Renting your first apartment may seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Sure, there are plenty of considerations you’ll need to make so that your experience is a positive one. But regardless of the stage of apartment hunting you’re in, there’s plenty of information out there that can help simplify the process.
Wondering how to rent your first apartment? Want to know the steps you must take before you apply for a new place? You’re in the right spot.
In this guide, we’ll look at the keys to finding an apartment, as well as share some tips you can use to make sure you have a good first experience.
1. Determine Your Budget
There is nothing more important—not location, or how many bathrooms the place has—than the budget you have to allocate to your apartment each month. All of those other things can fall into place once you know how much you can afford to pay.
It would be nice if the only costs you had to worry about were your monthly rent bill, but that’s rarely the case. Almost always you must consider things like utilities, wifi, and any other fees your complex or apartment building tack on (trash, sewer, etc.). Even $75 extra a month adds up to a difference of $900 over a one-year lease.
Start by making a list of all your expenses. List out car payments, insurance payments, student loans, and anything else you need to cover each month. In another column, list how much you expect to make each month. Then list how much you’d like to save each month.
Once you have those three numbers, you can accurately find your budget.
For example, if you make $2,500 a month (after taxes) have prior budget requirements of $950 for loans and a car payment, and want to save about 10 percent of your income or $250/month. Tack on a little spending cash (in this case, $100), and you have your budget.
$2500-950-250-100=$1200. This is your budget (though you probably want to spend a little less than this if you can help it).
2. Think About Location
Figuring out where you want to live is important. Living further away from the city might be a good thing, for example, but you might spend 2 hours in your car each day. That, plus the cost of gas getting to and from, might not make it as sweet a deal as you think.
So now that you have your budget, look at potential areas you’d like to rent. If you live in the city, pick neighborhoods or even streets you might want to live on.
Every place that advertises apartments—like this site—boasts about how close they are to highways, grocery stores, and bus stations. Some are more accurate than others, but plug them into Google Maps to make sure it’s close.
3. Consider Roommates
Roommates may factor into the equation if your budget is a concern. If this is your first time living on your own, it might be a good idea to have a roommate just for the experience. Splitting costs of rent, utilities and other bills benefits both of you, plus you have a friend to explore your new area with.
If you don’t have a friend looking to move where you’d like to be, check places like Facebook and even Craigslist. People are frequently posting looking for roommates, and you may just find a good match.
4. Get References
Before you start reaching out to apartment places, you may want to make a few calls. References are important for first-time renters because some places won’t accept you without one. Whether it’s an old teacher or a previous employer, find someone that can speak to your level of trustworthiness.
5. Reach Out To Landlords!
Now the fun part! You’ve done all the necessary steps to start looking at actual apartments. Make a list of the apartment complexes in your desired area that you’d like to visit (and numbers to call). Set aside an afternoon or a whole day to go visit the apartments, which should come along with a tour by staff.
(If it doesn’t, or they are hard to get a hold of, take this as a sign that you should probably move on.)
Consider each place individually. What do you like about the apartment? The complex? The amenities? Note things like gym access, distance to highways or to your worksite, and the type of people you see walking around the place.
All of these things can help you determine which place will be the best fit.
You’ll have to apply to any reputable apartment complex. They’ll run your credit and do a background check (for a fee, usually ranging between $40 and $100) to determine if you are eligible for one of their apartments. Again, depending on budget, you may do several of these or just narrow it down to your top one or two choices.
The application process can take a few days, so if you find a place you like it’s better to apply than wait. You wouldn’t be the first person to hesitate or get cold feet and then lose the apartment you wanted. If you like it, make a move!
Hopefully everything goes well, you get approved, and you can move into your first apartment!
Renting Your First Apartment: Wrap Up
Renting your first apartment doesn’t have to be a hassle. By taking the necessary steps on the front end to make sure its a good fit for you (and your potential roommates), you’ll alleviate the pain points many first-time renters experience.
When it comes to getting your first apartment, be diligent about finding something that fits for you. Only apply to the places that check all your boxes. After all, this is likely your first home away from home!