Checklist of Essential Questions When Renting Your First Apartment Author Icon Written by Trusted Choice Author Icon
Written by Trusted Choice

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moving into first apartment checklist

You’ve graduated from college and launched your career. Now, you’re ready to take the next step--renting your first apartment.

It’s an exciting time of your life, and you’re ready to start. But, before you rush headlong into a living situation that you’ll regret, step back and consider all the factors that add up to an ideal first place.

1. Your Total Monthly Budget

Before you begin hunting down that perfect apartment, calculate a monthly budget; include your monthly allotment for rent, utilities, and renter’s insurance. 

Your rent should not exceed 25-30% of your gross monthly income. Allow yourself flexibility to absorb utility payments and a 401k.

Not sure about utility costs? Ask the landlord for an average cost for utilities. Your insurance agent can guide you on the cost of renter’s insurance. 

Other than rent, think about additional expenses you carry. Take transportation costs, for instance. Whether you ride a subway or have a car payment and car insurance, it all adds up. 

You also need to plan for items you might overlook--groceries, haircuts, clothing, cellphone, and entertainment.

If you don’t plan accordingly, you’ll be too strapped for cash to enjoy your new freedom.

2. Location. Location. Location

moving into first apartment checklist

Before you begin the all-important search for an apartment, consider the old real estate adage: Location. Location. Location. 

Find an apartment that puts you near the things you value. That could mean proximity to public transportation, commuter highways, hot social spots, or even your family home. 

You will remain happy in your new home when the location adds convenience to your lifestyle.

3. Ask About Lease Terms

Before you sign off on a lease, be confident that you understand the lease terms fully. Lease terms and laws vary between states, with a standard lease commitment of one year. 

Educate yourself on not only the initial lease terms but also on how you renew it or if it is even renewable. A lease can become an issue for you if you commit for a year, love your apartment, then find out a year later that the landlord is selling the property.

Also, read carefully about what happens if you have an unavoidable circumstance that forces you to break the lease. People sign leases madly in love with their apartment. 

Then, life changes. Job promotions move people out of state, or they fall in love and get married to someone who owns a home, leaving them wondering how to get out of a lease.

4. When Pets are a Priority

moving into first apartment checklist

If moving without Fluffy or Fido in tow is not an option that you’re willing to entertain, ask about the pet policies immediately. 

Some landlords refuse to allow pets of any kind (excluding service animals). Others will permit limited pets, with rules such as breed or weight restrictions. 

Ask to see the pet policy in writing to avoid disappointment later in the process.

5. Neighborhood Safety

While the interior of an apartment might be amazing, look around the neighborhood with your eyes wide open. Ensure that you see adequate street lighting and well-maintained homes. If you observe signs of neglect or unsafe conditions, move on in your search.

6. Parking

moving into first apartment checklist

If you own a car, parking is a critical consideration. In suburban communities, you’ll likely find ample, free tenant parking. However, urban parking costs come at a premium and should be part of your budget. 

7. Apartment Appearance

As you tour potential apartments, remain observant about the conditions of the space. Ensure that the appliances are clean and in working order. Note any significant scuffs or dings on the walls and floor; ask the landlord to document them. 

Inquire if the landlord will make those repairs before you move in. Be sure to join the landlord on a walk-through of the apartment on move-in day to verify that these were rectified.

The Takeaway

You are embarking on an exciting journey. Don’t let a bad apartment decision ruin the time that should be your chance to shine. Make sure you have a clear and solid grasp of the lease terms and are moving into a neighborhood that will allow you to flourish.

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