Moving to a new, big city can be very exciting. Whether you’re fresh out of college or have been chilling in the ‘burbs with your parents for a few years and are ready to make the big leap, a move like this will be unforgettable and of course full of valuable lessons.

Though renting in big cities may be fairly expensive across the board, there are some big differences. In New York City, many pay a fee to use a broker to find them an apartment which can be expensive, while all Chicago apartment-finder services are provided free of charge. Public transportation is different everywhere too.

The Craziness

Heath, a recent college grad straight out of the midwest, has been living in Washington D.C. since graduation in May of 2011. The nation’s capital is a bustling place and it can be a tricky place to navigate & find a place to live. Here are some interesting things about Heath’s big move:

  • He didn’t actually see his apartment before he signed for it, nor did his roommate.
  • He found out about the apartment only because it was in a building where friends of his lived.
“Housing in D.C. is ridiculous,” Heath said. But don’t let that discourage you! It means that the more information you go into the hunt with, the more likely you are to find a kick-ass place to live.
Now, because he’s looking for a one bedroom place when his lease is up, he gets to go through the process all over again. After making calls in January trying to secure living arrangements for the spring, he’s been turned down and told to wait until closer to the time he wants to move. Why? “It’s because of how fast things go.” Apartments are never vacant, and landlords sometimes don’t know until the last minute when tenants are moving out.

The Positives

One good thing about housing in D.C., although there may not be a lot of it, is that rent is controlled by the government. Though rent has been increasing, there is in fact a law regarding the amount by which rent can increase each year.
Also, remember that everyone else is pretty much in the same boat as you (unless they’ve been living out there for a while). Although housing my be expensive, you’ll be living in the nation’s capital. The finish line isn’t too far away.

Things to Think About Before Signing

You’ll have a lot of competition during your apartment hunt, so make sure you’ve got the bases covered:

  • Know how much money you’ll be making: Will you and your roommate(s) meet the financial requirement?
  • How many bedrooms are you looking for? Have a number set in stone to narrow your search.
  • Go into it with an open mind.
  • Check out Craiglist: Keep up with D.C. listings for a few days to see how quickly things go so you’ll know what the search will be like.
  • Summer is the craziest. That’s when everyone’s moving in & out and when people are participating in summer internships.

More Specifics

Alex, another recent graduate who has been in D.C. for almost a year, has had a different experience living in student housing recommended to her as an intern. Now she’s searching for her own place, and she’s got some great advice as well.

  • It’s fair to say you’ll spend about $100-$200 a month on public transportation.
  • If possible, live within 15 minutes of a Metro stop.
  • Young people love living in the DuPont neighborhood.
  • Don’t bother with a car. Seriously.

Now get searching before someone else snags your dream apartment!