The first step in any renter’s process should be to determine your budget. What are you able to spend on rent each month? Most experts say aim to spend around 30 percent of your monthly income on rent. Start here before considering anything else. Set your budget and stick to it, or you’ll find yourself short of cash on the first of the month.
DON’T FORGET THE WIFI
While determining what you are willing to spend, be sure to include utilities and extra fees. Trash disposal, water, electricity and internet should all be a part of the total. Know which utilities are included in your rent and which are not. Plan for additional costs like application fees and security deposits. Some rentals may ask for first and last month’s rent in advance. Planning for these expenses in your budget can make paying for everything else each month a little easier.
And when you finally go to set up your new WiFi after moving in, don’t be afraid to call the company and ask for help.
CONSIDER YOUR NEEDS
Yes, having access to a pool sounds luxurious, but the more amenities included in a rental, the more you pay to live there. Determine what is a necessity for yourself and then focus on the wants. Is easy access to public transportation essential for you to get to work? Do you need a parking spot? In-unit laundry? A quiet location? Prioritize what you need to live comfortably and then focus on what you would like to have. Granite countertops aren’t everything, people.
BUT LOCATION IS EVERYTHING
Seriously. Generally, central Boulder is going to be expensive. These are the neighborhoods closest to Pearl Street, Chautauqua and CU. These locations’ accessibility to all of the Boulder action makes them worth the price. If you are looking for something slightly more affordable, consider neighborhoods in North or South Boulder. If location isn’t on your priority list, but price is, start here. It is safe to say that places outside the heart of Boulder are more likely to be quiet and family-friendly, too.
YOUR MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS
Try to live as close as you can to where you work or go to school. Commuting can be taxing. The gas money you might spend on commuting every day could be rent money instead. Which one will keep you sane: Driving 20 minutes to work every day or paying another $100 a month for rent?
One of the pros of Boulder is the city’s extensive public transportation system, and with an RTD pass, getting around town is easy and convenient. If you are a student, an RTD bus pass is included in your tuition fees, FYI.
THEY SAY HARD WORK PAYS OFF
If you aren’t ready to give up the idea of a prime location, with some flexibility and perseverance, it isn’t impossible to find a good deal. Stay vigilant in your search to find somewhere affordable in the heart of Boulder. Check websites like Craigslist and Apartments.com frequently because good deals disappear just as quickly as they are posted. Boulder Property Management, FourStar and other popular rental companies post online listings that are frequently updated. You might stumble upon a deal you can’t pass up. If you’re low- or middle-income, Boulder Housing Partners, the City’s housing authority, can help get you into an affordable unit, too.
WHAT TIME IS IT?
When starting to look for a new place to rent, consider what time of year it is. Having a major university in town, many leases end on the last day of July and begin on the first day of August. College students sign their leases as early as possible, sometimes even before the new year. Be prepared to move in August but start looking as early as October the year prior. Starting in January, a good amount of homes are already under lease. The remaining renters then enter panic mode to find anything they can afford, which leads to places disappearing from the market quickly.
IS SUBLEASING FOR ME?
If moving in August doesn’t work for you, subleasing is the way to go. December and April are the best times to find a sublease due to students transferring, studying abroad, or going home at the end of school semesters. There are still some subleases available during other months, but pickings may be slim. If you need to move on short notice or need something temporary, subleasing is a good option.
SHARING IS CARING
Most places for rent in Boulder are multi-room apartments and houses. Consider finding roommates to live with before actually finding a place to live. It’s much easier to find a four-bedroom home than it is to find three other people to live with. Having roommates locked in before looking for a place to rent can make the search easier, too. Divide and conquer. Search for places, visit neighborhoods, go on tours together.
Studios and one-bedroom apartments are available, of course. But if pennies are being pinched on rent, this isn’t going to be a realistic option for you. Single units vary in price but expect to be paying around $1,500 a month for rent.
If you don’t have anyone to move with and a single bedroom just isn’t an option for you and your wallet, do some research to find bedrooms available in units due to people moving out. It can be time-consuming and requires access to some websites, like Ralphies List or Facebook groups, but it is a cheap and convenient way to move. Word of mouth can be helpful here, too.
BUT ROOMMATES AREN’T ALWAYS EASY…
Especially when living in tight quarters. Be prepared to do other people’s dishes. Remember, communication is key when living with other people. Here are some tips for making living together as easy as possible.
• Make a cleaning schedule: This ensures the work is getting done, and getting done equally. Having just one person clean up after everyone else is likely to create tension in the dwelling.
