How to Setup Your Home

What You Need

You can eventually live a very successful life even if you start out with nothing more than the clothes on your back. It’s been done. But you should start out living on your own by being as prepared as possible. As you plan ahead, take into consideration all the worldly goods that are involved with setting up a home.

Fortunately, you can get along just fine without most of the stuff. There are things that you need and things that would be nice to have. You don’t have to come up with everything at once.

The Basics:

  • Mattress
  • Set of sheets
  • Blanket
  • Pillow
  • Towels
  • Frying pan
  • Sauce pan
  • Can opener
  • Large mixing spoon
  • Plate, bowl, glass, and mug
  • Lamp

Looking at the previous short list, you can see that if survival depended on it, we really could get by without most of the items. The same goes for the following expanded list of the things that would be great to have when you move into your own place. Don’t worry if you don’t have everything. You will eventually. Acquiring items can be something that you do over an extended period of time. Use the checklist here as a basic guide to making your own list of things you need.

Try to Acquire:

  • Baking dish (9 x 13)
  • Bath towels
  • Beach towel
  • Bed frame
  • Bed pillows
  • Blanket
  • Box springs
  • Bucket
  • Can opener
  • Clock
  • Coffeemaker
  • Cookie sheet
  • Dishes, set
  • Drinking glasses
  • Flatware
  • Sofa
  • Spatula
  • Table and chairs
  • Tablecloth or placemats
  • Hand towels
  • Kitchen knives
  • Kitchen towels
  • Mattress
  • Mattress cover
  • Measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • Mixer
  • Mixing bowls
  • Mixing spoon
  • Muffin pan
  • Pot holders
  • Pots and pans
  • Salt and pepper shakers
  • Sheets, set
  • Toaster
  • Vacuum
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Washcloths

When your family and friends ask, “What do you want for your birthday?”, you know what the answer is. Letting the word out that you will soon be living on your own may bring household donations that you could really use. You can also find items that have plenty of use still in them at garage sales and thrift stores. Consider bartering as well as shopping at clearance and close-out sales.


In addition to household items, you should start collecting the basic tools you will need for your tool kit:

Minimum Tool List

  • Hammer and assorted nails
  • Pliers
  • Scissors
  • Screwdrivers: Phillips and flat-head, and assorted screws
  • Utility knife: with reversible, retractable blade

Extended Tool List

  • Duct tape
  • Hammer and assorted nails
  • Industrial-strength glue
  • Pliers
  • Plunger
  • Scissors
  • Screwdrivers: Phillips and flat-head, and assorted screws
  • Staple gun
  • Tape measure
  • Utility knife: with reversible, retractable blade
  • Wrench: adjustable

Where Will You Live?

The highlight of moving out on your own is the actual moving into your own place. You’ve planned, worked, and thought about it for such a long time, and the day finally arrives when you are ready to start hunting for your new home.

The city you choose to live in will most likely be dictated by your job, school, or family connections. The actual address you decide to call home will most likely be chosen on the basis of what you can afford.

We all want to live in as safe and as comfortable a place as our finances will allow. The first experience most of us have living on our own is not with home ownership, but with renting. So how do you know how much rent you can reasonably pay each month?

When you set about renting a unit, you must supply the owner or manager with some of your personal information. The rental application will ask your income. Your verifiable income (that which can be proven, such as from your employer) should be at least three or four times the rent you are considering.

This means you probably won’t be able to qualify for the unit if more than 25 percent to 33 percent of your monthly income is to be used for your rent. For example, if you bring home $2,400 a month, you shouldn’t consider spending more than $800 a month for housing.

Your verifiable income (that which can be proven, such as from your employer) should be at least three or four times the rent you are considering.

This rule is not etched in stone. You may find a landlord who doesn’t care how much you make as long as you pay the rent in full and on time. Perhaps you know you can easily go without spending money in one area, such as on entertainment, if it means you can afford to live where you really want.

Take your personal spending habits into consideration and arrange your priorities, keeping the 33 percent rule in mind. Once you figure out how much you can afford, don’t be tempted to spend “just a little bit more.” The amount of $830 sounds pretty close to $800, but reaching for that extra $30 every month might turn into too much of a stretch. Remember, starting and keeping your monthly rent payment as low as possible will be to your advantage.

It’s not uncommon for a young person to have some help with the first rental experience. If you cannot qualify for a rental unit due to lack of a credit history, for instance, a parent or other family member may be willing to cosign or be responsible with you. That person includes his or her financial and credit information in the application and enters into the agreement, even though he or she will not be living with you. If you get a cosigner, make sure you treat the agreement responsibly.

Take extra pains to pay the rent on time and in full. Someone has stepped out on a limb for you and you need to show that person that his or her trust and efforts were not misplaced.

