You’ve decided that you are ready to be out there living on your own. Whether you’re a recent graduate or you have decided to move out of your parent’s house, this first apartment guide will help you understand how to go about finding and renting your new space.
While renting an apartment, it is important to remember that there are both short-term and long-term costs involved. Long-term costs mainly include rent and utility bills. Short-term costs include application fee, security deposit, and other expenses (e.g. renter’s insurance, utility deposit) that are largely dependent on the landlord. For instance, you may have to sign up for utilities when you rent the apartment, in which case you will need to pay a deposit to the utility company. However, if the landlord has utilities under their name, you will not need to sign up or pay a deposit. Some landlords require renter’s insurance, so that is an additional cost. Other expenses may include pet deposit (or monthly pet fee), annual parking fees, pool/gym maintenance fees, etc. Some landlords require you to pay rent for the first and last month in advance.
It is also important to have some extra cash on hand to manage moving expenses and any other spending that may crop up, Be aware that your expenses will vary from one city to another, and one community to another.
Criteria & Location
What are you looking for in an apartment? Do you want a studio or a single bedroom? Would you like to be situated near a train/bus station? Write down all the criteria for your ideal apartment, and keep the list handy as you do your search. Websites, like Rent.com, allow you to choose specific filters that narrow your selection and make it easier to shortlist places. All apartment listings are verified and have real reviews from renters, so you don’t have to worry about getting scammed.
If you like a specific neighborhood, check Google Maps to learn about typical traffic and commutes in and around the area. Find out if there are public transport options around. Check out the neighborhood during the day and later in the evening as well. Walk around to get a sense of the area.
Going on Your First Apartment Tour
Here are some things to check during apartment tours.
- Check the locks on the doors and windows of the apartment (and the door of the building as well), to ensure they close properly. If there is condensation on the windows, they aren’t closed properly.
- Check if the floor is slanted and/or 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 to make sure the pressure and color are to your liking.
- Look around for both good outlet locations and livable socket numbers.
- Notice how much natural sunlight the apartment receives. Light has a major impact on your overall mood, so keep an eye out for big windows.
- Try out the appliances. If anything doesn’t work, ask the landlord if they are willing to fix or replace it. Get a confirmation in writing, if possible.
- If you see little holes in the wood floor, it is an indication that bugs likely were there. If you see steel wool stuffed into any crevices, rodents were there. Bring these issues up with the landlord.
- If you have a car, ask about parking availability, security and monthly costs.
While visiting, take the opportunity to ask current tenants you may run into about their experience living at the apartment complex.
After you have found an apartment you like, the next step is to fill out a rental application. As part of the application process, you may need to provide employment info, bank statements, credit score, etc. If you don’t have the best credit, don’t worry. There are ways for you to rent an apartment with bad credit or rent with no credit at all. In some cases, you may be asked to have a co-signer on the lease, especially since this is your first apartment rental.
Make sure you have all paperwork ready and in place, so there are no delays in the process.
When you have the lease in hand, read through it carefully, and don’t be shy asking for any clarification, if you need to. If you want another opinion, get an experienced friend or family member to look through the document. Make sure that you know all the important facts, such as monthly rent due date, on-site maintenance policy, cost of amenities, sublease policy, parking fees, etc.
Moving into your first rental apartment may seem like an overwhelming process, but it is one of the first stages in becoming an adult, so congratulate yourself on making it this far. Once you are moved in and settled, enjoy your new space. And the next time you have to move, you will know exactly how to go about it.