• Clean up after yourself: Just because you have a cleaning schedule, does not mean you can be a slob. Do your dishes. Don’t leave personal belongings scattered among the common areas. And please, please throw away your old food.
• Respect each other’s space: This one is easy. Don’t barge into your roommate’s room without asking or knocking. Don’t use their stuff without being granted permission. Be respectful.
• Communicate about having guests over: If your significant other is going to spend a weekend with you or your grandma is coming to visit, ask your roommates if this is OK with them beforehand. Your home is their home, too, and it’s essential everyone feels similarly.
• Sharing is caring: Be open to sharing but understand when a roommate doesn’t want to. Communicate boundaries and don’t make assumptions.
• Be aware of the code enforcement in the area before signing a lease. Particularly, how many non-related people are allowed to live in a house together. Breaking code enforcement can result in hefty fines.
DURING THE MOVE
If you thought finding a place was stressful, wait until you start packing, moving boxes and carrying furniture. Relocating your entire life might be the cause of your next mental breakdown, so plan ahead and give yourself plenty of time for the actual move.
However, before you start bringing in boxes, make sure all the basics are taken care of. Walk the place with your landlord, document and take pictures of any damage to the property — you don’t want to be held accountable for them when you move out.
ONCE THE BASICS ARE TAKEN CARE OF…
A few tips for your move:
• Color coordinate: Mark your boxes with tape or markers of different colors. Designate individual rooms a specific color. Color coordinating your boxes makes unpacking much more manageable.
• Label: Label everything for the same purpose as above but as a backup. By labeling what is in a box, you will also be able to find things quickly if they are needed during or after the move.
• “Open Me First” box: Create a box that you will put all the essentials in. Food, toiletries, a pillow; anything you might need for the first night at your new apartment because after a long day of moving boxes, unpacking them is probably the last thing you will want to do.
• Get boxes from stores: The stores in your local community probably have stacks of unused boxes that they recycle at the end of the night. Don’t be afraid to ask if you can have some. That way, boxes are being reused, and you can save money. Try a liquor store or a wholesale retailer like Sam’s Club.
• Use blankets and clothing in place of bubble wrap: Save money and space where you can. Wrapping fragile items in clothes or blankets can do both of these.
HOARDING: DON’T BURY YOURSELF ALIVE
Leave the junk behind and only pack the essentials. Moving is a great time to clean your closets, pantries and cupboards. You are going to go through everything anyway, so get rid of things that you no longer use. Less stuff means less to carry upstairs and unpack later. Plus, it’s a fresh start. Minimize your waste and dispose of items properly. Old furniture and clothes should be donated to thrift shops or sold for reuse. Old paint and cleaning products should be brought to a hazardous waste facility. Get rid of your junk sustainably and safely.
GET IN. WE’RE GOING SHOPPING
Don’t be afraid to part with old furniture when moving. Boulder is a hub for second-hand shopping, and the Target on Pearl street is stocked with housing essentials.
The Goodwill on the corner of Baseline and Broadway is a well-known hot spot for second-hand furniture. People love to donate anything and everything to this location, especially students, when they are moving. Look around and see if anything catches your eye. You never know what you might find at this Goodwill.
For specific needs, Craigslist, NextDoor and Facebook Marketplace are great virtual places to find cheap necessities. When people are moving in and out at the end of July, Facebook is loaded with furniture postings. People purge through their belongings (just like you should) and decide what they need and what they don’t. Most of the furniture on Facebook is relatively cheap and in good condition.
If you want to get really crazy with finding furniture for your new rental, consider driving around The Hill at the end of July. Students moving out will leave household items like couches, mattresses, desks and even air conditioners on the corner of the streets with a “FREE” sign taped to it. Just don’t, ever, take the mattress. Bed bugs are a problem you don’t want.
CAN I BORROW YOUR TAPE MEASURE?
Plan ahead by taking measurements of the doorways, hallways and rooms in your new place to make sure any new furniture will fit. Consider how you are going to transport your new furniture. If it doesn’t fit in your car, rent a truck, or, better yet, see if a good friend will let you borrow theirs. Communicate with the seller before moving new items because sometimes they are willing to help.
WE HOPE YOU ENJOY YOUR STAY
The more you put into your search for a rental, the more you will get out of it. With a little bit of hard work, finding the perfect place to rent is possible. You can find a place in the location of your choosing, with the number of roommates you desire and at a price you can afford. Be open to something new and exciting. Once you are moved in and the stress is over, you will be happy you put in the work. And maybe start with an ant farm before you get a dog or a cat.