Monday, January 20, 2014

LIVING ON YOUR OWN TERMS - Tips and Techniques for Finding a Great Place To Live

by M Jvl!an Simmons

GROWING UP; LOOKING FOR A PLACE TO LIVE - It can be hard, whether you're a high school graduate about to start college or a middle-aged burnout who's had to 'hit reset' a couple of times from your parents' house, to finally strike out and make your mark IN CONFIDENCE.

Do you have enough money?

Do you know what to look for, or if you can afford the image in your own mind?

Are you ready for the fastballs and curveballs about to be hurled at you in the near future?

There are many, so here we give you an idea of things to know, when you're looking for your own place to live!

I've lived in the city/urban areas for most of my adult years (over 20 years), and have collected a bevy of assorted tips/techniques for strategizing, shopping for/finding/choosing great places to live (and ways to get OUT of not-so-great places to live as well).

Throughout my life, everyone looking to make their own way in the world has had the same questions, to which I'm now about to share some answers.

Some techniques are a little unorthodox, mind you, but it gets the job done, and in a way that you can still 'sleep at night'.

Let's begin!

* PRE-MOVE; KNOW THE LEDGE - When figuring out your finances, its not just the 'rental amount' to consider, but also other things like the 'nut (how much more OVER the initial pricetag') on "utilities" (power bill, water/sewage, natural gas, associative/amenity fees like cable, web, etc.) that are separate charges from rent.

..and don't forget to consider how much it takes to keep your transportation up to par as well (petrol gas, maintenance, tag/insurance, licensing, etc.).

So when your genius buddy comes in bragging on "how cheap rent is" on a place, you'll know to keep your cool until you discuss "the nut (utilities, amenities and add-ons)".

* PRE-MOVE; STREAMLINE YOUR OVERHEAD - How many monthly bills are you paying?

If its over five past rent, then it maybe time to bundle and streamline that.

My Overhead is as such:
Rent, utilities [power, cable/web/landline], cellphone bill, food, and petrol-gas; a simple five to upkeep.

* PRE-MOVE; PUTTING THE CART BEFORE THE HORSE - There are also other bills that could creep up that seem like pennies by themselves.

But when added up, they can eat your wallet whole, if left unchecked (minor credit card bills, payment-based memberships, etc.).

Clip them so that you can first learn to live in (and afford) a basic comfort level, BEFORE you begin adding on dangerous "luxury riders".

* PRE-MOVE; GET OFF THE GROUND - Birds have the right idea here. You can save yourself a lot of hassle if you get off the main floor.

The main level includes nuisances like lobby and parking lot noise. It offers potential burglars a chance to peep into your eye-level windows and perhaps just climb right on in.

And in bad weather, if your place is set low enough, then rain water may be able to seep into your habitat as well (because of low-set/sub-terrain foundations).

Even if you take an apartment on the first level, do what you must, to at least make sure that the windows are high enough off the ground outside, that it'd make thieves think twice about how much effort it takes to climb in.

Remember, if thieving too closely resembles work, then they lose motivation, as they may as well BE WORKING. lol

* PRE-MOVE; AVOID BACK-ALLEYS - When looking for a place, whether apartment or house, you'll want to make it difficult for potential burglars to access your abode.

Maybe you take an apartment that has a rear parking lot, or sketchy access points to it.

Back alleys are an easy way for them to make-off with your goods, with an escape route that runs BEHIND main streets.

* PRE-MOVE; FEEL-UP THE PLACE - Apartment hunting? Getting shown some places and need to know what points to REALLY check?

Get IN there and feel around!

Open and shut doors, windows, cabinets; flush the toilet, run the shower and all the faucets (at the same time); assure your parking spot, inquire about the neighbors, morning/evening sun, etc.-
..all the little things that could make you NOT wanna move in there, make sure that the place has NONE!

Don't be afraid to, its expected and it shows that you are shrewd (that you know how to identify value/quality).

* PRE-MOVE; AVOID "ROOMMATE/COHABITATION" SITUATIONS - May sound like a good idea to room with a buddy, or even sound a bit sexy to shack-up too, but its been the consensus that roommate situations mean impending DOOM.

Bet money that either one, or the other of you will go into default and not be able to keep payments over-time, or worse yet, things turn weird after tempting fate and becoming roomies with benefits.

It will NEVER be like THIS.
Heck, the simple fact that you had to room with someone already smacks of destitution, and hard times are inevitable.

Make sure that if you go into a situation like this, that you also have an EXIT strategy before you begin; you'll be needing it.

Cut your risk factor and lose the pending liability.

* PRE-MOVE; GET OUT AND WALK - Driving around to check out rental listings can be comfy and easy, but can also cause you to miss some sweet options.

All because even though you're driving relatively slow, through the neighborhood, you're still moving too fast to check out other listings more easily by WALKING the block.

That charming duplex or the ivy-covered brownstone you've always fantasized about, is tucked away from the immediate block, and owned by some private individual (rather than a company with it listed in their pamphlet) could be yours, but you'll have to lose the car sometimes to even SEE it/them.

* APPLYING; FORGET THE DEPOSIT - Hoping that once you move out, you can get that deposit back?

Yeah, FORGET that; there'll always be some reason as to why they decided to keep it, leaving you hurt, disenfranchised and underfunded.

