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Moving out - how early to start shopping for your house/appartment?


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Hello,

so I plan on moving out in about a year for my PhD. How early should I start shopping for stuff for my future apartment (never lived on my own, so for some things I have to start from scratch). Any advice? What was your experience ? 

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Hi, @Adelaide9216

I’m in the process of moving into and totally furnishing an apartment for the first time. Before I get into the details of my experience & advice, the most important thing I’ve learned is that this process is very personal and depends entirely on your particular financial, geographic, & time constraints. That being said, there are lots of ways to get it done well and crowdsourcing advice is a great idea.

For context: after I had committed to a program (March) but prior to deciding how I wanted to live (studio/1B/2B with a roommate) and in what neighborhoods, I made a list of “essential,” “important,” and “luxury” items, including furniture.

I then did three things simultaneously - learned about various neighborhoods and their rental patterns (i.e. when listings came up and how to find them), decided what way of living worked best for me and my stipend (I opted for living by myself in a 1B), and made notes on the places from which I could buy every single item on my list (even if I wasn’t sure that I’d end up purchasing all of it.)

I held off on buying anything until I’d seen my place in person because I am doing a slow move-in. The details of that particular experience may not yield anything useful for you, but it has produced some more general advice that I’d give anyone who is doing this for the first time.

First, figure out what furniture is essential to you and get a firm sense of how to get those things purchased and/or delivered to your new place by the time you're living there. For me, those things were my bed & bed frame, desk & chair, and bookshelves.

Then, explore your important/luxury items since, hey, data is always good to have. I would suggest, however, holding off on actually buying those things until you get to your place. It’s nice to walk around the apartment, take a breath, measure stuff, and get a sense of the size and type of furniture that will work in your new space (unless you 100% totally love something and know it will fit, in which case I think it makes sense to get it delivered at the same time as your essentials.)*

*This is assuming you're purchasing most or all of your stuff from the same place, like IKEA. Which brings me to another piece of advice - the more you can buy from the same place, the easier.

Also, buying in town is usually a lot easier (in terms of delivery/self-transport) than having to move it from where you’re at now, so take a look at what options (big chains, resellers, etc.) are available to you in your new city, what their delivery policies are, and wait to buy and have furniture delivered/transported yourself until you're in your new place.

So, to answer your Q directly - I'd do as much research and list-making as you'd like right now and hold off buying anything until you sign your lease and get the key unless it is a small piece of furniture that you won't be able to find again or a big piece that is flat-packed, *and* you can store it where you're living now and then transport it easily once it is time to move. I'd also get your essentials there as soon as possible after you've moved in and get other stuff in as needed, unless you're 100% "I want and need this here now."

I’m happy to share my lists if they’d be helpful to you and I hope this aids your apartment prep!

Edited by a_sort_of_fractious_angel
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Depends on where you are going. If it is nearby where you currently live, you may want to drive some stuff over to your new place. As I'm moving halfway across the world I'm just ordering IKEA as I have no interest in the hassle of budget shopping etc. My flatmate will collect the stuff for me and put it in my room. I actually enjoy putting IKEA together and I do not plan on getting a lot (Northern European minimalism lolz), so it works for me. 

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I move in two weeks,  but I have been planning for my furniture for over a year and looked at apartments as soon as I was admitted to different places. I looked around at multiple cities so I could gauge the cost of living since I new rent was going to be most of my stipend.  I made an apartment hunting trip right after I decided to pick out a place in person.  I started looking at furniture early because I wanted to estimate how much money I needed to furnish a one bedroom apartment (I am spending about $3000).  I also loved planning my new apartment and it was stress relieving for me through this crazy process.   I am ordering some furniture online and having some Ikea stuff delivered.  The only thing I haven't picked out is a couch because I am not sure what size I want.  I have bought some smaller items (bedding, decorations, etc.) that I can easily transport.  

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Since you have some time, I'd start looking now to get a sense of (a) what you like and (b) what you can afford. I used a Pinterest board to keep track of ideas. However, I would strongly recommend not buying things until you're actually in your space so you have a better sense of how things will fit. 

I've had a lot of success ordering things online that come flatpacked. Amazon, Walmart, Wayfair, etc often have affordable options and will deliver to your home for free/cheap. As a bonus, online options often have very specific measurements, so you can get a sense of how things fit. I also used an iPad app that allows you to plan rooms (kind of build a blue print and lets you customize furniture so you can see how things fit), which was super helpful because I'm SO BAD at spatial logic.

