Whether you’re moving out of your parents’ house for college or you’re starting a new job in a new city, searching for you first apartment is exciting. Your first apartment is one you’ll never forget. Help make your first experience of living on your own a fond memory by following these eight steps of how to find the right first apartment for you.
Determine your budget.
The biggest mistake in apartment living is choosing an apartment you can’t afford. Typically, you should aim for third or less for housing, which should include utilities. If you can’t find an apartment within this budget, try finding a roommate to help split rent and utilities. Check out our posts on how estimate your maximum affordable rent if you are paid an annual salary or if you are paid hourly.
Find the right neighborhood for you.
First, your neighborhood should be safe. Second, your neighborhood should make you happy. Before choosing a neighborhood, think of all the things you want nearby – shopping, public transportation, gym, work, friends, family, etc. Choose an apartment in a neighborhood that fits your needs to help ensure you’ll enjoy the area.
Research the neighborhood amenities
Just because you find an apartment in your ideal neighborhood that you can stretch your budget to afford doesn’t mean you can afford the neighborhood. Other than the cost of rent, you also need to consider the cost of living in a particular neighborhood. If rent is higher, it’s likely that costs at the grocery store or bakery or fitness center are higher, too.
Determine your apartment amenity needs
Besides having neighborhood amenities, you also need to know what amenities you want in your apartment. List all the amenities you must have and the ones you can live without. Maybe you must have a parking spot but can live without in-unit laundry. Maybe you must have a view but can live without outdoor space. If you determine which amenities are must-haves and which are optional, you can help narrow your search before you begin apartment tours.
There are many questions you need answered before you choose an apartment. Make a list of anything you want to ask a potential landlord, and remember to take the list with you on apartment tours.
Here are examples of questions to ask:
- What is the apartment maintenance process?
- Are pets allowed? If so, is there a monthly pet fee?
- What happens if I break my lease?
Start your search
Once you know your budget, potential neighborhood, and must-have amenities, you’re ready to start your search. To begin, create a list of potential apartments and call to set up tours. During each tour, make note of the view, water pressure, outdoor space, laundry area, fitness center, etc. Each apartment is potentially yours, so you need to take note of everything important to you.
Secure your apartment
Have everything you need to sign an application with you – checkbook to pay application fee, proof of income, and a photo ID – in case you find an apartment you like.
Read – then sign – your Lease
Always read the entire lease before you sign it. If there is anything in the lease you don’t understand, ask for clarification before you sign it. If there is preexisting damage to the apartment, make sure it’s in the lease before you sign it. Remember that a lease is a legal and binding document, and you need to know everything in it before you sign it.