Before Your Search Begins

After you have decided the maximum monthly payment you can afford, it’s time to prepare for the search. Before you begin looking at rental units, take the following steps to ensure your search goes smoothly:

  1. If you have a credit history, get a copy of your credit report. This ensures that you are aware of its contents. You do not want to be caught off-guard if there’s a negative item in the report. If the report contains a mistake, do what you can to correct it, by contacting each of the three main credit reporting companies. You can order one free credit report from each of the three companies every year.
  2. Obtain permission from two or three people to use their names and telephone numbers as possible references.
  3. In addition to references, have other information ready that will be requested, such as:
    • The name, address and phone number of your employer
    • Current pay stub
    • Previous employment information
    • Social Security and drivers
  4. Decide what you are looking for. What factors are the most important? How much room do you need? Do you need a place that allows pets? Do you want the responsibility of a yard? Having an idea of what your requirements are will help you focus your search.
  5. Check a street map of your town. Are some neighborhoods more convenient for your situation than others? Do you have favorite areas where you would like to live? For instance, finding a place that is close to your job or university may be important to you.
  6. Make a list of the available rentals which meet your needs. Today, even with online searches, often the best resource is still your local newspaper, especially the weekend real estate section. You can also obtain rental guides. They can be found at grocery stores, gas stations, colleges, real estate offices, and so on.
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You may want to look into professionally run properties, such as those offered by a property management company or real estate office. Rental agents are paid their fee by the property owner, so you do not directly pay for the assistance. Professional property managers are typically very much aware not only of owners rights and responsibilities, but of the rights of tenants as well. Not all real estate offices handle rentals, but you may want to try to find one in your area that does.

What to Look For while Choosing the Place

In choosing the place that is right for you, knowing what to look out for is as important as knowing what to look for. Try to give yourself as much time as possible to make the decision that is right for you. Don’t be in such a hurry to move in that you overlook something important, such as realizing after it’s too late that you’ve moved into a building in which neighbors start to party just about the time you need to get to sleep. You cannot be passive in your search. You have to take the lead and ask the right questions. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Pay close attention to the neighborhood. Is it well tended? Do you feel safe? How far is it from your work, university, place of worship, and so forth?
  • Try to visit the unit in the daytime. This allows you to notice how much natural light the unit gets and helps identifying what kind of shape it’s in. You can see dirt, marks, and stains better in daylight.
  • If a unit becomes a real possibility, try to revisit it at night. Look at the neighborhood again. Look at the exterior lighting. Notice the lighting in pathways, alleys, hallways, and stairwells. Does the surrounding environment appear to be safe?
  • Once you think you have found the place that is right for you, don’t be shy about meeting your prospective neighbors. Ask them about their experiences with the buildings management and if they would recommend a move into the building. Ask about their experiences getting repairs taken care of. Ask about noise. Ask about bugs. Are the neighbors being friendly? You may find out more than you expected.
  • Take notes while you are searching. After looking at many different units for several days or weeks, it is easy to get confused. When you find the unit that is the one for you, and you think you are ready to commit, take detailed notes about the entire condition of the unit and what has been discussed with the owner or manager. For instance, if the carpet is stained, write a detailed description of the condition and have the landlord or manager sign the documentation. This acknowledgement may help prevent any disputes over responsibility when you move out. You can also take photos or make a video before you bring in your belongings. This will show the exact condition of the unit when you moved in.
  • Always look at the exact unit that you will be living in, not one similar to it, such as a model. Never sign a lease for a unit sight unseen.
  • Find out if any utilities are included with the rent. For instance, the water bill is often paid by the owner and not the separate tenants. You may want to ask what the average utility bills cost for heating and/or cooling to determine if your budget allows for this expense.
  • Make sure your questions and concerns are stated directly and to the point. It is considered misrepresentation if an owner or manager lies to you, but it is your responsibility to ask the questions that may be of importance. For instance, you should ask, “Has the carpeting been professionally cleaned since the last tenant moved out?” instead of asking, “Is the carpet clean?”
  • Find out the policy regarding your pet before you get too involved. Pets are forbidden from some units entirely. Some rentals allow pets only if an additional security deposit is paid. Check first.
  • Is the rent in line with comparable units?

If your first impression of the unit is positive, look a little deeper. Make sure everything works as it should. Don’t be shy. Ask questions and run some tests:

  • Does the shower have enough water pressure?
  • Run the water in all the faucets; check the pressure and determine if the water is hot.
  • Flush the toilet.
  • Open and close the windows; do they stick? Do they lock securely?
  • Do all the doors close as they should?
  • Try the locks. Find out if they have been changed or rekeyed since the last tenant. Ask if you can have this done.
  • Look for leaks and water damage on the ceilings and floors. Look under the sinks.
  • Do you smell mold or mildew?
  • Does the thermostat work properly? Heater? Air-conditioner?
  • Do the walls have holes, dents, marks, or cracks?
  • Do all the kitchen appliances work?
  • Are there smoke detectors in working order in the unit?
  • Where will you park your car?
  • What do the common areas look like? Are they clean and maintained? What kind of shape is the laundry room in?
  • If there are shared facilities, such as a pool, what are the hours of operation?
  • Is the prospective landlord or property manager friendly and responsive to your questions?
  • Does he or she appear to be someone whom you will be comfortable entering into a contract with?

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