Checklist for the First-Time Renter
The time has finally come to move out of your parents’ home and into your very own humble abode. Freedom, at last! But before you get too excited, there are some things you must consider, starting with if you’re even qualified to rent an apartment. Sit tight as I walk you through the step-by-step guide to renting your first abode.
Step 1: Assess Your Credit Rating
Most landlords will want you to have stellar credit, especially considering you’re a first-time renter. Visit annualcreditreport.com to retrieve a free copy of your credit report. Review the document in its entirety and dispute any inaccuracies using the instructions found there. If everything looks good, retrieve your free credit score from credit.com, Credit Sesame, or Credit Karma. (These are also great tools to stay on top of your credit going forward.) Keep this information in mind when shopping around, and be sure to inquire about credit requirements before applying.
Step 2: What’s Your Budget?
Like it or not, your monthly expenses are about to increase tremendously. That’s why it’s important to have a feasible spending plan so that you can gauge how much you can comfortably afford each month in rental payments. Just because you have $600 remaining each month after expenses doesn’t mean you should go out and rent an apartment for $550. But why? The reason is simple: renting an apartment comes with additional costs, including utilities and renter’s insurance (if you choose to sign up).
Step 3: What’s Your Desired Location?
Not all neighborhoods are created equal. In fact, some look stellar from the outside, but are riddled with excessive crime and many other issues that we won’t get into here. Be sure to keep this in mind when deciding where you want to live. Your best bet is to look in areas that you are familiar with and enter the address into SpotCrime.com to get an idea of the amount of criminal activity that is taking place in nearby areas.
Step 4: Preferences
A few things to consider include:
- Number of rooms
- Features in the apartment
- Swimming pool
- Fitness center
- Fully furnished or not
- Pet Policies
- Laundry facilities
Step 5: Compare Your Options
Once you’ve figured out where you want to live and exactly what you’re looking for in an apartment, start scouring the web and comparing each of the properties to one another. Look beyond the monthly rental price to really determine which apartment will give you the biggest bang for your buck.
Step 6: Tour Your Top Selections
Schedule tours for at least five properties so that you’ll have a nice assortment of options to choose from. When you arrive, ask to see the actual unit you’ll be occupying so that there won’t be any surprises on your move-in day. Check the air-conditioning unit, sinks, toilets, outlets, appliances, windows, and locks to ensure that they are all working properly.
Step 7: Complete the Application
Schedule an appointment with the leasing office to complete your application. If it can be done online, you’ll save some time and an extra trip to the landlord’s office. Just be sure to have the funds for the application fee on hand. Also, inquire about the security deposit and any other applicable fees you must pay before you can move in.
Step 8: Sign on the Dotted Line
Upon approval – which could take anywhere from an hour to a week or so – you will be invited in to sign your rental agreement. Since this is your first rodeo, you will want to allocate a decent chunk of time so you can thoroughly review the rental agreement and address any questions or concerns that may arise. Also, be sure to inquire about the policy for terminated lease agreements, in case you need to walk away before your lease is up.
Bonus: Move In and Enjoy Your New-Found Freedom
Congratulations on your first apartment! You can now breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy privacy, but don’t forget to budget your funds each month to ensure that you can continue to make timely payments. Do not fall behind on rental payments – you want your own space, not a hit on your credit score.