Renting your very first apartment is a natural stepping stone of moving out of mom and dad’s house. The freedom of moving out on your own is very exciting, but it does come with a lot more responsibilities as well.
Being a first-time renter is a really big deal. You’re on your own and can do what you want when you want. It also means paying for services (like utilities) that you’re not used to paying. I’ve been in your shoes before, not knowing what I was doing at all. But I learned and grew from it. I guess you could say I’m an “intermediate adult” doing the adulting-type things.
Make your first apartment living experience a great one. Follow these first-time renter tips so you can enjoy (and find your way through) all the aspects of being a renter!
Tip #1: Budget Wisely
Putting together an apartment budget can help you save up for your first apartment. Continuing your budget plans, even after you move in, is a great way to grow your savings for rent, utilities, home décor, and more.
You never want to spend more than you can realistically afford on rent for your first apartment. Spend no more than 30% of your gross income on rent. The 50/30/20 rule is another budgeting technique to follow, so you can save for the security deposit or first month’s rent.
Remember to include all of your monthly expenses, and make room for unexpected costs when creating a budget. Living with a roommate will allow you to split your bills, helping you save money and stay within budget.
Tip #2: Determine Your Needs
While scouting for apartments, think about the checklist you made regarding your needs. You did make one, didn’t you? You apartment needs are very different from your apartment wants. They’re your must-haves, the features that will make you the most comfortable at home.
If you don’t own a car, you’re going to need an apartment in walking distance of public transportation. Pet owners will need to find a pet-friendly community that’s accommodating to their furry friends.
What you prefer to have in your apartment or apartment community is considered a “want.” They’re on your wish list if you will, but you can live without them. Amenities like a swimming pool or chrome finishes typically fall within this area. Determine what your needs are first, and then be elated when your apartment comes with some of your apartment wants! It’s a great feeling when the universe works its magic for you.
Tip #3: Take a Walking Tour of the Apartment
Online apartment tours have definitely made it simple for renters to view new homes from afar. However, a good old-fashioned walking tour of the apartment can help you experience the neighborhood first-hand. Schedule a tour with an apartment community so you can get a sense of the layout, the community vibe, and how amenities are kept on a daily basis, from the trash collection area to the fitness center.
Ask questions when you’re on a tour with the property manager. What’s your policy on package and mail receiving for residents? When are the neighborhood quiet hours? These are great questions to ask. Be sure to come up with a list of questions based on what’s important to you.
Tip #4: Know What Utilities are Included (and which ones you need to get yourself)
Some apartments may come with included utilities and others will not. If included utilities are important to you, add it into your search since the cost can affect your budget.
Talk with your property manager about the utilities that will be added to each rent payment. Instead of making their tenants open an account with the city for water, some communities bill their tenants directly for water usage, for example. If this is the case, you’ll add on the amount owed to each rent payment, rather than send your payment to the local water department.
First-time renters will likely have to set up new accounts with utility providers – and it can cost you some money upfront. One-time fees and equipment rentals are common when setting up your utilities, such as electricity to your apartment and cable/Internet.
Tip #5: Consider the Parking Situation for You and Guests
Parking can sometimes be a hassle when you live in an urban area. Lots that fill up quickly and lack of space for overnight guests and visitors can be overwhelming without doing any due diligence as a first-time renter. Speak with your property manager about the parking situation at the apartment community. Below are some questions you should consider asking that’ll benefit you and your visiting friends and family:
- How full does the parking lot get in the evenings?
- Where do visitors park their cars?
- If I have an overnight guest, will I need to get them a visitor’s pass for their vehicle?
- Will I have my own assigned spot in the garage?
Many apartments close to the city have parking rules for their residents’ guests. Be sure you know the rules about visitors so that yours don’t accidentally take someone’s assigned spot! You don’t want to start off on the wrong foot with your neighbors, do you?
Tip #6: Know What the Application Process Involves
Renting an apartment for the very first time can be confusing. First-time renters generally don’t know all the jargon and rental lingo used in an application as well as how to apply for an apartment.
This “process” is actually pretty simple, generally involving filling out an application, a credit check, and paying a small application fee. The turnaround time for approval is quick. Today, renters can know if they’ve been approved in less than 48 hours – sometimes it can be within minutes!
New renters with no credit may need to have a guarantor there with them. This person will undergo a credit check since they’re the ones guaranteeing that rent will be paid on time. You’ll want someone who you can trust as a guarantor, and they may even be able to offer you some apartment living advice and ways to build credit!
Tip #7: Read and Understand the Lease
Initialing here, signing there on a lease agreement will give you all the feels: joy, excitement, and maybe even a little nervousness too. It’s your first apartment on your own. But while you may not be able to contain your feelings, don’t ever feel rushed into signing a lease.
Read the contract in its entirety and note the concerns that you see. If you and the property manager had agreed to something during the tour, see that it’s been written into the agreement. If not, they may not be legally required to hold up their end of the deal.
Understanding the apartment lease agreement is beneficial for you. Request a copy if you need to refer back to something. It will tell you when rent is due, what the late fees are, the pet policy, and how to submit a maintenance request, among other things.
Tip #8: Get Renters Insurance
You’re new to this, so let me help you out. You should get renters insurance because it protects your belongings from theft and fire! A renter’s insurance policy includes property coverage, personal liability coverage, and temporary housing if the original dwelling has been deemed uninhabitable. The benefits of renter’s insurance are great – get a policy! (Your apartment might require you to anyway.)
Tip #9: Befriend your Neighbors
Befriending your neighbors is an excellent way to get the most out of your first apartment. Getting chummy with your neighbors can open up the lines of communication about having friends over later into the evening, so you can inform them about the noise ahead of time and avoid a passive-aggressive note on the door in the morning (but also be respectful of the quiet hours at your apartment). You’ll be more comfortable asking for neighborly favors, such as getting the mail when you’re out of town. If you ask for these favors, though, make sure you can return the favor!
Tip #10: Walk Through the Apartment
Once you have the apartment keys, your property manager will do a walkthrough with you. This will allow you to look through the home and take note of any issues you see, such as low water pressure or dings in the wall.
After you’ve done the walkthrough, you or your property manager will send the repair list to maintenance and they’ll come out and fix it. If you don’t do the walkthrough and damages are never submitted, you could responsible for paying for the repairs at the end of your lease with your security deposit!
No need to worry – you’ve got this first-time renting thing. Living in your own apartment will be a great experience; it just comes with some additional responsibilities. That’s all. Once you start living in your new home, you’ll get the hang of it.