Hunting for your first apartment is a big task; equal parts exciting, equal parts scary. While the prospect of living without parents, siblings, or dorm-moms may sound like a dream come true, the reality is that there’s a lot of responsibility involved. Enter: your guide to responsibly renting your first apartment. Read on for everything you need in order to be a responsible, respectable renter.
Monthly “Budget” isn’t just about the rental price
While the majority of your monthly budget will surely go to paying the monthly rental cost, there are a lot of other factors involved. In most cases, you’ll need to pay your own utilities, including water, gas, and electric. Will you want internet? Cable? It’s going to cost you.
Start determining your budget range by using a rent calculator like this one. Get a better idea of additional monthly expenses by asking property managers what residents often pay on utilities. Find out which internet providers service your area and what they charge. Even seemingly small things like laundry will add up over the course of a year, and the last thing you want is to get stuck with a monthly total you can’t afford.
Need to have or nice to have?
While granite countertops and hardwood floors are many a renter’s dream, their price tag isn’t always doable for your first apartment. Think about the features you really need in your first apartment, and set aside the ones you don’t. Consider your lifestyle: do you cook a lot? Suitable counter space may be a need to have; stainless steel appliances are nice to have. Do you work from home? An office sure would be nice, but room for a desk and chair is definitely necessary. While it may be tough to turn down a community pool or an on-site gym, that just may be the choice you need to make.
Get down to the nitty-gritty
Lease-wise, that is. Legalese is boring, yes, but it’s incredibly important. Your lease is a binding contract and contains vital information that you, as a renter, need to understand. Make sure to take your time when reading the lease and understand every element. You may want to ask a family member to look over it with you, and call your landlord if there’s anything you don’t understand. While we are all guilty of clicking “I accept the terms and conditions” without reading a single sentence, your lease is the wrong contract to pass up.
Check yourself before you rent yourself
Perhaps the most intimidating element of renting an apartment is the often-dreaded rental credit check. Your landlord needs to verify that you’re trustworthy with your money, and they’ll likely do so with a comprehensive screening of your background. It sounds scary, but don’t stress. Be honest about anything in your past that may come up on the background report, and you’ll be fine.
Sit down, relax, and stay a while
Wherever you choose, you’re going to be spending a lot of time there. While a midday viewing of an apartment may portray a tranquil haven, once rush-hour hits, you may find yourself gridlocked in a loud, busy nightmare. Stop by the apartment multiple times, during the week and on the weekends, and at different times of day. Get an idea of what it’s like on a Saturday morning or a Wednesday night. Spend some time hanging around to discern whether your upstairs neighbor hosts a lot of guests or the dog two doors down has a barking problem. You’ll thank yourself later.
Finding your first apartment can be a daunting task. By following this guide, you can turn “daunting” into “doable” and rent responsibly.