It took 18 years, possibly more, but you are finally on your way to having your own pad. For some people this can be terrifying. For others, this means no curfew, playing loud music and friends over all the time. No matter how you feel about this new adventure, we will present a few pieces of advice in this section that will help reduce any anxiety you may have about renting an apartment.
Doing Your Homework
We said this would be an exciting adventure, but we didn’t say it wouldn’t take some work. Doing your homework up front will save lots of trouble later. Before selecting an apartment you will want to consider some important pieces of information such as:
- Convenience – Where do you work? Go to school? Like to hang out? These are not small questions. Getting an apartment near these locations can help reduce your commute (which saves gas) and reduce the stress of getting around. If you work or attend school in a major city this may be prohibitively expensive.
- Safety – How secure is the neighborhood where you will be residing? Sacrificing your safety for cost or convenience is not a good idea.
- Budget – You knew this would be on the list. Living isn’t cheap. Think about rent, renters insurance and utility bills. A general rule of thumb is that your rent shouldn’t exceed 25% of your income before taxes.
- Pet Policy – Some apartments will allow you to have a pet and others won’t. Be sure to check breed restrictions as well as any mandatory pet security deposits and pet rent. That’s right. Some places will also charge your pet rent each month.
- Decorating Policy – Are you allowed to paint, put up wall paper or put nails in the wall to hang pictures? Some apartments might be cool while others have strict policies. Better to find out upfront than be faced with a large bill when your lease is up.
- Amenities – Does the apartment provide pools, a gym or BBQ areas? Some people find these important and others don’t. These included amenities can really elevate your level of enjoyment with your apartment.
Visiting the Property
You’ve done your homework and have a list of potential apartments. Now it’s time to visit the property. When you arrive take a quick drive around the apartments before heading to the leasing office. Look for cleanliness and if the buildings look well maintained. A quick drive around can tell you a lot about the property you are considering. If everything looks good from the outside, head to the leasing office to speak with an agent. Be prepared to give them your driver’s license as many require this before showing an apartment. As you tour the apartments ask the agent a few questions about quiet hour policies, trash/recycling, how quick the maintenance team will respond to work orders and visitor policies.
Once you return to the leasing office you can ask the agent to provide you with a breakdown of costs including rent, security deposit and any other fees. Don’t forget to ask about promotions and move-in specials. Will they give you the first month rent free? Does the property pay for any of your utilities? Do they have referral programs in place? If you are a member of a union or local trade group it never hurts to ask if your membership awards you any discounts.
Roommates…A Good Idea?
You and your best friend have been inseparable since grade 1 and now it seems like a good idea to move in together. Split rent and hang out all the time…what could go wrong? Having a roommate certainly does help reduce the cost of renting, but you need to be sure you are ready for the responsibility and new lifestyle that comes with another person living with you.
First, if you have a roommate sharing your apartment be sure to have them co-sign the lease. If they do not co-sign they can leave anytime they want and you are stuck with the entire rent. Now, just because they co-sign doesn’t mean they cannot leave, but you will at least have a contract requiring them to assist with the rent. You need to be sure that the person you decide to live with is trustworthy and will pay rent on time and not leave before the lease expires.
Second, be sure that a set of ground rules are established before moving in together. What are the expectations about other friends coming over, partying in the apartment and each person’s personal possessions? These might seem like trivial matters now, but they will become very important in the future.
Third, it’s great to have your friend around all the time, but will you be able to study effectively or will you be constantly distracted? Remember that if you are at school your primary job is to be a student and get good grades. If having your friend around 24/7 will be too distracting, you might want to consider renting solo.
Signing the Lease and Moving In
The perfect apartment has been selected! Time to sign the lease and be on your own! When you go to sign your lease you will want to take the time to read it word for word. This might seem time consuming and boring, but nothing would be worse than signing a lease you don’t fully understand. Most leasing agents will summarize each section for you. Don’t feel obligated to move quickly just for them, take the time and read each word. Things to look out for include the term (how long is the lease), mandatory notice period if you are not renewing, costs (including security deposit and any pet rent) and insurance requirements. If you agree with the terms of your lease then sign and get moved in!
Before moving in your furniture or pets you should fill out a move-in checklist. This is normally provided by the leasing agent and requires that you inspect every room in your apartment for damage. Be very very detailed with this list and don’t forget to check the appliances. Any damage you don’t report will be assumed to have been caused by you. Thus, you will be charged for the repair work when you move out. If necessary, take pictures of the damage. Once this phase is complete then begin the fun of moving in all your furniture and enjoy your new apartment!
Are We Done Yet?
Almost there! You’ve moved into your new apartment now just a few final tasks and all done. You still need to setup your utilities (electric, gas and water) and update any services you use with your new address. A few you don’t want to forget include:
- Credit Cards
- Driver’s license – Some states require a change in address to be reported within a certain time frame
- TV/Internet provider
With your personal information updated your final task should be getting renters insurance. Some apartments require this and some don’t. Regardless of your apartment’s requirement, renters insurance is a good thing to have. Look around and figure out how much it would cost to replace your items if they were stolen or destroyed. Probably more than you want to spend at one time. Insurance isn’t expensive and you might even get discounts if you bundle with your auto insurance. This is one thing you don’t want to forget!
Now we are done! There are still a few small things left to do like buy food and invite friends over, but for the most part you are moved in to your first apartment. Enjoy!