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Things to think before renting

It’s a right of passage to move into your first apartment.

Another step on the road to adulthood, but one that requires a lot of planning, expenses and work.

Being prepared to begin the search means having a clear understanding of what to know before renting an apartment, from how much you should have in savings to what documents you’ll need to convince the property manager you’re a good candidate.

Use this extensive list below to get a clear picture of things to know before renting an apartment. Then, go out and find your first place.

1. Upfront costs

Rent is not your only financial concern with a new apartment. Even before the monthly expenses, you need to save for the upfront costs. Between application fees, a security deposit, a pet deposit if applicable and first and last month’s rent, you’re going to shell out some serious money before you even get the keys to your first apartment.

To budget for this, plan on having a few months’ rent already in the bank to cover costs.

 
2. Long-term costs

person doing a budget

After moving in, rent still isn’t your only financial obligation. According to Study in US, long-term costs range from monthly utilities to regularly-purchased items. The list will vary based on your needs, but can include:

  • Electricity
  • Gas
  • Internet and cable
  • Cell phone service
  • Water, sewer and trash
  • Groceries
  • Gas
  • Clothing

Depending on the time of year and the average cost of each of these, you’re looking at a few hundred dollars per month along with the cost of rent. It’s important to budget for these expenses before you start apartment hunting. They’ll impact how much rent you can afford.

 

3. Paperwork preparation

Besides budgeting for your first apartment, it’s helpful to gather all the paperwork a property manager will ask for during the application process. Having this ready in advance can speed up the review.

They’ll also often ask for verification of your identity, employment and financial stability. Collect recent pay stubs and bank statements and have your photo ID with you when you fill out rental applications.

5. Lease terms

This may be the first time you’re reviewing a legal document and it may be hard to interpret. Bulk up on frequently used terms within a rental agreement and then read your lease carefully.

If you don’t understand something, ask about it before you sign the document. Check the areas about regulations and restrictions for behavior, the policy on late rent and what actions can lead to eviction.

If you don’t agree with something in the lease, discuss it with your property manager. It’s OK to ask for changes to your lease, but don’t assume you’ll win every discussion.

6. Location, location, location

woman with grocery bags

Where you live matters almost as much as the layout of your apartment. Ideally, you’ll want a place close to the essential shops and services you use often. You don’t want to go far to get groceries, a haircut or grab food at a good restaurant.

Having a few walkable options is a bonus, as is being close to public transportation if it’s available. You also want to factor in the distance between your potential home and your work. A long commute can ruin a day, so map out the distance, during the typical times you’d drive to and from work, to gauge how long of a ride you may face.

6. Amenities

If you made a list of things you couldn’t live without in your first apartment, what would be on it? Do you need in-unit laundry so that you can clean clothes daily? Do you need an on-site workout room to help keep you in shape? Do you need an elevator instead of stairs to get to your apartment after work?

These are important things to consider when renting an apartment to ensure you enjoy where you’re living. “Many apartment communities are upping the ante with luxurious amenities that make living easier, more convenient and more fun,” says Devon Thorsby, Real Estate editor at U.S. News & World Report. Making a list of these items, in order of necessity, can help you find the perfect apartment and building.

7. Pet or no pet

woman with cats

This decision can get made for you, based on the pet policy of the apartment you want to rent. Don’t risk not being able to bring your pet with you. If you have a furry friend, make sure your property manager allows pets and your particular breed. Most pet-friendly buildings have a pet deposit or add a pet fee onto your monthly rent, so it’s good to know how much that is for budgeting.

8. Pack by priority

Whether moving out of your childhood home or a college dorm, your first apartment is truly the initial place where you can bring all your stuff with you. Don’t. You’ll have acquired a lot of memorabilia throughout your childhood, but where is it all going to go?

Use the opportunity of starting somewhere new to purge everything you’ve collected over your life thus far. Have an honest conversation with yourself about whether you’re holding onto certain things because they’re useful or because it feels strange to let them go.

Donate, throw away or recycle anything you don’t really need. Ask if you can store a box or two of those items you aren’t sure you can part with in your parent’s garage or a friend’s basement. If you don’t think about those items after a few months in your new place, you know you can get rid of them, as well.

9. Move-in plan

The two common options for moving are doing it yourself (or with friends) or hiring professional movers. Once you decide which way to go, book your move-in day. Rent your own moving van and secure friends who can commit to helping.

Call around to a few local movers, get price quotes and put down a deposit. Shop for moving supplies a few weeks before the big day and begin packing in small increments to make sure you aren’t doing it all at the last minute.

Sturdy boxes, bubble wrap or packing paper, packing tape and a few permanent markers should get you through the move. Don’t forget to label all your boxes.

10. What you need

Once you’ve taken care of the lease, it’s now time to think about what you need to put inside the apartment. You’ll have plenty of ideas, but it’s best to start with the basics before spending hours on Pinterest pulling a design together.

You’ll most likely survive a day without anywhere to sit or real dishes to eat on or an actual bed, but a plan for these essential items is important. It’s OK to begin shopping around for necessities like these, as well as sheets, towels, basic cleaning supplies and paper products first, even before moving day. Some furniture pieces take a few days to get delivered, and you want to time it all correctly.

Once you get the basics into your place, begin thinking about the next round — trash cans, dressers, a coffee table and a table and chairs. The list goes on, but you should buy items based on what you can afford and what you really need.

11. What you don’t need

mixing bowl blender

As you’re making your wish list for your first apartment, you’re going to end up with things on it you don’t need. While it might be nice to have an assortment of the latest kitchen gadgets, you don’t need a bread maker, stand mixer and slow cooker all taking up the limited space you have.

Try to realistically look at what you want versus what you need in conjunction with the space you have to store everything. A splurge every now and again is perfectly fine, but you don’t want to feel crowded in by all the stuff in your apartment.

If possible, ask for a floor plan of your potential unit with dimensions on it, or try and schedule a time to go in and take a few measurements before move-in day. This can help ensure you don’t overdo it when it comes to stuff.

12. Organization

Another thing to think about before moving in is storage. Most apartments don’t have huge, walk-in closets and built-in shelving to store your essentials. You’ll have to strategize on space-saving solutions.

One of the best items to get is under-bed storage bins. They slide neatly under the bed and are a perfect storage solution for off-season clothing. Other options are furniture pieces that do double duty, like an ottoman that opens up for extra space. Bookcases, shelving or decorative bins also come in handy for storage and look nice.

The trick is to avoid making your apartment feel cluttered, so a combination of storage solutions is often the best way to go.

13. Decoration

This may happen organically as you select favorite pictures or pieces of art for your walls. You may also want to create a more cohesive design. Whether picking an exact color scheme or coordinating the display of your favorite things, decorating your apartment will make it feel more like home and more like you.

Don’t forget about this important step, but don’t rush into it, either. Having all your essential items in place first can help put your design plan into perspective.

Things to know when renting an apartment

There’s a lot to know to prepare for renting your first apartment. The best advice is to figure out what you can afford and then go through the rental process carefully. Pay attention to all the details, keep track of costs and prioritize your needs to transform your first apartment into a home.

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