On your own: renting an apartment

wcc-dollars&sense_paulbriggs_wallpaperThis column is about some things to consider when renting an apartment — especially for the first time.

To get an idea of the housing situation, I surveyed my students and found approximately 80 percent of them lived at home with their parents. There are no campus-wide statistics for how many students live at home vs. on their own, but it may be safe to say that the majority of our students haven’t tried living independently yet.

While living at home is nice, being on your own has lots of benefits as well. Based on my experience, living in your own place gives you a sense of responsibility, adulthood and, most importantly, independence.

Oh, but independence does come at a price! O‘ahu rents can be around $1,300 for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,600 for a two-bedroom apartment. To move into an apartment, almost all landlords demand first and last month’s rent, plus a security deposit (amount is generally close to a month’s rent).

budgetchartTo continue to live in an apartment, you have to pay utilities (electricity, gas, garbage pick-up, etc). And don’t forget about such things as Internet/cable, food, laundry etc.

So, living independently can be expensive. Many things that you may take for granted while living at home must be explicitly planned for when you’re on your own. Here are some tips to survive and prosper for first-time renters:

• Budget wisely – Rental expenses should really be about 25 to 30 percent of your income. That’s a tough task in Hawai‘i, so be mindful of your expenses. Make decisions between what you need to have to live and what you may want to have.

• Read and understand your lease  – Your lease is a contract between you and the landlord. Make sure that you understand what it is that you’re signing. And please do not sign a lease without at least seeing the apartment that you are moving into. You don’t want any surprises.

• Consider renter’s insurance – Insurance on your rental property can be quite useful should something get stolen or damaged in some way. Some landlords require that renters get this type of insurance.

Because renting one’s own place can be pretty daunting in terms of cost, many students (including myself once upon a time) have roommates to shoulder some of the cost. I highly recommend this option as it can add a dimension that will make your life richer in the long run.

There certainly can be some drama among roommates (as with any family), but if you are respect each other’s privacy, follow through on your obligations and are prepared to compromise, living with roommates can be a rewarding experience indeed.

I know that renting an apartment or even having roommates can be an adjustment at first. But in the end, independence can be a great thing. It is something that I cherish each and every day.