10-Step Countdown to Your First Apartment

So, you’re looking for your first apartment. Follow these steps and you’ll be on your own before you know it—even if you’re currently living in your parents’ basement. (The good news is that our polls show two thirds of first-apartment hunters will find a place within three weeks once they start actively looking, which happens about Step 6.)

Step 1. Start saving one week’s salary every month.

Step 2. Get your free credit rating report or your Fico score. Fix any mistakes you find and take steps to improve your FICO score if it is below 700.

Step 3. Start checking out neighborhoods and rent levels. Decide if you’ll need roommates.

Step 4. Spread the word! Tell everyone you know that you are on the hunt, and be specific about what you are looking for.

Step 5. Put together your renter’s documents: copies of your latest tax return, three pay stubs, a bank statement, and a letter from your boss verifying your employment status, salary, and, ideally, including a few words about how you are a model employee.

Step 6. Check out Craigslist, local newspapers, and supermarket flyers for available apartments. Contact brokers, if necessary. Visit apartments and bring your checkbook and copies of your renter’s documents so you are ready to pounce. Also keep checklists of what you see so you’ll be able to compare and contrast.

Step 7. Follow up on all leads. Make sure you looking at apartments you can afford.

Step 8. When you find an apartment that feels right, give it a final walk-through and sign the lease. Be prepared to fork over at least one month’s rent in advance and a one-month security deposit, plus any broker’s fees.

Step 9. Pack your stuff, schedule utilities for the apartment, and get renter’s insurance.

Step 10. Load up the car or rent a U-Haul. Get some friends to help you move—and to celebrate with afterwards.

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