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Helpful Tips for First-Time Apartment Renters

By Eric Jeanette | October 27, 2021

Getting your first apartment is a big deal and it is, in a way, a rite of passage, particularly for young people. Naturally, a step like this does require you to be a bit more responsible and prudent in your actions than before, but it also gives you a lot of freedom to choose your perfect place.

Even if you’re a very methodical and organized person, first apartment hunting can be daunting as you need to cover many points – look at many places, pick the right one, manage your budget, pack and do all the logistics.

To make the process easier, here’s a list of basic steps first time apartment renters need to take.

Determine Your Budget

It’s not uncommon for first-time renters to miscalculate their initial budget for rent and other necessities. According to the research conducted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the wisest way to go is to allocate only up to 30% of your gross income on rent. This may be difficult to achieve in pricey cities San Francisco, Boston and New York, but you should make an effort to stick to your housing expenses to 30% or even less if possible. Joining efforts with a roommate or getting a second, part-time job can be of great help in offsetting the living expenses.

To give you an idea of how much you have and how much you can spend, you can use a rent calculator where you enter your location, number of bedrooms you desire, and your monthly gross income and the rent calculator gives you a recommended number and apartment possibilities that suit your budget. You can look for a low income housing for rent in your area.

Find Out What You Need to Rent an Apartment

Different apartments and different landlords present different requirements, but in general, you need to meet certain demands to get approval for a place. These requirements typically include a certain credit score or a co-signer if you don’t have the credit, references, proof of income, security deposit and first month’s rent, and an application fee to apply for the apartment.

Check out the neighborhood

Narrowing down your dream neighborhood can also feel like a difficult task. As you narrow down your choices consider the following: the apartment's location and its proximity to your workplace, how quiet or loud the area is, how much the place costs in comparison to surrounding neighborhoods, and how far it is from your favorite cafes, restaurants, theatres and attractions.

Consider Parking and Commuting

Location is among the most important features of your future apartment. You may not mind a longer commute as long as you live in a popular neighborhood. For others, living near the workplace or school might be a greater priority when renting an apartment. Some neighborhoods like downtown Boston or Seattle would not require you to have a car as they offer plenty of public transportation options. On the other hand, if you opt to live in suburban areas, you’ll need a car and a reliable parking option.

Some apartment complexes provide large, secure garages for their tenants for a monthly fee whereas others may just leave to chance - first-come, first-served street parking. If you do own a car, make sure you enquire about the parking situation before you commit to renting the apartment.

Think about the amenities

As a first-time apartment renter, you should prioritize amenities, in addition to the location. In some areas, apartment complexes come loaded with convenient options. For instance, if you consider the apartments for rent in Lubbock, or the Cass Lake apartments in Michigan you’ll be impressed with features like swimming pools, washer and dryer units, cable TV, patio or deck, on-site fitness centers, extra storage, and more. And if you still don't have a reliable network cable installation in your apartment, you might want to have a network cabling installation in Boise ID. Contact your local cable tv services for more info.

In addition to shared amenities, don’t forget about what you want to have inside of your apartment – a full, modern kitchen, some outdoor space like a private balcony, an en suite bathroom, and ample closet space.

Search in the winter

Winter is the time of the year when apartments are less competitive and less expensive. Rent prices fluctuate based on seasonality, and in general, winter is the least competitive time to search for an apartment and when you can get the best deals. Don’t rush and give yourself time to wait for a perfect apartment to become available.

Ask questions

As you tour single or two-bedroom apartments, don’t hesitate to ask a lot of questions. This is how you will learn more about the property and your obligations. You will also find out what the landlord is like and how well they communicate and cooperate with tenants.

Ask things regarding the length of the rental term, access to laundry facilities, ways of fixing damages, trash disposal, recycling options, proximity to shops and gas stations, and rules about guest restrictions and quiet hours.

Gather your essentials

Typically, first-time apartment renters don’t have a lot of the furnishings for their new home. Once you’re sure about renting an apartment, start gathering the essentials. Don’t wait till moving day to find out you don’t have the basics, like dishes, cooking utensils or towels, and bedding. Start collecting things in advance and you’ll be able to find them at great prices.

Clean before moving in

Previous tenants are required to clean up when they move out but this isn’t always the case, unfortunately. Check out the place before you start bringing boxes, and if it was left in an unacceptable state, give it a deep cleaning.

Check Your Credit

When you are applying to rent an apartment, your landlord will likely want to check your credit. This is a less formal process than when you are applying for a mortgage, but it is still important and your credit scores could impact whether you are able to rent an apartment.

Having no credit is better than having bad credit in this situation. You can still rent an apartment with no credit if you have none established at this point.

Get insurance

It's certainly exciting to move into your first apartment, but before you get too comfortable, you should consider getting renters insurance so you can protect yourself and your belongings from accidents such as fire or theft. It can also cover your medical bills or legal fees if a friend gets injured while visiting you, and bundling it up with car insurance will even help you save some money.

There are lots of things to consider when renting your first apartment and hopefully, this list will help you secure the place of your dreams!

About the author – Eric Jeanette started as a Realtor in 1993 and eventually transitioned to lending. His companies Dream Home Financing and FHA Lenders provide mortgage information and education to consumers. They also provide those same consumers with a free lender match service through a network of lenders for conventional, FHA/government, subprime, self-employed and many other niche loan programs.
  • One comment on “Helpful Tips for First-Time Apartment Renters”

    1. I found it helpful when you said that you should allocate only up to 30% of your gross income on rent according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. My husband and I will use this as a guide in finding a rental three-bedroom townhome that will fit our monthly budget. We want to ensure that our monthly expenses would not be ruined when we rent a new apartment, so we will be sure to consider your tips.

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