents after college, but it really does help save a ton compared to renting your own place. ’16

Have a high-yield savings account dedicated for savings for a home. Also, talk to a mortgage broker or someone versed in real estate before planning how much you need to save. ’16

Put a portion of your income in a savings account every pay period, and make a commitment to not touch your savings unless absolutely necessary. ’17

Don’t overdo it on your first place because it is likely you will move. Keep in mind the amount you are spending on moving in and eventually the cost of moving out. ’18

Start saving sooner rather than later. Especially in Nashville, home prices continue to climb quickly. Pick a target number for your home budget, and start working to save at least 10% of that before you start your search. ’21

Down payments of 20% are great but difficult to achieve. Calculate the savings rate you need for a set purchase date. If you can’t do it, set a new date. ’18

Saving for a first house is extremely depressing right now, especially if you live in an expensive coastal city. You either need to be a very diligent budgeter over many years or have rich parents. If you have student loans like me you can basically tack an extra four years on top of your home ownership timeline. ’17