Tips for First Time Renters

Your mind is officially made up – you’re going to start looking for your very first apartment! Before you get too comfy with your newly found freedom, remember renting is a big responsibility. A couple of late rent payments won’t fly, and it can negatively affect your credit. Missing payments completely can lead to eviction, which can also affect your chances of getting another rental elsewhere.

Make sure that your first apartment experience is a good one. If you’re a first-time renter, follow these tips so you can enjoy all the perks of apartment life:

Tip #1: Budget Wisely

Experts suggest that rent should be no more than 25-30% of your take-home pay. Beware of signing a lease on a place you can’t realistically afford, even if they have a current promotion.

To create a reasonable budget for apartment living, look at your after-tax income and subtract all major and reoccurring expenses. What you have left is what you can spend on the apartment. Keep in mind that this total should include rent, along with utilities if not already included. Request a written transcript of what is covered and what is not.

Tip #2: Consider Deposits

To secure the apartment, you’ll likely need a hefty deposit. Security deposits vary, but they’re often equal to one month’s rent. An application fee is typically required – and those range between $25 and 100. If you’re considering adding a pet, know that a pet fee/deposit is typically due before move-in.   

Again, read the lease and look for deposits or unexpected fees.

Tip #3: Use Credit Cards in Moderation

In order to establish credit, you need to have credit. Having a few credit cards and paying off a large sum of debt in a reasonable amount of time will help strengthen your credit score. Don’t feel guilty about having to use a credit card, but don’t be careless either. Try to avoid carrying over balances month-to-month, as debt can begin to quickly accumulate. Rather than depend on credit cards, know they’re there in case of emergencies.

Tip #4: Determine What It Is You Need

When scouting apartments, think about what you need first, versus what it is you want.  If you don’t own a vehicle, you will need an apartment close to public transit or in walking distance of your most frequented destinations. Pet owners will need to find a community that welcomes pets.

Amenities like a gym, pool or movie theater on the premises are preferred by most renters, but are also things one can live without. Browse vacant apartments that meet your needs and have the amenities you want on!

Tip #5: Take a Virtual Tour First

Virtual apartment tours are great resources for apartment seekers, because they allow would-be renters to vet communities before ever doing an in-person walk-through of the community.  Renters that do research prior to visiting a prospective community tend to be more familiar with the neighborhood, which allows them to ask the important questions upfront and not just as they come along.

Tip #6: Read and Understand the Lease

Don’t ever feel rushed into signing a lease. Read the contract thoroughly, noting any concerns you see. Be sure that what you and the landlord agreed on verbally is written verbatim in the lease agreement. For example, if it’s acceptable to have a dog and no additional fees are required, make sure it states that in the lease.

Tip #7: Get Renters Insurance

Many places require renters insurance. But if your apartment does not, consider getting renters insurance, because it helps replace your items if there is ever damage to your belongings or a break-in inside your apartment. Coverage is quite reasonable, running between $10-20 a month, typically.  

When you obtain renters insurance, the provider may ask you to retain proof of items you’re looking to cover. Photos and receipts (if possible) should suffice. Jewelry and art pieces may require added coverage in terms of a rider. All documents should be put in a safety deposit box at the bank or a fireproof safe in the apartment. 

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