What I Wish I Would’ve Known Before I Signed A 12-Month Lease

You just graduated college, got a job in a big city, and are eager to move into a place of your own. Inflated Hollywood budgets have painted lavish visions of 20-something city living. Plush sofas enthrone well-dressed friends. Fire escapes overlook city lights. The local coffee shop dishes out your regular order. Coworkers motivate your accelerated career growth.

But if you find yourself without coffee-dealing Gunther, or a regular diner hangout, and the reality of big city living weighs heavily on your shoulders, don’t worry.

GIPHY

My relationship with my Keurig is basically the same.

Moving to a new city is hard, especially one as salary-sucking as NYC. And it can be tempting to find an apartment as quickly as possible, sign a 12-month lease, and move on to actually living your newly independent life. But before you put pen to paper—here are a few things you should know:

broker

Don’t Work With Brokers

And if you do, don’t believe a word they say. Brokers rely on you to make money. Most take 15% of one year’s worth of rent. So if they can convince you to sign for a more expensive apartment that means more money in their pocket. They will push you to get an apartment out of your price range. They will tell you it’s impossible to find anything for less than $3,000 in Manhattan. They will tell you there’s not much time left and inventory is sparse. They will spew a multitude of lies to get you to sign a lease that puts money in their pocket as fast as they can move onto the next client. Don’t believe a word they say.

pay rent

Don’t Avoid Financial Conversations With (Potential) Roommates

When I first moved to the city, an old friend and I decided to look for a 2-bedroom apartment. We hadn’t seen each other in over five years, and only had two days together to find an apartment. We jumped right into looking for a new place and didn’t talk about our spending limits. I didn’t know how much money she made, what would happen if either of us lost our job, or any of the other really important financial information that goes into renting decisions. Five months into our 12 month lease, my roommate was so fed up with her job, she quit. The next month I covered her half of the rent for a few days while she figured out a way to get the money.  

Have those awkward money conversations before you sign a legally binding contract with someone. It will save your friendship—and your bank account—in the long run.

brick

not the NYC view I was hoping for

Windows Are Actually Really Important

Natural light improves your sleep, mood, and productivity (it’s science!). Finding an apartment with windows is really important. My first place had two windows that faced brick walls. If I reached my hand out both windows I could touch the opposing wall while keeping my wrist still inside the apartment. If it was raining, snowing, sunny, or gray—we had no idea. If my phone died and the power went out and there were no clocks for me to look at, I couldn’t tell you if it was day or night. I cannot even begin to explain the psychological determinants of living in light-barren home. You don’t need windows with a view, just windows with a little bit of light.

bed

Don’t Sign A Lease Without Seeing The Apartment

You make a plan to find the perfect apartment. You march up stairs from Brooklyn to Queens. You twist doorknobs in the Upper East Side and peek out windows in the West Village. But after seeing dozens of places and getting closer to the end of the month you get desperate. You find an apartment in your dream neighborhood, below market value, and you do something you thought you never would—you sign a lease without seeing the apartment. No matter how you rationalize this in your head—it is a mistake.

I signed a 12-month lease after seeing only the outside of an apartment building. Move-in day became a series of unpleasant surprises. Make sure you see each apartment either in person or through video. Some apartment rental websites, like Bedly, even have 3D videos now so you know exactly what you’re getting into.

 

 

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