Finding Your First Apartment
It’s graduation season and Rent.com knows that soon many young adults will be embarking on an apartment search for the very first time … scary! Finding your first apartment is usually the most difficult, as you navigate budgeting and lease negotiation to ensure you get what you need, often in a new and unfamiliar city. What’s more, your parents are often in a different city, or have left you on your own to figure it out. To calm those nerves and help new grads find the perfect place, Rent.com provides a simple first apartment search checklist—akin to what your mom or dad might make!
First Apartment Search Checklist:
1. The Ins and Outs: Thoroughly check all infrastructure components for the apartment and follow the tips below to guide your inspection.
- Check the locks on the doors and windows of the apartment (and the door of the building as well), to ensure they close properly. Hint: if there is condensation on the windows, they aren’t closed properly!
- See that the floor is not slanted and, too, that it’s not warped in any way as that could be a sign of a previous or existing leak.
- Another leaky clue, make sure there are no spots on the ceilings and/or walls.
- Turn on the water and make sure the pressure and color are to your liking. Also, check that you have a sink in both the kitchen and the bathroom.
- Look around for both good outlet locations and livable socket numbers.
- When visiting an apartment, notice how much natural sunlight it gets. Light can have a major impact on your overall mood so keep an eye out for big windows!
- Try out the appliances! Everything should work correctly or on to the next one…
- If you have a car, ask about parking availability, security and monthly costs.
- Chat with the building super to get an idea on the maintenance plan – many landlords will make improvements on carpeting, paint and appliances if you ask.
- For more tips, read our post on making apartment security a priority.
2. Creepy Crawlers: Bugs and mice can be real pests and difficult to get rid of, so use the suggestions below to determine if the place you’re looking at is critter free!
- When looking at an apartment, check for little holes in the wood in the floor, and indication that bugs likely were there.
- If you see steel wool stuffed into any crevices, rodents were there. Take note as rodents are never welcome guests!
- Take a close look around for bedbugs and make sure to ask current tenants and the super if there have been any incidences of bedbugs in the building. You can also reference bedbugregistry.com and search the address to double check!
- It’s inevitable that almost every apartment will on occasion be subject some unwelcome visitors. If you find yourself with a pest problem despite following the hints above, check out our tips for apartment pest control.
3. Neighborhood Watch: It’s important to make sure you feel safe in your neighborhood, and also that you have all of the amenities that you need close by. Think transportation, grocery stores, pharmacy, etc.
- Make sure the building’s public spaces, hallways, parking garages/lots, are well lit.
- Look for proximity to public transportation options you use the most.
- Visit the neighborhood at night to make sure you feel comfortable there. You could also look up the crime statistics for the neighborhood.
- Don’t be afraid to speak with current residents/future neighbors and find out their likes and dislikes when it comes to their apartment and/or building. It’s also good to meet your potential neighbors so you know what you are dealing with…baby? Crazy college student?
- If you can see people from your window, they likely can see you too. Check out the view to avoid any peeping issues.
- Think about what you need in your life and how far you’re willing to walk or drive for it… are you ok with your gym being a mile away? What about how close you are to the Laundromat? Subway? Grocery store?
- Try to find out if any major construction is planned right outside your window in the near future (like your beautiful view will soon be of a brick building).
- Ask about the demographic of the building. If you’re the only young person, you probably won’t get away with parties.
- Once you’ve moved, try our advice and meet your neighbors!
4. Money, money, money: At the end of the day it all comes down to your budget, so make sure you are getting the biggest bang for your buck!
- Before beginning the apartment search process, know your budget.
- Ask what utilities are included in the rent price. Hot water? Gas? Trash? Etc. If they aren’t included make sure you understand how these utilities along with cable and internet access will impact your total monthly expenses.
- Check to see if there is a laundry facility in the building, and if so, how much does it cost to wash/dry a load?
- Find out the exact square footage of the apartment so you can compare simple cost values with others. Divide the monthly rent by the number of square feet to understand how the price per square foot of space changes from one apartment and neighborhood to the next.
- In some cities, a doorman is a pricey, but convenient amenity. See if you can cover the cost, as it’s a nice amenity; however, be honest with yourself that you may not be able to afford it.
- Before signing the lease review our list of Ten Things to Do Before Signing a Lease.
5. Soul-searching: The last thing you need to do when making sure that apartment is a perfect pick, is a gut check. Dig deep and try and see yourself there. If you are smiling, you did well!
Congratulations to the Class of 2012! We wish you the best of luck in the next phase of your life, including your first apartment search! If you’re not sure where you’re headed, check out our list of Top Cities for Post Grads. These ten cities offer more employment opportunities and a lower cost of living than the national average.