You’ve decided that you are ready to be out on your own. Whether you’re a recent graduate or decided to move out of your parent’s house, this first apartment guide will help you understand what it is that you need to successfully find, rent, and move into your new space. There are many things that you have to consider and questions you will have about your first apartment. We’v got you covered.

Can you you afford your first apartment?

While moving out seems like the most exciting time of your life, I have to be a party pooper and remind you that it’s a huge responsibility. You may have found your dream apartment or decided what part of town you want to live in, but that’s only the beginning. There’s more to renting an apartment than rent. So while your $1200 budget seems awesome, you need to look for an apartment that’s a few hundred dollars less. Here’s why: Your income and your expenses are the real deciders of how much rent you can afford. In addition to your monthly rent, you will be paying for additional utilities, fees and insurance that aren’t included in the apartment’s price. For example, if you live somewhere like Atlanta, you might be paying parking fees because of the heavy commuter culture. While if you live somewhere like New York, you might be paying for bike storage. It all varies from city to city and community to community. Check out the formula below. It will help guide you when you are going on apartment tours.

When you’re figuring out how much you can afford to spend every month on rent, don’t forget these three things:

  1. Size: Find out the exact square footage of the apartment so you can compare simple cost values with others. Divide the monthly rent by the number of square feet to understand how the price per square foot of space changes from one apartment and neighborhood to the next. You might be paying the same amount for an apartment half the size depending on the location.
  2. Utilities: Ask what utilities are included in the rent price. Hot water? Gas? Sewer? Trash? Etc. If they aren’t included make sure you understand how these utilities along with cable and internet access will impact your total monthly expenses.
  3. Laundry: If the unit doesn’t have a washer/dryer, check to see if there is a laundry facility in the building, and if so, how much does it cost to wash/dry a load? If not, where is the nearest laundromat?
  4. Amenities: Having a gym on the property will help free up some of your budget from a fitness membership. Explore the amenities thoroughly in order to identify where you might have additional expenses.

Finding Your First Apartment

After you have decided on your budget, it’s time to actually search for an apartment. Finding your first apartment is usually the most difficult, as you navigate budgeting and lease negotiation to ensure you get what you need, often in a new and unfamiliar city. The first step in the search for your first apartment is to determine your budget. A general rule is that you don’t want to spend more than 30% of your net income (which is the money that is left after all of the deductions to your paycheck, like insurance and taxes) on housing. However, it’s always better to spend less. Emergencies happen, so you want to have some savings as a safety net.

Settle on a few neighborhoods that fit your budget and start looking at apartments for rent online. You can use services like Rent.com to easily find apartments in many cities across the U.S. Looking on a site like Rent versus Craigslist or “For Rent” signs, decreases the risks you take. All apartment listings are verified and have real reviews from renters, so you don’t have to worry about getting scammed. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. When dealing with a potential landlord or apartment community, the conversation should be respectful and straightforward.

Choose a few apartments from the listings you find, and schedule tours to view the property. Before you start scheduling tours however, make sure you have at least $2000 saved in order to pay for security deposits, application fees, and other initial leasing expenses. Call ahead to ask what the requirements are to apply. That way, you won’t waste your time visiting or apply to an apartment you can afford. Those application fees can add up! Getting an apartment is a huge financial responsibility that shouldn’t be taken lightly. You should also ensure that your credit is good, since management companies check that as part of your application. 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.

Going on Your First Apartment Tour

So you set your budget, checked your credit, and have identified some apartments you want to tour according to our first apartment guide. Now what? You’ve found some potential new places and you’re ready for some apartment tours. Not sure what you’re supposed to be looking for? Rent.com has your back.

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. Note: If there is condensation on the windows, they aren’t closed properly!
  • See that the floor is not slanted and, too, that it’s not 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.
  • When doing apartment tours, notice how much natural sunlight it gets. Light can have 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 he or she is willing to fix or replace it. If the landlord says yes and you choose to move in, get it in writing!
  • If you have a car, ask about parking availability, security and monthly costs.
  • When looking at an apartment, check for little holes in the wood in the floor, and indication that bugs likely were there. If you see steel wool stuffed into any crevices, rodents were there. Take note as rodents are never welcome guests!

Read Next: How to Read Your Apartment Lease
 

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