At twenty, I moved halfway across the country and a thousand miles away from almost everyone I knew. Having lived exclusively in the west up until that point, coming here was a culture shock. Highways are thinner, states are closer together, and apartments are uniquely different.
Culture shock wore off pretty quickly for me, but there are still things I’m learning about moving within the Ocean State. Recently I moved from a two bedroom with a thousand square feet in a split family home. My former landlord allowed the apartment to go into foreclosure, but hey, I needed to downgrade anyway, right? Now I'm in a more modern, industrial style loft. Here are a few things I have learned over the years and with this most current move.
Right For You. Here’s some sound advice - never make anything final! If you get caught up looking for your white picket fence. Where you think you will find the love of your life, get married, have 2.5 kids, a dog, a cat, a hamster, pick the curtains that will define you as a human, sofas that will be the most comfortable ever, rugs that are un-stainable, a fireplace, a yard with grass that shimmers, a farmer’s market across the street, high ranking schools around every corner… Okay, you get the point. Look, renting, or even owning, is not building your dream house. If you pigeonhole yourself into something perfect, you’ll miss something right. Look at renting apartments/houses backwards, shop for what there is, not what you want. Because if you don’t, you may end up disappointed
The Search. Zillow, Apartments.com, and Craigslist are all fine resources when moving. Although it seems like CL is slowly fading away from daily use. And while all of these sites/apps can help you find a new place to live, I have found that around here your best bet is the old fashion way. Finding a “For Rent” sign stabbed into someone’s lawn. Landlord’s do not exactly have a hard time renting apartments in Providence. Maybe the story is different in more rural areas. But I have found several apartments that were never even listed on Craigslist and even more that didn’t make it onto Zillow or one of the bigger sites. Because they don’t have to, space is growing more and more scarce in the cities (and Rhode Island is not that big to begin with). Here’s a tip - use the other sites to research the areas you’re interested in and then, take a drive or walk around and see what you can find. This will also give you a better understanding of the neighborhood.
Rhode Island. If you were born and raised in Little Rhody, you know what’s what. But if you’re moving from out of state, you’re going to hear and read things about certain areas of RI. It’s not that they are all wrong, but most of what you’ll read describing the “bad areas” is misleading. I saw more break-ins on the East Side during the two years I lived there than in the seven years I’ve lived in Pawtucket. Also, if you’re from out of town, there are areas that have more to do within walking distance than others. But look, don’t listen solely to comments on Yelp crying about how they had to drive five minutes into Providence to enjoy life. Get on Google Maps and search for what you like to do. Theatre, dancing, dining, whatever. Check it out and see how far you are okay with walking/driving to get there. Also, consider the price point. The exact same apartment in Providence is between $200 and $500 cheaper two streets over in Pawtucket for example. So, if you’re okay with saving money but having to Uber down for Waterfire, that’s important info to have.
Details. Typically I play it pretty fast and loose. I don’t take a ton of notes in my personal life and I’m *somewhat* disorganized. DON’T BE LIKE ME! If you’re truly shopping the market and plan on seeing more than two apartments, grab a spiral bound notebook. Seriously, it doesn’t matter how good you think you are, if you are looking at multiple places, write out as many questions as you can and ask each landlord or property manager you talk to. Ask about trivial things because once you move in, they won’t seem so trivial. Pets, are they allowed and is there a specific area to let them do their business? Fees, ask for any and all fees because while most landlords are decent humans, occasionally you’ll find the opposite. Laundry, where is it and how many machines are there, are they coin op or is there a money card? Utilities, do you know roughly how much the usage and bill is? Leaks, ask if there have been any recent roof or pipe leaks. Break-ins, this falls into knowing your neighborhood. Here’s the deal, the landlord has to disclose whatever you ask, otherwise they’re signing you onto a lease under false pretenses. At the very least, if anything does happen down the line, you can use this as fodder in any kind of legal situation.
You’re in! So you’re finally in, nice job adulting. Now before you move ANYTHING in, walk through and take a pictures of any damages you see. Every. Little. Thing. If you can date stamp it, all the better. (Nowadays most digital pictures have that information in their file anyway.) Send a polite email to your landlord saying you did a walk through and found “x”, here are the pictures. This way you won't get blamed for the previous tenant’s destructive habits. This could also help you get your security deposit back when you move out.
Moving to a slightly smaller space was one of the best things I’ve ever done. (It) Saves money and makes you really look at your life and decide what matters most to you. Good luck if you’re reading this and embarking upon your next big move.
More About Colin Carlton
Colin is the author of the “Grayfellow” series. For more info about his books and other projects, check out ColinCarlton.com. Find him also on Facebook @colincarltonofficial and Twitter/Instagram @colincarlton.
Photo Credits: All photos courtesy of Colin Carlton