Searching for your First Apartment

Finding your first apartment can be one of the most exciting times in your life while also being one of the most overwhelming. Renting your first apartment is not only emotionally demanding, but financially challenging as well. Between finding an appropriate rental price, searching for the right neighborhood, and understanding your daily lifestyle habits, searching for your first apartment can be a chaotic process. Check out these tips to try and relieve the anticipated stress of finding your first place.

Establishing a Budget
The first step in renting your first apartment is to understand what you can and cannot afford. Establishing a sensible budget and understanding the multiple costs you will have to pay is a smart step in finding your first place. A few upfront costs that you should be prepared and expected to pay are:

  • Rent on (most likely) the first of every month
  • A down payment or deposit of at least one month’s rent
  • Monthly utilities and one-time fees to turn on the services for gas, water, electricity, cable, etc.
  • Renter’s insurance to protect your personal belongings
  • Application fee

A good tip for understanding how much you can afford without breaking the bank is that your potential rent should not cost more than 25 to 30 percent of your income. This recommendation will help you narrow down your search right at the beginning to help you from falling in love with an apartment that costs too much for you.

Consider Living with Roommates
Once you have determined a reasonable budget and figured out the expected costs for yourself, you should now determine if you can still afford a place on your own or if you need a roommate to help split the cost(s). Living on your own is great if you can financially support yourself without being stressed and without living from paycheck-to-paycheck every month. But, a roommate is a great way to cut the cost of living in half especially if you realize that the cost to live alone is more than you realized.

Location, Location, Location
After you have decided if you are going to live alone or live with a roommate, you will need to determine the most practical and best location to live in. When deciding on what location you might live in there are a few factors to keep in mind:

  • Relation to where you work
  • Nearby grocery stores, restaurants, and gas stations
  • Affordability
  • Amenities
  • Safety of the neighborhood

The best way to check to see if a location meets these factors is to go out and visit multiple apartments, in different locations and in person. A good tip is that at least a third of the listings in a location should be within your budget and meet the factors above.

Signing an Application
Once you have narrowed down your search and found the most realistic apartment for your needs, you will need to fill out an application. A rental application is a way for landlords to pre-screen prospective tenants by checking credit scores, references, rental history or anything else that a landlord might need to check if a person will be a reliable renter. An application for renting an apartment will most likely have an application fee along with it so be prepared for that added cost.

Understanding your Lease
Your apartment lease is most likely the first legal and most important document that you will face if this is your first time renting. It is extremely vital to carefully read through every part of your lease agreement before signing anything. A lease is often filled with complicated words and legal jargon so if you are unsure of anything, ask someone you trust who has experience with leases to take a second look. Be sure that you are aware that once you sign the lease agreement, your landlord will be referring to it throughout your time in the apartment, especially if there is ever an issue, so be sure you agree with everything in the document.

Getting ready to move out and live in your own apartment is exciting but demands a lot of research, attention to detail, and understanding your needs versus your wants. If you follow the tips above and take time to find your first apartment that fits all of your realistic requirements then you will be sure to find the perfect place!

–  Holly W., Markting Coordinator

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