Searching for Your First Apartment? Tips for First Time Renters

bigstock-Giving-Away-The-Keys-1867201Apartment hunting for your first time can certainly be daunting. From finding the right apartment in your price range to calculating how long it will take to get to work from each potential location, you have your work cut out for you. But before you get serious about a particular property, you need to do your renter due diligence. By taking your time, you can end up with a great apartment that is affordable and worthwhile to park yourself at.

Set Your Personal Budget

Only you know how much you can really afford each month. Most apartments will conduct a credit and employment check to verify your income, but even if you qualify for $500 per month, it doesn’t necessarily mean that is what you can afford. Take a look at your income and expenses without rent. Then calculate how much you could easily afford — while still having funds left over for emergencies.

Also, don’t forget to calculate the extras that come with apartment living, such as:

  • Transportation costs
  • Utilities
  • Groceries
  • Renter’s Insurance
  • Laundry costs — if you have to pay to use a Laundromat

Some apartments include certain utilities (like gas or water), while others require you to pay them all. It’s best to budget for all utilities regardless.

Check Your Credit Report

Most landlords check your credit before renting an apartment to you. To avoid any surprises, check your credit report and see if there are any negative items that can interfere with your application. If you can, correct those items before applying to your new apartment. If you’re in a hurry, let the landlord know there is an error and provide any supporting documentation you have just in case.

Walk Through the Property

Do a thorough walkthrough of the apartment and property before you rent it. That means inspecting the rooms, bathrooms, kitchen, etc. You’ll want to note anything that needs repair. It’s always best to see an apartment in-person so that you know what you’re renting. If you live in another state but know someone locally, ask them to do a walk-through for you. You will want to make sure everything works, including the appliances.

Before you sign your rental agreement, note any damages or imperfections you see that could impact your security deposit. For example, if you notice scratched or dented appliances, note that on your walk-through.

Get It in Writing

Individual property owners might not be as diligent about lease agreements as larger complexes, but as a tenant, you want everything in writing. Never rely on a handshake for a property agreement — even if you know the landlord. Find out the terms of your lease, how your security deposit works and when you’ll receive it back, and what you’re responsible for fixing when you are ready to leave the apartment.

By taking your time and picking the right property, you can avoid a lot of headaches in the future. There are plenty of great apartments out there and by taking these steps, you can find the right one that suits your needs and budget.

Dec 2013