Signing a lease on your first apartment can be both exhilarating and a bit scary. For the first time in your life, you are free to come and go as you please and set your own household rules. On the other hand, you’re also responsible for stocking the fridge, paying the rent, and cover what feels like a million other expenses.
To help you make a smooth transition, we’re shared a checklist for first-time renters put together by folks at U.S. News and featured at DailyFinance.com. Congratulations on becoming an adult!
- Establish a rental budget: Avoid getting stuck with an apartment you can’t afford, and stick to an established budget. Ideally, you should never spend more than 30 percent of your take-home pay on housing, utilities, and other amenities. If you have limited funds and can’t seem to find an apartment within your budget, consider finding a roommate to share expenses.
- Determine which neighborhood works for you: Safety and happiness should be two of the top priorities when deciding on a neighborhood. Consider commute times and also how far you would be willing to travel for the things you need (i.e. groceries, public transportation, a gym, etc.).
- List your must-have apartment amenities: Before beginning your search, determine which amenities are essential (and within your budget) and which you could live without. Popular amenities include on-site or in-unit laundry, a dishwasher, off-street parking, a pool or gym, air conditioning, and an outdoor space.
- Start your rental search: Once you’ve determined what you need and how much you can spend, contact properties that seem like a good match and set up a few tours.
- Tour apartments that meet your search criteria and budget: Treat your first visit like an inspection by checking faucets, locks, windows, and power outlets. Ask to see the laundry facilities and community areas. Ask questions and be sure to look presentable and show up to your appointment on time. First impressions count.
- Be prepared to fill out a rental application and pay a small fee: Be prepared to complete a rental application, especially in competitive markets. You should also bring your checkbook for the application fee, a recent pay stub to verify your income, and a photo ID.
- Read your apartment lease (and make sure you understand it) before you sign on the dotted line: Read the rental agreement carefully and make sure the terms are clearly stated. Also be sure any pre-existing damage to the unit is noted in the lease. Take time-stamped photos to document the damage as well to ensure you don’t lose your security deposit if you decide to move out.
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