The independence of renting your first apartment is exciting, but don’t allow your excitement to overshadow reason. Being a first-time renter is challenging and requires responsibility. Before you start viewing apartments, take some time to define your needs and calculate a budget. Add up all of your monthly income, including financial aid, and multiply this number by 0.3. The resulting value is 30% of your monthly income and roughly the amount you can comfortably spend on rent. Only consider apartments for rent with a cost close to this number. Now, do you have pets? Are you open to a roommate? What amenities do you prefer? Do you have transportation, or will you need to walk to class? Ask yourself questions like these, and stay within your budget to narrow your options.
Once you have a clear idea of what you’re looking for, begin your apartment search. The best place to start is at your college or university. Many schools offer affordable off-campus living, and most will at least have resources to aid in your search. You can also look for apartments for rent in advertisements posted around campus, or by using a few of the numerous online services as well as newspaper classifieds. Make a list of the rentals you’re interested in, and call each leasing office. Ask about rent, utilities, laundry facilities, activity areas and amenities, and extra fees. Most likely, this will eliminate some of your choices. Once your list is reduced to about five properties, you’re ready to start viewing.
Apartment viewing can be fun and exciting, but it’s important to focus and pay attention to the unit and the complex as a whole. To keep yourself on track, create a checklist of things to look for at each place. If you don’t wish to make your own, there are pre-formatted checklists available online. Never lease an apartment before checking it for basic safety standards and making sure everything works properly. Check fire alarms, hot water heaters, air conditioning units, fireplaces, showers, and faucets. Make sure all the appliances work and check floors and walls for scuffs or tears. If there are no serious issues and you decide to move in, make a note of any flaws you uncovered and report them to the property manager. You don’t want to be blamed for something done by a prior tenant when you leave.
Once you’ve selected an apartment to apply for, it’s time to start the paperwork. As a first-time renter, you’ll probably need a co-signer to provide credit information. Be prepared to make a down payment equal to two months rents plus other expenses. Most apartment complexes demand a fee just for submitting an application, whether you’re approved or not. Other additional fees include safety deposits and pet fees. The two most important things to remember when searching through apartments for rent are:
1. Take your time! The last thing you want is to rush into a lease and be stuck with an apartment that isn’t right for you.
2. Stay comfortably within your budget! Keep your rent and expenses as low as possible. Don’t try to lease an apartment that you will have to pour all of your income into. You’ll need money for transportation, food, and going out, too.