First Timers’ Guide to Renting an Apartment

First Timers' Guide to Renting an Apartment

Renting an apartment for the first time can be a scary thing. You don’t know how the leasing contracts work, you don’t know many of the terms that are being thrown around, you hear horror stories of people not getting along with their landlords – And so on. The truth is, once you understand everything that goes into renting an apartment for the first time, the whole process is quite simple. This guide will take you step by step through renting your very first apartment.

Location, Location, Location

The first thing you need to consider is where you want your apartment to be geographically located. Consider the distance to work, to school, to shopping malls, to grocery stores, to restaurants and to any other important landmarks.

Look at 3 to 5 Different Apartments

The last thing you want to do is jump headfirst into an apartment without checking out the market. The only way to really get a sense for how much things should cost and what kind of amenities you should get for your money is to see a few different places.

Don’t make a decision on where you want to stay before you’ve seen at least 3 to 5 different apartments.

Be Aware of Secondary Costs

One of the most common mistakes first time renters make is making their decision solely on price. They don’t realize that a lot of the things they give up for a lower price can actually end up costing them more.

For example, let’s say you can get an apartment that doesn’t have a kitchen for $200 less than an apartment with a kitchen. For a lot of students and first time renters, that’s a sizable chunk of change. They opt to rent that apartment because they want to save the money.

But if they really did the math, they’d find that not having a kitchen actually costs them money. They end up having to eat out a lot more. The $200 they save is quickly wasted on other things. And they have a less cozy apartment to boot.

Another common mistake is paying more for an apartment further away. Make sure if you do so that you factor in the costs of transportation. Often times the transportation costs of living further would make it make sense to just live closer to work or school anyway.


Check Your Credit

Just about any landlord is going to insist on checking your credit before letting you move in. They want to make sure that you’re trustworthy and will fulfill on your financial commitments.

Before going in to a landlord’s office, check your credit. Make sure there isn’t anything there that shouldn’t be there. Know what your landlord is going to see when they check your credit.

If you have bad credit or no credit, the landlord may be willing to let you get a co-signer.

Negotiate Your Terms

In most markets, there’s room for some negotiation. You can negotiate the length of the lease, permission to have pets, permission to sublet, who pays utilities, internet installation costs and even the month to month price itself.

Know what’s important to you before you walk in the landlord’s office. Focus on negotiating those items first.

Read the Lease Carefully

Before you sign anything, make sure you read every single word on the lease document. It’s easy to get overwhelmed in the landlord’s office and skim the document instead of read it. That’s a mistake. Make sure you read every single word and understand every clause. If you have any questions, ask them to clarify.

If there’s anything you dispute in the contract, bring it up. Don’t sign the contract until you’re certain that you can abide by it.

Be Diligent With the Move-In Checklist

When you move in to your apartment for the first time, the landlord is going to give you a move-in checklist. This is where you mark down anything that’s wrong with the house, such as leaky faucets, cracks in the bathtub, scratched mirrors and so on.

Marking this down in the move-in sheet prevents the landlord from saying that you caused the damage when you move out. Fill this sheet in diligently, or you could be looking at a reduced deposit when you leave because of “repair” costs.

That’s all there is to it! Follow these steps and you’ll soon have an affordable, well located apartment of your own.