Renting your first apartment can be an exciting time! But it’s not a decision to go into lightly, especially since you’ll likely be committing to at least a one-year lease. If this is your first apartment renting rodeo, here are some tips to ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible and doesn’t create any unexpected surprises…
Know what you make and how much you spend. Create a realistic budget and stick to it! Knowing exactly what you bring in each month (or if your earnings fluctuate, take a very conservative estimate), is key to making sure you don’t rent a place you can’t afford.
Get your credit score. If you don’t know your credit score, or if you haven’t checked in a while, get it before a landlord runs it! You can do this for free through annualcreditreport.com and if you have time on your side, you may be able to fix any inaccuracies. If you have poor or no credit, you could get denied altogether, or have to pay a higher security deposit based on your credit score. If this is the case, you might want to consider a cosigner (hi Mom!).
What are your must-haves? For those who drive to work each day, location is critical! Don’t be swayed by pretty hardwood flooring or a beautiful rooftop garden… if you end up making a concession by driving out of your way, those floors will quickly lose their appeal. Make sure you are realistic and don’t even bother looking at places that require a long commute. What are your other must-haves? Pet-friendly? En-suite laundry? Dishwasher? Make sure you stick to your guns and if you decide to lose one of your must-haves, make sure it’s not one that will come back to haunt you.
Be sure you see your actual unit. Some larger apartment communities will take you to a showroom. Before you sign on the dotted line, have them take you to your actual unit. If it’s still occupied, at least go to the unit’s location so you can ensure the location is one that’s agreeable to you. Take note of how close it is to the elevator. Do you hear a barking dog next door? How far away is parking?
Amenities. Does your new apartment come with a ton of bells and whistles? Were you sold on the gym, the pool or the clubhouse? If you decide to pay a higher price for an apartment with a lot of amenities, be realistic on how much you think you’ll actually use them.
What’s it going to cost to move in? Now that you’ve found a place within your budget that you love, it’s time to go to the leasing office. You’ll want to bring some things along with you, such as your last few pay stubs and your checkbook. Be sure you know all the upfront costs, such as security deposit (which can sometimes be up to two months rent) as well as any pet fees or other costs. Many apartment communities charge rent for the first and last month in advance so be sure you’ve saved up, plus moving expenses.