The days swirling around graduation are filled with cliché advice: The world is your oyster; you can do whatever you set your mind to; and follow your passion. So whether your next move takes you across the world or down the street, surrounded by friends and family or in a city full of strangers, here’s a practical guide to help with the endless logistics involved in finding and securing your first home after graduation. Let’s take it step by step.
An Organized Search
The internet and cellphones are your biggest allies when searching for apartments. The following sources can help you find your next place — from scouting to signing.
Some cities (like Houston) have apartment realtors who can help you find a place. The apartment complex you select will pay the realtor, not you.
Every major city has a Reddit forum flowing with helpful information about the city and an active audience to answer questions. In some cases, you can view rentals directly.
Use the map feature to focus on your top neighborhoods.
Download free apps like Zillow Rentals, Zumper, Hotpads and Rent.com.
Post your inquiry on the Rice alumni Facebook page in your desired city to see what your fellow Owls can share.
John Rudd ’18, who works as an architect in London and shares a flat with a Rice alumna, found that sometimes you just have to improvise your moving plans, especially an overseas move. “As much as we tried to plan our move to London, we just had to show up with nothing but a few of our belongings, a 10-day Airbnb reservation and ourselves. The day we arrived, we made a few phone calls, walked into some real estate agencies and saw a few flats. Luckily, we found a place we liked,” Rudd said.
Central air conditioning? High-speed internet? A dishwasher? Which features in a rental matter most to you, and what can you live without? Is it a neighborhood location, the distance to work, a porch or patio, or a full kitchen for dinners with new friends?
For Thu Nguyen ’17, who works in Washington, D.C., as a communications manager, an important amenity was an in-unit washer and dryer. Proximity to work was also a big plus for Nguyen. “Our row house rental is in the middle of two different Metro stations and four bus stops and is a 10- to 20-minute walk to work, groceries and restaurants.”
For Rudd, the amenity that makes his London flat feel like home is access to the outdoors. “Other than the location, we took our flat because it has a generous private terrace. It allows us to have people over at our place when the weather is nice,” he said.
Finding the Perfect Roomie
Remember Rice’s first-year roommate information forms? Use the same premise to determine whether you and a friend (or someone you’ve never met) will be compatible roommates. Here are a few questions to ask a potential roomie.
- What are you looking for in a roommate?
This will help you understand if they’re looking for someone to simply split rent with or if you’ll lock in a lifelong best friend.
- How do you socialize?
Do you want your space to be the setting for social events or a quiet zone at all times? What kind of music do you like?
- What’s your work schedule?
Will you and your roommate be ships passing in the night?
- Do you work from home?
If a potential roommate works from home, you may rarely have the apartment to yourself and might be expected to keep the noise down during certain hours.
- Are you in a relationship?
How often would their significant other spend time in your space?
- How often do you travel?
Depending on if you like having space to yourself, the answer to this question could be very important.
- What’s your go-to temperature on the thermostat?
Something to keep in mind as temperature preferences affect energy bills each month.
- How do you like to divvy up chores?
How will shared spaces, like living rooms, kitchens and bathrooms, be cleaned?
- How would you like to split apartment costs?
Make sure to discuss rent costs if bedrooms are different sizes. Also discuss utilities, household items and parking logistics.
- Do you like to cook?
It’s not a bad idea to discuss how often you will be in the kitchen and when.
Making It a Home
Whether your new abode is a fifth-floor walk-up, a townhome or a house with more room than you’ve ever had, it’s important to create a space that ignites joy and helps you relax at the end of the day.
Search thrift stores, Craigslist and Nextdoor for secondhand finds. Try Ikea and Amazon for new, affordable basics.
Get your belongings organized and off the floor.
A neutral paint color can make a cramped space feel brighter and larger.
- Window treatments
Simple blinds or curtains assure privacy and needn’t be costly.
Switch out harsh lighting for softer incandescents.
Adding greenery is an inexpensive way to bring nature inside the house.
Whether you and your roomie are besties or just share a space out of economic necessity, being fair and thoughtful is always appreciated. Having a roommate, as you surely know, ranges from exasperating to fun. Here’s what our young alumni had to say about sharing a home.
Tessa Fries ’18, who lives in Kona, Hawaii, shares a home with three roommates and teaches high school through Teach For America. “I have to do monthly fridge purges, but it’s also a lot of fun.”
“My two roommates and I responsibly take care of things when we can and try to be fair about it. We all kind of know when it should be our turn to take out the trash. The best part about roommates is sharing food. I love to bake and sometimes I don’t want to eat everything.”
— Thu Nguyen ’17
“Getting to know people in a big city can be difficult, but at least I know there’s someone who’s usually down to go on some silly adventure or just talk through serious issues.”
— John Rudd ’18
They Say the Kitchen is the Heart of the Home
Whether you’re developing new friendships or catching up with old pals, potlucks are a great and inexpensive way to socialize. Verena Schulman, Baker College executive chef, recommends some of her favorite recipes.
Cauliflower Rice With Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Arugula
- 4 whole cauliflowers cut into “rice”-size pieces
Note: Cutting the cauliflower by hand is better. If you use a food processor, it’s very easy to overdo it, causing all the liquid to come out and make the salad mushy.
- 1 cup minced sun-dried tomatoes
- 1 cup creamy feta cheese
- 6 ounces baby arugula
- 1 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- Kosher salt and fresh crushed pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients and let rest for at least 1 hour before serving.
Edamame Hummus and Grilled Minted Naan
- 3 cups shelled edamame
- 1/3 cup tahini
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 clove of fresh garlic
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Water (as needed)
- Fresh mint to taste
- Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Using a food processor, blend edamame, tahini, lemon juice, garlic and olive oil until smooth. Add water in small increments to achieve a creamy, smooth texture. Buy some good-quality naan bread, brush it with melted butter or olive oil, and grill or toast for a few seconds on each side. Sprinkle fresh mint, salt and pepper on the naan and arrange with hummus on a plate for serving.