One of the first “adult” things you’ll likely do when you head out on your own is rent an apartment. The process can be a bit intimidating for a first time renter. Below we take you through the steps of finding an apartment, navigating the legalese of the lease agreement, as well as managing your rights as a tenant. Let’s do this.
Figure out how much you can afford. Take a look at your monthly income. Experts recommend only spending between 25%-35% of your after-tax income on rent and housing. So let’s say your pay after taxes is $1,500 a month. Ideally, you shouldn’t pay more than $525 a month on rent.
You also need to take into account that you may be responsible for some of the utility costs of your rental. So you’ll need to figure in another $100+ to cover those costs.
Keep in mind that some apartments have income requirements that will put you out of the running altogether.
Create criteria for your ideal apartment. What are you looking for in an apartment? Do you want a studio or a single bedroom? Maybe you want to rent a small house? Do you need the apartment to come with appliances, including washer and dryer? Do want it to be close to school or your work? Do want it to be within walking distance of retail, like groceries or coffee shops? Are you willing to live in a neighborhood known for its crime levels?
Write down whatever comes to your mind. While you might not be able to get everything on your apartment wish list, it will definitely help in narrowing down the possibilities.
Identify potential apartments. With your list of criteria in hand, hop online and start searching for apartments.
Once you narrow apartments down by location, check to see if they have the things you’re looking for in a rental, i.e. appliances, number of bedrooms, etc. Most big apartment complexes have a web page where you can look at floor plans, the amenities they offer, and the cost of rent. Smaller units might only have a phone number. Give those apartments a call and ask about their available units and cost. Don’t just limit your search to Google.
Set aside a day to visit your potentials. You’ll want to visit your potential rental units in person to see their condition and possibly submit a rental application. Make this process as efficient as possible by visiting as many of your potentials as you can in a single day. Saturdays are the busiest days for real estate companies showing apartments, so try to go sometime during the week. It’s best to call the real estate company and set up an appointment with them, but if you can’t, most buildings will give you a tour anyway. You’ll want to set aside about 45 minutes for each visit, so plan your appointments accordingly.