Introduction: How to Choose Your First Apartment

Choosing your first apartment is a very exciting thing to do! It may seem overwhelming and time consuming, but it is an easy process. By following these steps, you can ensure that you choose the best apartment for your needs and budget.

Step 1: Create a Budget

-This is the most important step for first time apartment renters. Create a budget of how much you want to spend each month at your new home. Most apartment complexes will not approve your application if your monthly income is not three times as much as your rent.

-Things many first-time renters forget to include in their budget are expenses such as application fees, pet fees, first month’s deposit and utilities. There are many things to include in your budget, so plan wisely.

-Stick to your budget, and don’t forget to to set aside some extra funds for groceries and fun! If you plan on living with a roommate(s), make sure your budget falls within the same price range as theirs.

Step 2: Create a List of Your "Must Haves"

-Get a clear idea of what you want your new home to include. For example, some renters do not allow pets or certain breeds, so make sure you take the time to plan for this.

-Some other popular examples of “must haves” for an apartment are a fitness center, an apartment pool, and an in-home washer & dryer.

Step 3: Begin Researching Potential Apartments

-There are hundreds of good sites to help you begin your research for your new apartment. Start by searching for complexes in your desired area and then for complexes that fit your budget and needs.

-This step can seem overwhelming at first, but sticking to your budget and “must haves” will help you narrow down the best choices for you.

Step 4: Make Appointments

-After you have narrowed down your options for potential apartments, start contacting the complexes to set an appointments to meet with a leasing agent. Making an appointment will give you the opportunity to see the complex in person, what the units look like on the inside, the amenities offered, and will give you a feel for the type of community that lives there.

-Make sure you come prepared with questions to ask the leasing agent. Some examples of good questions to ask are how much is the deposit, do they allow pets, how much does your average monthly income need to be to rent from this complex, what kind of leasing options do they offer (One year leases? Six month leases?), and what utilities are included in the monthly rent.

-Don’t forget to take notes!

Step 5: Choose Your Apartment

-After you get a chance to see all of your options in person, choose the best complex for your needs and budget!

-It is a good idea to go over your notes from your viewing appointments to make sure you are happy with your choice.

Step 6: Submit an Application

-Many complexes allow you to submit an application online, but it usually a better idea to do this step in person.

-By meeting with a leasing agent at your desired complex to submit your application, you are given the opportunity to ask any questions you may have forgotten in your first visit, and the process is usually much faster than submitting your application online.

-Many complexes also partner with movers and offer a discounted rate if you go through them! This is usually not advertised on the complex website, so it is always a good idea to go through the application process in person for secret perks like this one!

Step 7: Review & Sign Your Lease

-This is one of the most important steps, if not the most important, in choosing your first apartment. I cannot stress how important it is to carefully read your lease. A rule of thumb, is to never sign anything without reading it, but in this case it is non-negotiable. Once you sign your new lease, you are expected to adhere to the community guidelines and policies like every other renter.

-Reviewing your lease gives you the opportunity to ask questions about areas that may be unclear in the lease, and the opportunity to make sure that you chose the right complex.

-Unless you plan on making your new apartment your life-long permanent residence, it is also important to review the move-out guidelines and policies for your unit.

-Signing your new lease is exciting! Make sure to always ask your leasing agent for a copy of your signed lease and the community handbook (if they offer one) if they have not already provided you with one.

Step 8: Don't Forget About Renter's Insurance

-This step is optional, unless your complex requires you to obtain renter’s insurance to live there.

-You can usually purchase renter’s insurance through your current insurance provider. Renter’s insurance costs vary from person to person, but it is worth spending the extra cash to make first-time renters feel confident and secure in their new home.

-Although many apartment complexes do not require you to purchase renter’s insurance, it is always a good idea to have it. Accidents and disasters happen, so making sure your belongings are covered is the smartest move a new first-time renter can make.