12 Week Countdown to Your First Apartment

Plan view of an apartmenFinding the right first apartment is a process that starts weeks before your moving date.  If you are about to graduate or have been living with family since graduation last year, now is the time to start the step-by-step countdown to your big move.

12 Weeks Out:

  • Get your free credit report at annualcreditreport.com or creditkarma.com. Fix any mistakes your find and take steps to improve your FICO score, especially if it is below 620, the cut-off point many landlords use for approving tenants. (If you are moving to San Francisco, New York City or other tight rental market cities, the cut off can be as high as 700.)
  • If you are working and still living at home, now is the time to put your savings plan on overdrive. You’ll need to have about three times your expected monthly rent on hand by the moving day, more if you have to use a broker. If you are a new graduate, you probably have to rely relatives to give or lend you the money, so be extra nice to them!
  • Also, if you are a new graduate, start thinking who you might want to ask to guarantee your lease, if your annual salary is not at least 40X your monthly rent. The guarantor has to make 80X your monthly rent.

11 Weeks Out:

  • Estimate how much rent you can afford on your actual or expected salary by using our Rent Affordability Calculator. Check here for average starting salaries for college grads with your major.
  • If you are a HS grad starting to work for an hourly wage the averages by type of job are here.
  • Evaluate if Plan B — i.e.moving back in with your parents is the best option for you right now.

10 Weeks Out:

9 Weeks Out:

  • After you have better ideas about where you want to move and how much rent you can pay, start spreading the word on social media and in person. Tell everyone you know and meet what you are looking for and when you need the apartment. Use your school’s alumni network for leads.
  • Follow up on leads and, if you can, check out a few open houses to make sure your expectation are realistic.

8 Weeks Out:

7 Weeks Out:

  • Continue researching possibilities and visit some open houses to confirm that your target rent is OK. If you are moving to a new city and doing your apartment hunt long distance, consider a weekend trip to scout out places in person.

6 Weeks Out:

  • Pull together your renter’s paperwork – copies of your latest tax returns, pay stubs and bank statements plus a letter from your employer attesting to your employment status, salary and, best case, including a few nice words about you as a model employee. You’ll need to refresh the bank statements and pay stubs as you receive new ones.

5 Weeks Out:

  • If you’ll be moving long distance, research UHaul and other moving company rates. Get quotes and find out timelines. If necessary, make preliminary reservations.
  • Contact brokers, if you plan to use one.

3-4 Weeks Out:

  • Full speed ahead! Start contacting listings on Craigslist and power up your rental apps. Keep an eye out for “rental available” signs, even scout flyers at your local supermarket’s bulletin boards in smaller communities.
  • Visit available rentals. Use checklists and take pictures, so you’ll remember what each apartment has to offer.
  • Remember to bring copies of your renter’s documents and your checkbook, so you are ready to pounce when the right apartment turns up.

Our polls have shown that two thirds of first apartment hunters will find a place within three weeks, once they are ready to start actively looking.

1-2 Week Out:

  • Select an apartment, give it the final walk-through and sign the lease. Be prepared to pay at least the first month’s rent and one month’s security deposit plus any broker’s fees.
  • Schedule utilities (electric, cable/internet) for the apartment. Get renter’s insurance.
  • Finish packing. If moving long distance using moving company, have boxes picked up.

Moving Day -1:

  • Pick up and pack the U-Haul. If this is your first U-Haul trip plan your route and driving so that you avoid the worst of rush hour at your destination.
  • Confirm that family and/or friends who offered to help will be available to help.

Moving Day:

  • Pick up the keys.
  • Move into your first apartment. Celebrate with your friends who helped you move!

happy couple sitting on floor celebrating champagne toast moving in new house taking selfie photo


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