Finding Your First ‘Big Girl’ Apartment 101

By Jill Scherr, Student at Academy of Art University

Finding your own apartment after college will probably be one of your first major decisions after graduation. Here are some tips to help you find your perfect place!

Budget and Search:
The first thing you must consider during your search is the type of budget you can afford and sustain as well as the type of environment/surroundings you need to have for your job and lifestyle.

To Room or Not to Room:
If you choose to have a roommate, you need to take into consideration the type of person/relationship you would like to have, whether you are both close friends who share everything at the end of the day or if you tend to like to live a more private lifestyle where you strictly just share the space … and the rent.

Getting Legal:
The often not fun part that comes after you've found your place — and probably the most important — is reviewing the fine print. Some examples include knowing the security deposits that are required and having the apartment pre-checked for damages so you are not held responsible for anything going awry during your time there. Note: You may want to consider having a co-signer on your place if you do not have a great (or nonexistent) credit score. A co-signer is very serious option to consider, as they assume financial responsibility along with you for whatever debt may be owed, so it's important to choose wisely.

Ready, Set, Decorate:
Back to the fun stuff! This is your first chance to decorate your own space without any influence from parents, so have fun scouring yard sales and going vintage shopping, but be sure to invest in at least one piece of good quality furniture — if you can! It will be something you can pass along someday or take with you when it's time to move on. And I could guarantee your potential future daughter will love seeing and having a piece of furniture "mom" owned in her day as a young 20-something — or laughing at it!

Some Additional Tips:

  1. Try to contribute to a savings account, if possible. Most likely, you will need to may a security deposit as well as service and installation fees. Having as much of these funds as possible upfront takes a huge amount of stress off and makes securing your apartment that much easier.
  2. Again, be sure to read all the fine print of your agreements and lease very carefully. Any responsibilities that you must comply with such as pets, smoking, etc., allow you to be prepared and prevent you from any unnecessary surprises. The same thing goes for your roommates and what you are both willing to tolerate.
  3. Learn to budget the best you can because food, utilities and rent add up quickly, and this time, you are responsible! Also, don't forget to change over your bills and important documents to your new address.
  4. Get yourself renter's insurance to be sure your belongings are protected in case of any theft, fires or other damages. 

To get some expert advice on what you can expect from your first place, I talked to Ashley Jephcott, an extremely busy young woman with talents in both film and costume design. She has worked on many amazing artistic projects so far — from film to music videos — and has had the chance to work with many great people in the entertainment industry. Ashley was kind enough to take time out of her schedule to share with U Chic readers about getting herself a new apartment.

Jill: So, Ashley, how does it feel having your own place?

Ashley: I think I can sum that up in one word: AMAZING. Finally, a space that is all my own. 

What would you say is the best and worst thing about having your own apartment?

Best thing would be that I can decorate it however I want and if I feel like leaving my stuff all over the place, I can. Worst thing is definitely having to hand that rent check over to my landlord ever month. 

What advice would you give to first-time apartment owners?

Well, I did not buy my own place, just renting. But best advice would be to hold out until you find that place you can't wait to move into. Something that feels like home.

What is the best advice you've received when looking for a place?

Hmm. Don't listen to anyone else. Haha. I mean — listen and take things into consideration, but ultimately, it's your place and you have to live there. So go off your own judgment.

What do you wish you would have known when you first went out on your apartment search?

The cost of rent. Vancouver is definitely not a cheap place. So make sure you can afford it and still afford to have a social life and groceries. 

We know you are a wonderful and creative person … Any styling tips you can recommend, especially for someone trying to decorate on a budget?

THRIFT STORES. People don't realize the amazing things you can find there. Designer and name brand stuff or vintage one-of-a-kind items no one else has. Honestly, I love the fact that someone else has owned it before me; it has some history and character to it. 

What new projects do you have coming up that you can share with U Chic readers?

… Well, I was just recently nominated for a Leo Award for Best Costume Design in a Short Drama for the movie "Joanna Makes A Friend" (Can check out the stills on my blog, I will be working with that same director on another short this summer called "Floodplain," based on an award-winning book. … I just finished up this past week a pilot for a Web series called "DADS." At the end of June, I am designing a short film based in the early 1900s. And lastly, I am currently writing my own short film to shoot this summer. Honestly, I think I need to learn the word NO … but hey, I love my job and look forward to it each and every day. 

And we can very happily let you know that Ashley won her much-deserved award! If there are any questions you might have about first apartments or anything you would like to add, please leave a comment below!

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