If you’re considering moving out of your parent’s home and into your first apartment, you’re probably pumped. Renting an apartment for the first time can be an exciting experience. Suddenly, you have the freedom to do what you want and create a living space that’s just right for your needs.
But, of course, renting does come with some downsides — like having to pay your own bills. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what every first-timer should know before renting an apartment — so they can avoid running into issues in the future.
Setting Your Budget
One of the most crucial aspects to understand before leasing an apartment is whether you can afford it. So, create and stick to a budget. By doing so, you can increase your savings while still covering your rent, utilities and other living expenses. Then, ask yourself the following questions:
- How is my credit?
- Am I an attractive rental candidate for the landlord?
- Do I pay my bills on time?
If you can’t answer “yes” to all of these questions, your ability to secure the rental you want may not be possible. That’s because the majority of property owners want to know that their tenants will pay their rent on time every month. In that case, you may need to look for a no-credit-check apartment until you can improve your credit.
Knowing Your Needs
Next, think about what you need from an apartment. This list should not include the amenities that you’d like to have, but rather the aspects that you require to make living in your apartment as comfortable as possible. For instance, knowing whether you need access to public transportation or the ability to bring your pet to the apartment will help narrow your search. Along the way, you may end up finding an apartment that includes some of your wants, as well — but that’s just a bonus.
Focusing on the amount of living area you need is also essential. For example, can you live in a studio apartment or do you need something larger? Location is also something you need to decide on. For example, if you work at an office space in San Antonio, you could consider renting a smaller studio within walking distance, or you could look for something closer to the suburbs if the commuting options are sufficient for you.
Tour the Apartment
Even if you’ve viewed the apartment through a virtual tour, you still need to visit it in person before making a commitment. Virtual tours are great, but they don’t give you a clear sense of what it would be like to live in the apartment. Plus, when you’re moving there from far away, the last thing you’ll want is to be thoroughly disappointed and have to back out. Likewise, touring the neighborhood around the apartment will give you a sense of what the community is like, as well as the quality of amenities available to tenants.
Then, when you do visit the apartment, ask the manager questions. For example, find out whether some or all of your utilities are included in the rent payment. If they aren’t, as a first-time renter you’ll need to create a new account with the local utility company, which may include having to pay a fee upfront to access their service.
Understand Parking Availability
Meanwhile, if you’re looking to rent an apartment in an urban area, parking will likely be a problem. So, find out whether the apartment complex has a parking lot for residents and, if so, whether spaces are assigned or it’s on a first-come, first-served basis.
Keep in mind that if you visit the apartment during the day, the lot might be empty. However, this may not be the case in the evening, which could indicate a lack of spaces. Knowing the rules before you move in can help you avoid getting off on the wrong foot with your new neighbors.
Review the Lease Agreement
Although you may be eager to sign on the dotted line of the lease agreement, take your time to understand the contract. Specifically, the agreement should include everything you need to know about paying your rent and any penalties for not paying on time, among other important details.
When you’ve never rented before, you may not quite comprehend some of the contract’s finer details, so it may make sense to have an attorney review it for you. In any case, it’s better to be safe than sorry and stuck with something you aren’t comfortable with.
Evaluate Renters Insurance
Your apartment management company might require you to get renters’ insurance, but even if they don’t, it’s still a good idea. Doing so will protect you in the event that your belongings are stolen or damaged, and will also pay for temporary housing if the apartment becomes uninhabitable for any reason.
Plus, when you can’t control what happens around you, problems can arise through no fault of your own. For example, if a pipe bursts in the apartment above you, the ensuing water that comes through the ceiling will damage your unit. Unfortunately, things like this do happen — it’s called Murphy’s law!
The Final Walkthrough
When you finally get the keys for the apartment, you’ll do a final walkthrough with the property manager. Take this opportunity to look for any issues that need to be fixed so you’re not blamed for them later on (if you do miss some damage that was previously done to the apartment, you may have to pay for it out of your security deposit at the end of the lease). While you’re at it, pay particular attention to the kitchen and bathrooms, as these are more expensive areas to repair.
Relationships with Neighbors
Your relationship with your neighbors can have a big influence on your experience living in the apartment — whether that’s good or bad. And, when you’re renting an apartment for the first time, it can be easy to accidentally annoy your neighbors. For example, although you may want to host an apartment-warming party, too many guests and loud music could upset your neighbors. But, if you inform your neighbors beforehand, it’s less likely to be as much of a problem. So, take the time to introduce yourself — a friendly handshake and small talk can go a long way toward building trust.
Your first renting experience can be both an anxious and exciting time. But, although you’ll be king of the castle, keep in mind that there will be a much greater fiscal responsibility on your part. To that end, make sure you pay your monthly rent on time and always strive to be the best neighbor you can be.