Congratulations! Finally, you have decided to leave your parents house and you are thrilled at the idea of living on your own and making decisions without consulting your parents.
However, as thrilling as it may be, renting your first apartment could be more complicated than it appears. The abundance of options on the market can make deciding what best meets your needs seem difficult. That is why planning ahead of time might make finding your first apartment to call home much easier.
That said, the process of renting an apartment is lengthy, so it is natural to feel overwhelmed; but where do you begin?
Guide to Renting Your First Apartment
Understanding your requirements should be the initial step in leasing your first apartment. This means that breaking down everything you will need for your first place will make the apartment hunt much easier.
For instance, what kind of neighborhood do you want to live in? What distance should the unit be from nearby commercial complexes or food outlets? Is there ample parking available?
We acknowledge how difficult this can be, which is why we have put up this helpful step-by-step guide to assist you in navigating the process of what to know for first-time apartment renters.
What is your budget for your first apartment? Everything revolves around your budget. Once you have determined how much you are willing to spend, you can go on to other considerations, such as the number of bedrooms and the size of the living room. If money is not a problem for you, ignore this step and focus on other factors, but that is typically not the case.
Knowing how much income is required to rent an apartment is important. As a rule of thumb, spending no more than 30% of your gross income on monthly rent is recommended in order to maintain a good financial status; so, try to keep your rental budget within that range. It is a good idea to use a rent calculator to figure out how much rent you can afford based on your current monthly income or after tax income.
Determine Which Neighborhoods Work for You
After you have established your budget, consider the neighborhood you would like to live in. Some areas have a higher cost of living index than others; so find out where you wish to live before looking for an apartment.
Though cost is important, you also want to feel safe in your community. This is why you should look into the crime statistics and speak with neighbors about safety concerns.
Furthermore, choose a neighborhood that puts you in the heart of it all, meaning close to schools, work, and public parks, among other things. Easy access to public transportation and other amenities will help you save time and money.
Use Online Tools to Narrow Down Your Apartment Search
If you have a specific budget and area in mind, you can now narrow your search on real estate websites to search apartment for rent and find your dream apartment. Most real estate websites provide a number of tools to help you narrow down your search and save time. For instance, you might look for an apartment based on pet-friendliness, rental rate, and/or the number of bedrooms.
Apartment Living Space
As a first-time renter, do you fancy a spacious apartment? Larger apartments are, of course, preferable, especially if you have a growing family or more pets. You want to give your dogs and/or children as much room as possible to jump around without feeling restricted. In addition, a larger apartment will provide you with additional space for storage and décor; just keep in mind that more space equals more money.
If you have a pet, check for apartment communities that allow pets. Examine whether the apartment community is close to a dog park or has a larger outdoor space where your pets may jump around.
Most apartments have pet restrictions, so establish whether your pet is allowed in the community by reviewing the apartment pet policy. Aggressive dogs are frequently turned down during pet interviews at the leasing office.
Look for apartments with enough storage spaces for your household items. Do not be naive to neglect this feature because you will be making additional purchases as you live in the apartment.
Consider Apartment Amenities
Another factor to consider is the amenities that are offered. For instance, do you prefer in-unit laundry or on-site laundry facilities? Each selection will have an impact on the amount of rent you pay. If you are on a tight budget, on-site laundry may be the best option.
Think about the outdoor amenities, too. Is there a playground, a swimming pool, a clubhouse, and/or a fitness facility within the apartment community? Establish such information because you do not want to travel a long distance to attend your gym or swimming sessions.
Your utility costs will be affected by the natural light in your apartment. Find out how to keep your utility bill low here.
If the living room is well illuminated, you will use fewer or no electricity bulbs during the day. Besides, natural lighting creates a warmer and more appealing atmosphere in the room. That said, look for apartments with larger windows strategically placed to let more light into the space.
Shortlist Apartments then Conduct Virtual Apartment Tours
Make a list of units that check all of the boxes on your ‘what to look for when renting an apartment checklist,’ then visit their websites and request a virtual apartment tour. The good news is that nowadays many apartment communities have virtual tours that allow you to get a 360-degree view of the apartment before paying a visit in-person. A virtual tour can assist you in narrowing down your apartment choices even further in an effort to get closer to your ideal home.
Plan to visit the apartments in-person after conducting virtual tours to get a clear feel of the neighborhood and surrounding areas. Despite the great quality of virtual tours, a personal visit will provide you with a far more realistic perspective of the apartment, allowing you to notice condition issues with the floor and walls, along with lighting issues. Find out how long do apartment tours take here.
Ask Landlords Questions
Make a list of questions to ask your potential landlord while on the apartment tour. At this stage, you should address any issues you have regarding the apartment before you proceed with the rental application.
