Hey there 😀
Today I decided to do something a little different, and explain a little story about what happened to me in the past. Looking back, there were a ton of things that I wish I knew then that I knew now. So, below after my little personal narrative, are some tips and tricks I wish that I knew when deciding where we wanted to live when we moved to a place we had never been before!
Some of these tips are directed towards Military families, but most of them can apply to anyone trying to figure out what to look for and avoid when moving to a new place!
Let’s get started!
The first time I was ever expected to find my own place to live was my junior year of college. I decided to get an apartment with some lifelong friends who happened to be going to the same school. Luckily, two of the four of us were already going to school at that campus, and they were able to get advice and look around at some apartment complexes a lot easier than me and one of the other girls were. They gave us a recommendation, and my friend and I headed up to sign the lease.
It was college, it was too easy to find some student housing that we could shove all of our crap into while we were there for the semester. Almost all of us had reasons to go home most weekends (mine being that I had met the man who would later become my husband). So if we hated our apartment, which we often did, it wasn’t a huge deal because we were really only there to sleep and eat during the week.
The following year we moved to a new complex, which was a lot better. We still often went home on the weekends, but this one involved a drive to campus. It still worked well, and we knew a little bit more of what we were looking for and what we were getting ourselves into.
Then we graduated. It was back home to our hometown looking to be grown-ups. All kinds of scary stuff.
In my case, however, my boyfriend was in basic training. And luckily for me, I had a job waiting for me when I got home. I already knew my time in my hometown was going to be short-lived because my husband had a really hard time keeping the proposal a secret. Long story short, I went to his graduation, became an engaged lady, then became a married lady, and it was all home hunting from there.
But I had never even heard of where we were moving. I had only been to the state we were moving to once for a long weekend, and it was nowhere near our new city.
Luckily, even with the time crunch that seemed to be my life at the time, we found a place that worked well for us. While a lot of the aspects of my home are not perfect, I am enjoying where we live as much as I can considering where we are. Needless to say, I really can’t say I love where we’re living. But that’s a different story for a different day.
A lot of the aspects that I dislike about where we are I feel like could have easily been avoided had I known some of the following tips:
Decide whether you want to live on or off base. If it’s off, you need to decide whether you want an apartment, townhome, or house. And to rent or buy.
There are a lot of details to focus on when you first decide to look, especially if you’re looking online. It can be totally overwhelming if you don’t first sit down and set some ground rules for what you’re looking for.
I hate to say I don’t know much about looking on base for housing because for us that wasn’t an option we were interested in. We both agreed that we wanted to be off base and have some sort of escape from his work day. It’s all about personal preference, and there are plenty of pros and cons to both.
We went with the apartment route because we figured as newlyweds that we weren’t going to need to have a palace for our first home. We also did not want to go through the process of buying considering that he was Military and we would never want to continue living in a state with the kind of weather that we were being thrown into. There is no right or wrong reason to choose what kind of home you want. A lot of people think renting is a waste of money, but for us renting was the right decision for right now.
Do some research about the area you are looking to move and the areas surrounding it
This is by far the BIGGEST mistake that we made. And while it may seem extremely obvious to some people, this was the first time both of us had moved to a place surrounding a Military base, and we had no idea what we should be looking for. Sadly, we didn’t realize that the apartment building we had been connecting with was in an area that wasn’t desirable to us until we were running out of time to find another place. I was terrified for about two weeks to even sleep when we first moved. It was so different than where I had ever lived before, and the atmosphere didn’t click well with me. Had I known some more information about the areas we were looking at, I can say we probably would have taken that into consideration a lot more before we made a final decision.
Know any restrictions or policies about pets before you find a place
There are a ton of reasons to research this topic before picking a home. We knew we wanted to get a dog before we even knew where we were going. That was a top priority just a few months into moving to our new place. Knowing all pet policies of any rental is pertinent to know whether you are planning on having a furry friend or not.
We knew that our building allowed dogs and cats, which seemed like a win for us. However, what we did not consider were deposits and monthly pet rents. Had we known that we were going to be expected to pay both a deposit and a monthly fee for our little man, we may have looked elsewhere. Obviously, pets can get expensive for a multitude of reasons, and it’s really important to decide whether or not the extra money is worth living in the rental you are looking at.
Another reason to understand pet policies before you move in is if you are not a pet owner. In some aspects, I think this is even more important than if you are. Many people in my building are Military members and have to wake up and go to sleep at crazy hours throughout the day and night. Sadly, there is no way to know in most cases who is going to be surrounding you in an apartment building. If the sound of a dog running around with his toy on your ceiling or the occasional barking fit is something you can’t live with, you might want to look into another building or consider a townhouse. Also, if you’re a person with allergies, you need to understand that a building that allows dogs will have pet dander in the hallways. It is unavoidable.
Lastly, if you are afraid of dogs, please on behalf of dog owners everywhere, don’t move into a dog-friendly building if you can avoid doing so.
MINI RANT: I can have total compassion for a person who is fearful of my dog. I can even have compassion for a person who just doesn’t want to give him any sort of attention. What I do not have compassion for, however, is a person who will cause a full on scene and avoid breathing the air I breathe because my dog and I are patiently waiting for the elevator you are getting off of.