 Instead, just count it as their cleanup fee, so you can leave that move-out mess, guilt-free, because once they come in, they are just gonna either gut/demolish the place and redo everything, OR they'll just clean up the place ANYWAY, but to a different standard so that it looks professional.

Either way, leave the deposit; its just a great big headache to chase behind.

* APPLYING; CREDIT CHECKS AND OPTIONING - Bad/questionable credit? Does it show on paper?

You can offer to lessors as an option, to pay an inflated rent amount, to cover first/last month's rent.
"Cash now" rather than "credit later" is often an attractive option to consider, which may convince renters to override the credit check portion of the criteria/process in favor of a "cash-in-hand TODAY" deal.

I've done this quite a few times once I had ruined my credit in my twenties, and was still forced to manage.

* APPLYING; ACQUISITIONS; COSIGN TAKEOVERS - Need a place, but can't withstand the paperwork? Got a buddy in trouble with their lease?

If you have the right amount of cash, then its possible to rescue/buy-out a friend from their own place.

A lessor will entertain the notion of a roommate to sign-on if the primary tenant is no longer able to pay the total.

Of course, they'll want you to sign, but the process is way less intensive, because you are only signing on as a SECONDARY tenant.

Once you receive a copy of your lease, amended, then you may eventually have the utilities turned on in your name, when needed.

Take a few weeks-to-months, saving up utility startup funds while under this arrangement, so that after then, the (primary) tenant becomes eligible to sign OUT of the same contract, leaving the SECONDARY tenant as the NEW/SOLE PRIMARY.

* PRE-MOVE; MOVING; KEEP IT MODULAR - Don't break your back on that 300lb antique dresser from the thrift store.

Don't bother trying to hoist that huge oak entertainment system up 3 flights of stairs when you can now carry wall-sized big-screen TVs with one hand.

If its dense and heavy, LEAVE IT.

Most furniture is heavily-built for houses (places of permanence), not for apartments (which is a more nomadic option), because they weren't meant to be moved about a lot, once initially placed.

Until you get into a more permanent situation, consider more lightweight, modular furniture, to make the task of moving much simpler. Try Sterilite or Rubbermaid cabinetry, or pressboard furniture from discount retail POSs.

Trust me, your back will thank you for it!

* POST-MOVE; MAKE HOME THE PLACE TO BE - You can save tons of cash, just by pimping-out your own space.

Forget the clubs every weekend, the overpriced booze, the movie theaters you have to risk life and limb inside, and all the random pull-overs, speeding tickets, boots, tows, incidents and accidents that the streets have to offer. It only robs you of your resources; do the math.

Instead, make home where you prefer to entertain.

Make there just as cool, if not cooler than any other place to hang out in town.

Invest in some nice things for the home, a nice video screen and sound, mood lighting, small bar, decent patio furniture, etc., so that the natural choice is to skip the public mayhem and just chill THERE instead.

Learn to entertain at home, to decrease your 'random mayhem' magnet.

* POST-MOVE; SECURITY, GETTING/KEEPING NICE STUFF - Although we just encouraged home entertaining, there are still little things that can be done to keep your security tight, regardless.

Of course we'd also encourage keeping a close eye on your guestlist and your valuables put-away, as not to tempt klepto behavior in your house.

When getting nice things, BRING THEM INSIDE DISCREETLY, like at night when no one's around, or throw out the boxes by TEARING THEM DOWN and placing them in opaque trash bags.

You may not see it, but "the streets iz watchin'", and a good way to let them know what you have, is to place the boxes out on the curb for pickup, without having them torn down.

Crooks can then take inventory from the curbside, without ever having step foot inside your place (yet), so don't give them that chance.

Another thing that you can do to avoid break-ins is to CREATE AN INTERFERENCE PATTERN when you leave for long periods of time.

Robbers will often stake-out a place for days or weeks to learn its ways, but you can confuse their ability to know when the place is definitely empty by leaving a tv or radio with music or conversational chatter on, while you are away.

Leave a light source or two on as well. Light and sound from a home usually means that there's someone there. And in times when you can't yet afford renters' insurance, you learn to employ a few simple tricks to protect your developing life/assets.

Additional power usage cost? Yes, there is, but its only pennies per month.

Besides, consider the cost of more conventional security means in comparison. Its no substitution, only a way to be proactive until you can afford more proper means.

* POST-MOVE; BE A GOOD NEIGHBOR - I know, I know; you're finally FREE, and wanna express your freedom and blast your music, with your friends yelling over it, as they gather in the yard, littering and take up all the extra parking until 2am on a Monday's dawn.

This is a quick way to piss neighbors off and turn them against you.

A good neighborhood/community thrives through CONSIDERATION, and a good neighbor knows that there are people nearby that work mornings and go to bed early, or have small children to tend to.

They also consider other people's peace of mind, so if they should party, they 'keep it down', or take extra care to keep other tenants' interests intact (time-appropriateness, their parking spaces accessible, noise/yelling, trash, troublesome activity, etc.).

Make sure to be at least a LITTLE responsible for the upkeep of your environment's quality standards; you'll always be the better person for having done so.

Voila, done; now you have all the savvy of a shrewd city-lovin' 40yr old, concerning finding that perfect place to live for one's self.

Good luck!

Questions? Ask away! Follow, like comment and share; thanks!

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