Here are some of the questions you should consider asking your potential landlord:
- What is the cost of renting? When can your landlord increase rent?
- What is a security deposit for an apartment? How to get security deposit back?
- How long does the lease last?
- What happens if I need to break the lease? How to break a lease without penalty?
- Can I pay rent online? If not, how will I be paying rent?
- How does each tenant’s utility bill get calculated?
- Is a grace period available for late payments?
- What are my responsibilities as a tenant?
Talk to Residents in the Neighborhood
A landlord or property owner may lure you with the promise of the best neighborhood compared to nearby apartment complexes. However, the current residents are the best people to ask about their living experiences in the neighborhood.
Talk to a few residents and get their opinions. If most people are unhappy with their living conditions, it is time to find another location.
If everything about the apartment neighborhood meets your expectations, submit your application. To support your application, you may need to attach several documents.
The following documents are frequently used for background checks and to assist the landlord in determining your ability to pay rent:
- Credit report/credit history
- Bank statements (proof of income)
- Former landlord recommendations (rental history)
- Photo identification, i.e. driver’s license
Always double-check the facts on your rental application because inaccuracies often result in rental applications being rejected. If you are not sure, ask your friend to review all the details to check for any errors or missing details. Learn more on how long it takes for an apartment to approve you here.
Signing the Lease Agreement
This is usually the final step before becoming a resident of a community. Review the rental agreement (legal document) thoroughly to understand all of the stipulations.
Make sure you know what kind of lease you’re about to sign, like is it a month-to-month, 6-month, or 12-month lease? Examine clauses like the break-lease clause, which establishes the penalty for breaking the lease and conditions that allow you to end your lease early. Learn more on how to read an apartment lease here.
Upfront Costs When Renting Your Apartment
When renting an apartment, it is crucial to understand the upfront cost, such as the security deposit, first month of rent, etc. It would be devastating if you fell short during this period of transition.
Here is a list of upfront costs you should typically expect before moving into your first apartment:
- Security deposit
- Pet fee/pet deposit
- One month’s rent/first month’s rent
- Application fee
- Moving costs
What to Expect During the Rental Application?
Expect a background check, credit check, and a series of questions regarding your previous rental experiences. If you want to get a spot in the apartment building, you should be well-prepared during this time.
Since the safety of other tenants is of utmost priority, a landlord or property management company is typically rigorous about background checks, even going so far as to hire a company that specializes in them.
How to Save Money When Leasing Your First Apartment
When renting your apartment, money–saving habits can help you build up your emergency fund and savings account. Generally, moving involves a lot of costs, so finding ways to save money is crucial.
That said, here are a few ways to save money when you want to rent your first apartment:
Rent with a Roommate
Finding a roommate could be the ideal way to split living costs and lower your monthly expenses. Since city rents are sometimes higher than suburban rents, living with a roommate could allow you to live in the city while still enjoying the benefits of the downtown area.
Make sure you find someone with whom you share a similar way of life, or at the very least with whom you can live with in peace and agree on fundamentals.
Search for Rentals During the Winter Months
Winter months often have lower rental rates compared to summer months when there are lots of movements by college students and seasoned renters. Since fewer people are moving at this time, looking for a rental can be a great way to save money.
In addition, since there is less need for trucks in the winter, rates are normally lower than in the summer, when demand is high. Learn what is the best month to look for an apartment here.
Negotiate for a Lower Rental Rate
Try to negotiate the rental rate before signing a lease. You have leverage over the landlord or property manager as long as the apartment lease has not been signed. Besides, landlords or property managers are willing to negotiate a lower rental rate rather than to have an empty unit in their apartment complex.
Look for Rent Specials
Look for discounted rent prices when searching for an apartment in an effort to save money. Most new building complexes offer discounted rates to lure renters to join them.
Offer to Pay More Upfront for a Discounted Rate
Offer to pay several months rent in advance to receive a discount before signing the rental agreement. Some landlords are willing to discount renters who pay in advance.
Do not use apartment brokers to find your next apartment. You will spend more if you consider this route. Remember, you are trying to save money, not spend money. Learn more about how to find an apartment without a broker here.
First Apartment Essentials
If you are moving out on your own, you will need some basic items. You will need to buy things like a mattress and cooking basics, among other things.
To complete this efficiently, create a list of items you need for your apartment, and split the list into two; the things you can buy before moving and those that you can purchase after moving in.
Purchasing a few goods before moving will aid in the transition and ensure that you have enough to get started. If you make the mistake of buying everything, you will likely become overwhelmed, and your logistics costs will rise as well.
Moving into your first apartment is a massive milestone, and knowing how to choose an apartment to rent will determine whether or not you like your first apartment experience. That said, the tips above will help you navigate the apartment hunting process and find your perfect apartment.