Most dog owners are responsible with their pets in an apartment setting, and if a person were to say “Hey, I’m afraid of dogs, do you mind holding him/her back for me?”, they will have no problem doing it. However, if my little 35 pound, wouldn’t hurt a fly, just wants to say hello, Beagle-Bassett mix is sitting in your line of vision as you exit an elevator, please do not make me and my dog feel as if we’re doing something wrong. Please understand that my dog is more than a dog to me, and I just want to take him to go to the bathroom and he has a hard time getting up stairs sometimes because of his short legs. There is no reason to cause a scene, there is no reason to yell and be shocked that there is a dog in a dog-friendly apartment complex.
We will gladly respect your home atmosphere as long as you respect ours.
Okay, rant over, back to regular programming:
Try to have a rough idea of your budget before deciding on a home/rental
This is another one that might be obvious but for a first-time homeowner/renter, it’s something that can be really hard to do. Especially when taxes, gas prices, and food prices can be completely different from state to state.
When we moved, we realized that certain things like gas were going to be much cheaper than where we were from. That was about all the budgeting we figured out. We did not estimate that instead of having some appliances run by gas, everything was electric. This made our electric bill exponentially higher than what we estimated. We also didn’t plan on paying for water every month as opposed to every three months.
Do your research. Research to the point that you have no idea what else to look for. Money was about 99% of the fights my husband had when we first moved. Especially for you first-timers who are out on your own for the first time, everything adds up. We were very lucky to have a solid support system in our families who understood our struggle and helped us out when we came into a predicament that we didn’t know how to get out of. But many people don’t.
Save yourself the headache, if you think there might even be a slight chance you can’t afford what you want, overestimate rather than underestimate. You will thank yourself later.
Storage is so important
I know I sound like such an old person when I say this, but truly, it is a necessity not a luxury.
This is especially true for newlyweds and newly into the Military families. Unless you lived together for an extended amount of time prior, you really have no idea how much stuff your significant other might have. In my case, it was a lot. So much that I have no idea how we would have had any space to live in a one bedroom apartment.
Then there is those of us out there who have a spouse in the Military.
I can’t stress enough how much you need storage space. You cannot even imagine how much crap your spouse is going to receive when they get to their first duty station. And they never know when they’re going to need that one tiny specific thing that is buried in the bottom of their closet.
While the spare bedroom for us has been extremely necessary for me starting to work at home before it was an office it was the “Military stuff” room. There was no furniture, just bags upon bags and bins full of all of his tactical crap. I have spared no nook or cranny finding a spot for all of his stuff when making this room into an office for the both of us. Luckily now we each have our own desks with a set of plastic drawers, a bed, a TV stand, and a bookshelf with every little part crammed with storage solutions.
If getting a larger apartment is not an option for you, I highly recommend trying to fit a storage closet into your budget if your apartment complex has them available. Even with more closet space than should be necessary for two people and a dog, I have considered stretching my paycheck to pay for a storage closet. If this still is not an option, try to slowly accumulate furniture with extra storage space and definitely invest in some bins that will slide under your bed or fit under the clothes in your closet.
It will go so much farther than you think.
Don’t always trust pictures online
One of the most common reviews of my apartment building was not to trust the pictures shown online.
Apparently, before my wonderful landlords came into this building, there were a lot of pictures online that showed my building to be something greater than it was. There were complaints about trash, things not being taken care of the way that they should, and many other complaints that could have easily been mistaken when going solely from the pictures online.
Luckily, these reviews were from years before I was moving in, and the more recent reviews were really positive and gave me a better feeling of what we were getting into.
One thing I noticed was the pool looked a lot larger online, and while this isn’t a huge deal, it does get to be a bit crowded on weekends. Not a huge deal, I just get my sun time in during the week 🙂
But if at all possible I recommend seeing the sight in person before renting/buying. I was unable to see my apartment before I moved in, but my husband got to see the building a few times before I moved here. He gave me reassurance on a lot of things before I moved in, and it made me feel a lot more comfortable when moving time came.
If your gut tells you no, listen to it. And if you hate a place right after moving in, give it a chance before deciding to move as soon as your lease is up.
For all of you renters out there, I can’t stress how important it is to listen to your gut. If you have a feeling something might be a serious problem, trust your gut and avoid it if you can.
I can’t say I had a bad gut feeling about this place, but I made my husband promise me that if I hated our complex as much as I did in six months as I did at the moment we moved in, we could save up for a move.
Well, one year later and we decided to stay put and just signed on for our second lease. No place is going to be perfect, but I have gotten over some of my gripes and learned to appreciate the view outside my office window and how close it is to my husbands work to get those few extra minutes of time to spend with him in the morning.
Everyone is different and no home is going to be one size fits all! Find what you like and don’t listen to anyone else because at the end of the day you’re going to be the one living there!
If you have any other tips or you found any of these tips particularly helpful leave it in the comments below! Don’t forget to find our Pinterest board and follow us on Twitter!
Email subscriptions are also available below!