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Renting your first apartment is both exciting and stressful. Maybe you lived in dorms for college, or will live away from mom and dad for the first time. Whatever the case may be, moving out on your own comes with a lot of responsibilities.
Renting an apartment for the first time means paying for services you might not have paid for before, such as utilities. Because you’re on a brand new journey, it can seem overwhelming, but you’ll learn and grow from it. Luckily, you can make renting your first apartment a great experience. Here’s how.
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Knowing your budget for an apartment will help you determine what you can afford. If you don’t do this before applying for an application, you risk not only wasting time, but also wasting money on application fees.
The first part of budgeting for an apartment is knowing what you can spend on rent. To be approved as a tenant, a landlord will verify your income to determine if you can afford to live there. You should aim to spend no more than 30% of your income on rent.
You should never stop budgeting for your apartment, even after you’re in it. In addition to rent costs, a moving budget should also include:
- Utility expenses
- Security deposit
- Cost of professional movers
Determine Your Needs
Make a checklist before you begin looking for apartments so that you know your priorities. For example, if you need to bring your pet along, you should look only for pet-friendly apartments. Remember, your apartment needs are not the same as your wants. Know your must-haves, such as a pet-friendly building, free heat during the winter, or two bedrooms.
Know the Best Time to Look
While 10 weeks out is the best time to start an apartment search, your circumstances might require a revised timeline. However, you can’t expect to find an apartment the day after you decide to start looking. You may not want to look too far ahead of time because landlords want to fill vacancies immediately, so they will likely take someone looking to move within the next few weeks over someone looking to move within the next few months.
Once you find an apartment you like, you can contact their offices and find out when the next apartment will be available to rent. This will give you the best moving timeline.
Many apartments offer more than just housing to make tenants want to stay longer and reduce turnover. While amenities typically fall under the wants category, rather than needs, they can be important in your search and set one apartment above another. For example, if you love to work out, but don’t want gym equipment in your apartment, consider searching for an apartment that offers a clubhouse with a gym.
Tour the Apartment
It’s never a good idea to rent an apartment without seeing it, especially if you’re not from the area. While a website with good photos can help you make your choice, images can be misleading.
Some complexes might not allow you to tour the actual apartment because someone currently lives in it. However, they will show staged apartments so you can see the layout of your potential unit and know what to expect when you move in.
If you can’t tour in person, that’s okay. These days apartment locating services, such as AptAmigo, can arrange virtual tours.
Parking in the city will be more difficult than parking in the suburbs. However, you still need to familiarize yourself with the parking situation for tenants and their guests so that you can avoid the hassle. Some apartments have rules, such as cars that do not belong to tenants will be towed if found in the same spot for a set number of days. Other complexes don’t have rules for parking at all.
Always Read and Understand the Lease
Your lease is your contract between yourself and the landlord. Don’t rush through the signing process due to excitement. Instead, read your lease thoroughly so you understand what your landlord expects of you as a tenant and what you can expect from them.
If you have any concerns, make sure you address the landlord or property manager to ensure you understand everything fully. Once you sign your lease, get a copy so you can reference it in case you forget something.
Renters insurance protects tenants from theft, fire, and, in some cases, liability. These insurance policies are ordinarily cheap, depending on your location and needs. They can cover property damage, personal liability, and temporary housing.
Meet Your Neighbors
After you move in, it’s a good idea to get to know your neighbors. Not only can it help build friendships, especially for those in a new city, but it also provides an open line of communication if any issues arise.
For example, since your neighbors hang out on the other side of the wall, you may hear them from time to time. If they have a dog, you may hear their dog bark. Instead of complaining to management about your neighbors, you can befriend them and let them know when the noise gets too loud.
This relationship allows you to handle problems on your own and without hassle. It will also allow them to tell you if you do anything unneighborly so that they don’t feel the need to share any complaints with the property manager as well.
Always Inspect the Apartment
Many apartments will give you a sheet to fill out for an inspection of your apartment so that you can take note of existing damages and problems. You should fill this form out before moving your belongings inside. That way you can see every nook and cranny of the walls, carpet, and overall apartment.
Jot down any damage from a previous tenant so it’s not taken out of your security deposit when you move out.
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Matt Casadona has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, with a concentration in Marketing and a minor in Psychology. He is a contributor for 365 Business Tips. Matt is passionate about marketing and business strategy and enjoys San Diego life, traveling, and music.