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Setting Out on Your Own: A 4-Step Guide to Renting Your First Apartment

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Whether you're 18 or 80, getting your first apartment is an exciting time. It can, though, also be a stressful one. If this is your first time navigating the waters of having your own place and covering the necessities, here is a handy step-by-step guide to renting your first little home.

Assess Your Budget. In many areas of the country, renting expenses have been rising quickly. This means that you may find that your choices are limited and that you need to truly create a budget and stick to it. For most people, a good rule of thumb is to spend no more than 30%–35% of your take-home pay on rent itself. This may seem a little limiting, but keep in mind that you will have other expenses like utilities, furnishing, insurance, and possibly new transportation or other costs. Depending on your budget, you may find that you need to compromise a little to achieve the right combination of price, location, and amenities. 

Build a Buffer. Once you know what you can pay monthly, it's time to ensure that you have a savings buffer to cover both the expected and the unexpected. Upon signing a lease, you'll likely have to pay up to three times your monthly rent in move-in costs. These are usually the deposit, first month's rent, and last month's rent. You should also save up enough to have savings to cover emergencies like job loss or temporary layoffs.

Narrow Down Neighborhoods. If you're near the area in which you plan to rent, spend some time visiting potential neighborhoods to live in. Visit the neighborhoods at different times of the day, of the week, and of the year if possible. Plus, talk with potential neighbors about what they think of the area or complex. Doing so will help you assess things like nightlife, noise levels, local demographics, and traffic. Then, check out some of the apartments for rent—both online and in person—to get a sense of the price range and availability. If you don't see many listings in your price range, you may find that your options are severely limited. 

Know the Routine. Understanding how the apartment rental process works will help you avoid surprises and be ready. Keep in mind that you will likely do the following:

  • Allow a background check and credit check to be done(so make sure things are in order)
  • Fill out an application, probably paying a fee to do so
  • Sign a lease, which is a legal document and should be read thoroughly before signing
  • Do a walk-through, which is when you officially note any deficiencies in the condition of the apartment
  • Pay for utilities; turn on utilities at least a few days before moving in, and be prepared to pay deposits and have another credit check

Following these steps will help you avoid unnecessary stress about the rental process and ensure that you find the best possible apartment you can afford. And then, you can move on with the fun part—decorating and making your new apartment into a home. Visit apartments such as Meadowdale Apartments to start home searching.