A Comprehensive Guide to Renting Your First Apartment
Just getting out into the real world and looking for your first big girl apartment?
Even if you’ve been around the block a few times, but are looking for something new, we know it’s easy to overlook things when looking for an apartment. Depending on your preferences, there are a lot of things to consider in your hunt.
Is the area safe? Is it in a convenient location? How open is the space? How much can you store there? Does it offer covered parking? And, (obviously) how much will it cost you each month?
We’ve compiled your go-to guide to help you find and secure your perfect apartment!
Questions to yourself:
1) What’s my budget?
AKA think about how much you spend on food, transportation, miscellaneous each week. Generally, you only want to spend 25-30% of your income on living expenses (that INCLUDES utilities). So, make sure you are looking at places within your budget or below!
2) How will you transport your things?
This can be a major up-front cost if you don’t know anyone with a truck, or, if your things are too big for a pick-up truck. Ask around, see if you know anyone who can help, or they know of any cheap moving companies. On that note, use your packing time as a way to get rid of things you haven’t used in a while. This is the perfect time to let go of your dad’s grandma’s stuffed animal given to you 20 years ago.
3) What is my credit score?
Generally, you will need a credit score of 620 or more. Also, as a rule of thumb, landlords typically will not accept you unless your annual salary is 3x your monthly rent, or you have a reliable cosigner.
Steps to renting the apartment:
Start by finding 5 apartments you like in an area you want to live and tour them.
Fill out and application to apply for the apartment (there is usually a fee between $40-$100).
Usually, you will have to provide references. If you have poor or no credit, think of 3 solid references to help persuade the landowner.
Apartment management will contact you to let you know if you’ve been accepted.
Once your apartment is secured, you usually will need to provide a security deposit (around 1 month of rent, unless you have pets, your cost will be higher); and, you will usually need to provide an additional one month of rent.
Things to look for in your tour:
-Kitchen area: Check how spacious the kitchen is. Make sure there is storage for your pots & pans, check and see if there is a place to cook like an oven and microwave, and, if you prefer it, make sure the appliances are updated. The kitchen is where you’ll spend a lot of time, so make sure you like what you see.
-General appliances: You aren’t going to want the inconveniences of old or slow working appliances, so make sure you look at things beyond just the oven: dishwasher, heating/cooling system, water softener (run facet water and check if it’s rusty), and washer/dryer. If it doesn’t have a washer/dryer, how much will it cost you?
-Area: Look around at the cars you see and how people’s porches look. Usually in safer areas, people will keep their properties nice and clean. You can even look around and see if you are seeing young singles, families, or older people to make sure you fit the demographic of the area.
-Location: On your drive in, check and see if there’s a grocery store nearby. Think about if the area is close to work and friends, or if you’re living near a busy road. Whatever you go to, whether daily or weekly, consider how close you will live to these places.
Questions to management:
-Costs: The cost of the apartment is always more than just the monthly rental. To get an idea of how much you’ll be spending, ask these questions: What is the monthly rent? Average utility bill cost, and what utilities does it cover (water, sewer, gas, trash, electricity, Wi-Fi, cable, parking spots)? How much is the security deposit? Are pets allowed, and what additional costs come with pets? Does the landowner request the first month to be paid for? Is there rental insurance? Who will you make payments to? Will you need a cosigner?
-Rules/standards regarding the apartment: Different apartments have different rules and conveniences. Make sure you ask these questions to get an idea of what is expected out of you, and what you should expect out of the apartment. Will you need to sign a yearlong contract, or can you rent month to month? If you’re going to have roommates, how many are permitted? What are the rules regarding trash/recycling? What are on the premises of the complex (pool, workout facility, workroom, hot tub, park, etc.)?
-Safety: You may have found the perfect apartment priced perfectly and in a great location, but if the apartment is not in a safe area, you may want to rethink the opportunity. Ask these questions: Who do I call if there is a break in? How many (if any) break-ins do you have each year? Can you walk around at night?
We wish you the best of luck on your new adventure! And remember, even if you end settling on an apartment that you don’t end up loving, it doesn’t have to be permanent!