Finding Apartments for Rent: A First Time Renter’s Guide

College is your first shot at independence. If you’ve decided to live off-campus, remember that renting can be a challenge and will require responsibility. Before you sign a lease, consider these tips.

Budget

You need to clearly define a budget and determine your affordable monthly rent. A good way to determine this number is to add together your income and multiply it by 0.3 to get 30% of your monthly pay. Keeping your goal near or below this number ensures you’ll have enough cash left over to live comfortably. You may also want to consider the possibility of getting a roommate to help with bills. Ask your friends or post ads around campus. If you have pets, you’ll need to make sure each apartment you view allows them, and you’ll also need to account for pet fees and deposits during budgeting.

Features

Once you know for sure that you can afford an off-campus space, you need to decide what type of place you’re looking for and which amenities you can’t live without. Some students do not mind driving to class every day, while others may prefer to bike or walk. A safe and convenient location is crucial. Some properties provide more uptodate features, such as their own washer-dryer unit on site, while others have a communal coin-operated machine. Depending on your location, central heating or air may be a necessity. Larger complexes could have pools, on-site gyms, rooftop spaces, or a variety of other amenities. Knowing what you need and want in your new place will help simplify the search, plus it will save you time and money.

Searching

Once you’ve identified your ideal features, it’s time to looking for apartments for rent. Start at your new school. Many universities are affiliated with off-campus apartments, and others can provide resources or refer you to rental properties that are popular with students. This will ensure that your neighbors are your peers. Another option is to find apartments through rent advertisements posted online and in classifieds. There are also probably ads up for rental spaces and roommates all over campus. Look on communal bulletin boards or an online community page for more potential deals.

Viewings

Once your search has turned up some prospects, it’s time to start calling leasing offices. Narrow your list down to three to five properties and prepare to start viewing. Viewing rentals is very exciting and the prospect of having your own place can be distracting. You’re going to need to take a checklist to each property you view to keep you on track. The checklist will include basic safety standards and common issues like faulty plumbing, broken doors/cabinets, kitchen appliances, and marked up walls/floors. You can make a personalized checklist or download a generic one from the internet, but do not sign a lease without verifying basic safety and checking to make sure everything functions. Any minor issues you notice at the place you decide to lease should be recorded and reported to your apartment manager. Don’t get stuck paying for damage done by a previous tenant.

Applying

Apply for apartments one at a time, starting at your first choice. Each place can charge up to $50 for an application fee and if you’re accepted by your first choice there’s no need to waste that cash. If you’re a first-time renter, some apartments for rent will have a first-timer’s policy, but you’re likely going to need a co-signer to apply with you due to lack of credit. At signing, be prepared to fork over two months, plus fees like safety deposits and pet expenses. Leases are typically valid for a 6 month or 12 month term. Read the entire document before you sign to ensure that you won’t be surprised by hidden late fees or other expenses.

Good luck searching apartments for rent and remember, take your time and select a space you love, but don’t blow your monthly budget. Ask an advisor at your school for resources or begin contacting leasing offices in your area today. Move into your new home soon!