Choosing a Place to Live
Everyone needs a place to live. Before beginning your housing search, it is smart to figure out how much you can actually pay for housing. You will also want to give some serious thought to the type of housing you want and need.
One way to figure out how much you can afford for housing is to total the amount you spend each month. Subtract the total amount you spend for non-housing items from your total monthly income. This shows how much you have left to spend on rent (or housing payments, if buying), utilities, insurance, or other housing costs. Be sure you have a realistic idea of utility and insurance costs before making a commitment to rent or house payments. Another way of determining what you can afford is to divide your monthly take-home pay by 3. Most families can afford no more than 1/3 of their pay going to cover all housing expenses.
Your housing costs should be no more than one-third of your monthly take home pay.
Each persons housing wants and needs are different. Some people like to live in town close to shopping and other people want to enjoy the peace and quiet of country living. They may not mind the extra travel costs involved and the possible bad roads.
There are different kinds of housing. Each type has its good points and bad points. Apartments may have playgrounds and places to do your laundry and you will not have to do any yard work. In apartments, you can sometimes hear the people living around you. So, you may not have as much privacy as you want. A house offers more privacy and you will have a yard for outside activities. If you rent or buy a house, you will have to do the yard work.
As you begin your search for housing, here a few of the many things you will want to check: Are the ceilings, walls and floors in good repair? Is there at least one overhead light in each room? Is there a space to store, prepare and serve food? Does the toilet work? Is there a working smoke detector? Are there signs of mice, rats or roaches? Is there a safe outside play area for children? Will your furniture fit into the space? Are the people around you ones you want to live near? and Will the school bus pick up your children? The final question is, "Can you afford the rent or house payments?"
You can also contact the Kansas Department of Commerce and Housing (1-800-753-4422) for information about rental housing assistance. Local community agencies may be able to help you with your rent when you have an emergency and cannot pay.
When you rent a place to live, you may have to sign a lease or rental agreement. The lease or rental agreement spells out the amount of rent is and when it is due. It also explains how long the agreement is in force and your options if you want to leave before that date. It gives other rules you must follow. Typically, a security deposit or payment of at least one months rent must be paid before you can move in. The deposit protects the owner if you cause any damage to the property or if you leave without paying the last months rent. The deposit is returned if you leave with all rent paid and with no damages done to the house or apartment.
Choosing a place to live takes a lot of time and thought. The place you choose will determine the way you live and the people you meet. It may also affect your happiness. Choosing a place you can afford and one that meets many of your wants and needs will add to the general quality of your life.
Resource: K-State Research and Extension, Keys to Successful Money Management, July 1992.