I would also say, don't feel like you have to move in, decorate, and get everything just perfect before classes start. Over my last couple of moves, I've found that I really have to be in a space for about 6 months before I really have a sense of what it "needs". Set it up as much as you can and then give it some time before you commit to all the final, homey touches so you end up with things that really work well for the space.

I'd also echo @a_sort_of_fractious_angel's recommendation about figuring out neighborhoods and rental patterns now. If you can make some visits to your new city, that would be particularly helpful. When I moved to DC, I signed a three month sublease and then spent weekends wondering around the city with the PadMapper app open to see what I liked and could afford.

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I like reading that everyone's tips kinda lined up with what I decided to do for my move. I am also planning on buying a good chunk of my things once I'm in my new city so that's nice to hear that other people agree that that is a good plan. I am however bringing some furniture with me in a moving truck that I didn't want to part with. I have really nice furniture for my bedroom that I got as hand-me-downs and I really didn't want to have to pay to furnish all of those things again (and I think it is cheaper to get a moving truck to bring them with me than buy all of those pieces again). Also it means I don't have to worry about buying a new bed which makes me happy because I sleep like a dream in my current bed! So I suggest if you can afford to move some pieces you really like and are willing to put in the effort to move them then definitely do that! But if buying all new things is most feasible

Like @iwearflowers and @a_sort_of_fractious_angel, I also suggest watching the rental market to get a good idea of rentals patterns because I think by doing that myself I was able to plan my trip out to my new location at a time that a lot of listings would be available to view for the time period I was wanting to move in. I think doing this is what helped get me an apartment that checked off almost everything I wanted!

Side note to others that might see this: any suggestions on where to get a couch that is good quality and won't have saggy or mishaped cushions after a year or two that also isn't outrageously expensive (I'm think 500-1200 range is the range I'm expected to spend)?

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Getting home necessities from scratch can be difficult and expensive. Easily movable things like kitchen stuff (pans/small appliances/utensils/tupperware/dishes/etc) can add up. I've been buying a few things every paycheck and when I see them on sale so I don't get hit with a huge bill. These things don't take up that much space and can be tossed in a car. Buying this stuff early is worth it.

As for furniture, I'd hold off. I'm buying stuff near my new place, since it's a bit far from where I am now. My university sells old office furniture out of a warehouse, and I just don't see the point in buying something sturdy like a desk or a filing cabinet brand new. Of course, even without that option, there's always thrift stores and estate sales and such. 

Spending the money to move furniture is only viable if you already have the furniture, I think. Buying furniture where you live now + moving expenses probably costs a lot more than buying furniture there. Or, if you're shopping online, feel free to set aside a list of things that you like and be ready to order so it arrives the day your lease starts.

On 8/1/2018 at 11:20 PM, FishNerd said:

Side note to others that might see this: any suggestions on where to get a couch that is good quality and won't have saggy or mishaped cushions after a year or two that also isn't outrageously expensive (I'm think 500-1200 range is the range I'm expected to spend)?

Random furniture stores close all the time. You can generally find a good quality, new couch for a significantly reduced price if you seek out those closeout/clearance sales. Used is cheaper than new, obviously, if you're alright with that. A couch also isn't something that you necessarily need to have ready the minute you move in. You can wait a bit, shop around, and hold off on buying for as long as you need (or until you make enough friends that the seating situation becomes embarrassing).

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49 minutes ago, megabee said:

Random furniture stores close all the time. You can generally find a good quality, new couch for a significantly reduced price if you seek out those closeout/clearance sales. Used is cheaper than new, obviously, if you're alright with that. A couch also isn't something that you necessarily need to have ready the minute you move in. You can wait a bit, shop around, and hold off on buying for as long as you need (or until you make enough friends that the seating situation becomes embarrassing).

I hadn't thought of store closing sales - thanks for that good idea! And yeah I don't plan on immediately buying a couch so I will shop around a bit. I have no issue with used furniture normally but I am a bit hesitant about a used couch since I know someone who got bedbugs that way... If I could be guaranteed it didn't have bedbugs I would totally shop used.

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  • 4 weeks later...
On 7/23/2018 at 11:37 AM, Adelaide9216 said:

Any advice? 

Given your concerns IRT experiencing anxiety and depression as a doctoral student, I recommend that you consider renting / sub leasing a room with a bathroom in an apartment or house.

You will get more bang for your buck and you can spend money on items the apartment/household needs.

The biggest challenges you may face is understanding what your strengths and shortcomings are as a house mate and what you cannot tolerate in a room mate.

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