How to Rent an Apartment for the First Time

Wondering how to rent an apartment for the first time? Then you’ve come to the right place. Whether you’ve just graduated college, gotten your first ‘real’ job, or are finally moving out of your parents’ place, this is a big step. There’s probably a lot of first-time renting questions swirling around in your head, but lucky for you, we’ve got all the answers right here! With this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the most important things to consider when renting an apartment for the first time. After this quick read, you’ll feel more confident and less stressed about this major milestone.

Now without further ado, here’s some expert advice on how to rent an apartment for the first time!

1. Set your budget

Before even thinking about renting an apartment for the first time, it’s necessary to set your budget. The sooner you figure your budget out, the sooner you’ll know what your options are. Generally speaking, people put about 25-30% of their monthly income towards rent. However, depending on where you live this percentage may vary. For example, in Los Angeles, CA the median rent is about $2,600 compared to Memphis, TN where the median rent is about $728. There are also many other living expenses to take into consideration before determining what you’re comfortable paying. A couple of additional expenses to think about when renting an apartment for the first time:

  • Utilities – here’s some saving tips!

  • Internet/TV

  • Transportation (train tickets, gas, etc.)

  • Car payments/Insurance

  • Furniture/household items

  • Groceries – here’s what you need to stock your kitchen!

  • Laundry

  • Gym membership

  • Personal Time (Eating out, Drinks, Vacation, etc.)

This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but it’s a good start. There may be other areas that apply to you, so start factoring them into your budget as well. If you’re having trouble coming up with a realistic budget, don’t fret! Consider finding a roommate. Not only is it nice to have another human around, but it can also significantly cut the cost of rent, utilities, and household items.

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2. Pick a location

You’re now entering phase two of how to rent an apartment for the first time – it’s time to find the location of your new digs! After you finalize your budget, you should have a better idea of what city (or town) you can afford to live in. Start researching online for listings and determine if finding your apartment with an agent’s help is a better option. Realtors have the market knowledge and neighborhood expertise, however, they may come with a brokerage fee which may or may not be within your budget. Also, depending on where you’re looking, finding an apartment without an agent might be difficult and worth the extra money.

Ideally, you should try to find and rent your first apartment in close proximity to work to make your commute both short and inexpensive. If you’re moving to a metropolitan area, you’ll find that prices tend to decrease further away from the city center. Although this is a bit frustrating, you can still make the most of your search by finding apartments that are close to a train line or conveniently located to a major freeway. It’s also important to ask questions that matter to you, such as: “is this neighborhood safe?” and “where’s the closest convenience store?”  This will help you narrow your options down even further. Knowing how to rent an apartment for the first time starts with knowing your ideal location. Remember, knowledge is power!

 
 

3. Create an amenities checklist

If you’re wondering how to rent an apartment for the first time, then you’re probably also wondering what kinds of amenities apartment buildings typically offer. This will vary depending on your price range, but regardless, it’s a good idea to create an amenities wishlist to make sure your new apartment meets your most necessary needs. We’re talking the kinds of amenities that can make or break your final decision. These amenities can be anything from parking and central air to laundry or even a pet-friendly building.

That being said, make sure you’re separating your must-haves from your nice-to-haves when touring available apartments. Be realistic, have patience, and understand that sometimes you have to take what you can get — even if that means no washer or dryer this time around. Shopping smart is crucial to knowing how to rent an apartment for the first time.

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4. Fill out your rental application

So you’ve toured an apartment and you think it’s “the one.” Sounds like it’s time to fill out that rental application! Rental applications will cost you anywhere from $25-$100 depending on the apartment. The purpose of a rental application is to help your property manager (or landlord) determine whether or not you’re a good fit based on things like income, credit score, and job history. A culmination of these things speaks to your dependability and character, which is their predictor of whether or not you will pay your rent on time.  

It’s important to note that if you’re just stepping into your first job, or are still financially dependent, you’ll need a co-signer. Having a co-signer simply means that if you’re unable to make payments on time, they become the responsible party. A co-signer is typically a parent or family member, so if you see this circumstance applying to you, start discussing this with them now. Once all is said and done, submit your application and wait to get approval to rent your very first apartment!

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5. Approved? Time for the lease and fees

So you’ve been approved to rent an apartment for the first time ever! This is exciting news. You should be proud of the hard work that got you to this point, but it’s not over yet. You’ll need to read and sign the lease to get official tenant status. You’ll also need to pay a couple fees before you can move in. Your property manager or landlord will likely ask for a security deposit and last month’s rent before making it official. Some apartments will even ask for first month’s rent as well. You should also be prepared to pay fees for pets if you have a furry friend. You’ll make these payments out to either the property management company in charge of the apartment building or the property manager/landlord themselves. Make sure you anticipate these fees in your budget when getting ready to rent an apartment for the first time.

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6. Prepare to move!

Now that you’re in the home stretch of renting an apartment for the first time, it’s time to start preparing to move. Check in with your property manager to settle on a move-in date. It’s a good idea to set goals for yourself each week leading up to the big day in order to stay on track. For instance, one week you may find a moving company, then the next you may transfer your utilities or forward your mail. Also, knowing how to rent an apartment for the first time will be easier if you have our first apartment checklist! Give it a read, and you’ll be well on your way to settling into your very first apartment.

 
 

Now that you know how to rent an apartment for the first time, go out and do it! This is both an exciting and daunting journey, but if you put the work in, you’re sure to find the apartment that’s right for you.


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