Sunday, April 20, 2008

Taking the Plunge

Since I recently did some apartment shopping, I thought I would share some tips I picked up along the way. Before finally finding my dream apartment (see previous post), I visited three other apartment complexes and had different experiences at all of them. Here are some preparation steps you may want to take and some questions you may want to ask when looking for your own place.

1. Do your research
I spent hours online looking at dozens of apartments before deciding on a few to visit. Rental Web sites are great resources that can save you a lot of time. Sites like and offer really helpful information like floor plans, photos, maps, amenity lists, pricing, rental policies and more. They also allow you to keep favorites lists and do very specific searching by neighborhood. In my experience, often provided more information than the apartment’s own Web site.

2. Ask lots of questions
When you do decide to visit an apartment, be sure to ask questions, don’t just walk around and look at stuff. I found that once I got up to the apartments, my mind would go blank and I couldn’t think of anything to ask, so I started writing my questions down. Here are some that I found the most helpful.

- What kinds of people live here? Families? Young, single people?
- What are the utilities like in the summer and winter? Can they show you an example bill?
- What are the most common maintenance requests?
- How old is the building?
- What fees are associated with the monthly rent (garbage, parking, etc.)?
- Is the apartment pre-wired for high-speed Internet and cable? Do they allow satellite dishes?
- Do they offer preferred employer pricing? (I got 2% knocked off my rent for working at Dish Network.)

3. Pay attention to how you are treated
When you go to look at an apartment, since staff should be working to sell it to you, they should be on their best behavior. So if you are treated poorly, you know there is something really wrong. At one apartment I wanted to look at, they scheduled me to come in on a day when the rental office was closed and then didn’t return any of my calls. No matter how much I liked the apartment, those aren’t the kind of people I wanted to be relying on when my hot water isn’t working or my garbage disposal is clogged. At another complex, the staff members who accompanied me to look at the apartment seemed to know very little about the unit or the complex and couldn’t answer many of my questions. A disinterested and uninvolved staff could spell trouble for you as a tenant.

4. Trust your gut
For me, making the decision and signing the rental application was a huge and very scary step. What if I chose the wrong place? What if I didn’t like it when I moved in? What if one of the first big decisions of my adult life turned out to be completely wrong?! The truth is, the apartment I finally went with was very similar to another I looked at (in fact, I found out later they are managed by the same company). But the one I chose just felt right. Once you have all the facts and have looked at enough apartments to have an idea of what is out there, don’t be afraid to trust your instincts when it comes to finally settling with one. I don’t know if I am going to love or hate this apartment when my year-long lease is up, but I feel confident that I made the best decision I could based on the information I had.

So go forth and be smart about finding your new, fabulous apartment. I’m sure I’ll have many more residences over the years and still have a lot to learn about shopping for a place, but I feel like for a first-timer I did pretty well!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

When I finally get my own place
It will do its best to please me
When I finally get my own place
It will have windows I will need
A garden I will weed
Fish I will feed

I can't believe it, but this afternoon I submitted an application for my first, real, grown-up apartment. I'm still waiting to sign the lease, but I've paid my deposit and I'm already starting to decorate it in my mind. It's a one bedroom, about 700 square feet, located in a really nice neighborhood in South Denver. I toured one of their models today and instantly fell in love with it. Here are some pictures of the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and floorplan. (Sorry about the blurriness--I didn't realize my camera was on the wrong setting!)

These are pictures of the furnished model apartment I looked at, so I will have to get my own furniture. I'm not really sure what kind of style I want to go for. My decorating will be mostly guided by my tight budget, especially in the beginning, so I will be trying to get decent furniture for the lowest price possible. I hope I will be able to find some interesting pieces at garage sales or flea markets, but we'll see.

I am very excited to be moving into this apartment. It is really everything I ever wanted in my first apartment, and at a price I can afford! Some features that I didn't post pictures of include: a nice-sized balcony, an oval tub, a giant walk-in closet, crown molding, and a built-in computer desk. Although the rent is a little more than I intially wanted to spend, I think the price is worth the safe neighborhood, close proximity to my office, buildings that are only 5 years old, and great complex amenities, like a lap pool, home theater, billiard room, office center, and exercise room.

I'm really looking forward to blogging about how I attempt to fill up this apartment on a pretty meager budget. I'm not moving in until early June, so I have lots of time to brainstorm ideas, scout for bargains, and daydream about my new life in my fabulous apartment. I can't wait to get started!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Office

Today I went to visit my future workplace. While doing marketing for Dish Network in Denver, I will be working in the above buildings in my very own, lovely cubicle. Since I will be spending 8 hours a day, 5 days a week in that tiny box, I am determined to make it a pleasant place to be in. This is my first job out of college and I’ve never had an office or even a cubicle, so I’m not exactly sure what I want—or will be able—to do with my little home-away-from-home, but I am starting to get some ideas.

First, I want to bring in some warm light with a little desk lamp. I think that sitting underneath those fluorescent lights all day would drive anyone crazy. Do I want to go traditional or modern? I really like this banker’s lamp, but I also like this adjustable arm one.

Next, I think I might try to cover portions of the bland gray walls of the cubicle with some kind of fabric. Creating a bulletin board area using a cute tweed fabric would help break up the monotony of those 3 ½ walls.

Lastly, I definitely want to try to coordinate all of my office supplies—garbage can, stapler, paper organizer, pencil cup, etc. Right now, I’m thinking metallic, but something in wood might look nice as well.

Needless to say, I am actually getting excited about what I’m going to be able to do with my little workspace. But I have between now and July to think about it!