How to Prepare for Your First Milwaukee Apartment

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On the market in Milwaukee for your first apartment? Freedom is within reach, at long last. Striking out on your own is a big step — leaving the comforts of home in pursuit of a college education or just independence. But if you aren’t prepared for the change, you can wind up in an apartment you can’t wait to leave, or pulling extra shifts to make the rent payments. At ABODO, we love matching renters with their perfect apartments, so we have some tips for you to keep in mind during your search. Here’s what to keep in mind for your first Milwaukee apartment.

Know Your Rent Budget

If you’ve made it this far in life without a budget, good on you. But now is the time to make one — and stick with it. You can’t just assume that you’ll always have enough in your wallet to get that new pair of shoes and keep the lights on.

Start with adding up your income. If you’re moving for college, this can be a tricky number to set — you might not have a job nailed down yet, or know how many hours you’ll be working. But you should still be able to get a good idea of your monthly earnings. If you are estimating, low-ball yourself to make sure that you can pay your bills even on that small budget. When you’re setting your rent maximum, limit yourself to spending no more than 30% of your income on housing payments, which is what the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recommends, to avoid a cost burden.

Next, turn to your monthly bills. Some of the big ones you’ll probably be able to rattle off from the top of your head, but don’t count on your memory alone. Comb through your checking account to see where you spend money every month, and how much. Include your hypothetical rent maximum, too, to get a full picture of how much money you’ll have left at the end of the month.

After you get your budget nailed down, use our filters to set your max price to make finding something you can afford easier.

Need more budget help? Try reading our renter budgeting guide or one of these top Millennial money blogs.

Tour Apartments Carefully

It doesn’t take time to do a quick loop around an apartment, but that doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily see anything issues during that time. Make the most of the tour, because it’ll probably be the last time you see the place before you move in. Don’t feel rushed to get in and out, and instead take a bit of time looking out the windows, under cabinets, and in closets and drawers. Give the toilet a flush, and turn on the water faucets. Look for signs of any water damage or pest problems, and ask the property manager if they have any pest-management policies. Also ask how often they enter the apartments for inspections or routine maintenance, and any other question that pops into your head.

Before you leave, take a close look at the street you might be living on. Does it look like a nice, clean neighborhood? How’s the traffic? If you like the thought of walking on that street every day, you’re in good shape.

Vet Your Roommates

Maybe you already have your heart set on going solo, but having a roommate can be a great way to keep costs low. That said, if you pick the wrong roommate, your apartment will always feel too small. Whether you’re old friends or new acquaintances, have a chat about how you want the apartment experience to be. Do you plan on hosting a lot of parties and having friends over regularly? Or are you looking for a quiet place to relax and do homework? Are you rigidly clean, or pretty messy? You don’t have to agree 100%, but it’s great to both get on the same page about your expectations — and your budgets. Also talk about how to handle shared expenses, like utility bills or possibly groceries.