Preparing to rent your first apartment can be an exciting time. However, the process is not always straightforward. There are lots of branching paths you could take along the way that can be intimidating to consider all at once. So here’s a breakdown of what you can expect during the renting process and what you can do to prepare for it.
Begin Your Search
First things first. Before you can move anywhere, you need to actually search for a place to go! For some, this is actually the most daunting part of the whole experience. Where you want to move can depend on many factors, like work, affordability, and your lifestyle. But, at first, be as pragmatic as possible.
Make a list of all your top priorities for an apartment, budget, and figure out how much rent you can afford. You may have a large wishlist when it comes to features and amenities, but you shouldn’t apply for an apartment outside of your budget. To make sure you can afford to live where you apply, landlords will want income verification to ensure you can make payments. It’s important to think about what you need, not just what you want.
Figure out if you need multiple bedrooms for any dependents or need to find a pet-friendly landlord. With your priorities listed, start looking on websites like Craigslist, Zillow, and Apartments.com to get an idea of what’s available. Facebook, Reddit, and other social media sites are also popular ways for people to find and share rental listings.
Narrow Down Your Options
Now that you have a few options in mind, it’s time to trim the fat. Not all apartments are created equal and, for now, you get to play judge, jury, and executioner. You’ve already chosen a general location, so now take your lifestyle into account. Think about your daily life, what you like to do, and how long it would take to travel to the places you visit.
You can enter your potential apartment’s address into Google Maps or another map app and explore the nearby area. Does this apartment have easy access to a gym, grocery store, or public transportation? Or will you have to add a significant chunk of extra time to your commute every day? Depending on what’s important to you, cross out apartments that don’t fit what you’re looking for. Hopefully, this part of the process will be enjoyable, as you may find cool places you never knew about before.
Look With Your Own Eyes
Apartment listings are a great place to get a glimpse into an apartment, but they’re no substitute for a real look around. Unfortunately, it’s relatively simple for an apartment listing to look more appealing than it is. Just like your favorite Instagrammer may be using makeup and a filter, your prospective apartment may be glammed up for its photo debut. Whenever possible, reach out to the apartment owner and ask them for a tour. Some owners will offer a virtual tour, which is better than nothing, especially if you live far away.
But, if you can, make the trip and see the actual place for yourself before you commit to anything. An apartment tour will give you a better sense of the space and the neighborhood around you. Inspect the bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen for any faulty equipment or wiring. Listen and see how loud the apartment is. If neighbors are noisy or if too many planes fly overhead, that’s a factor to consider when making your final decision.
Now that you’ve narrowed your search down to a few different apartments, it’s time to fill out some applications. Reach out to the property’s management and ask them for an application (there will likely be a link on their website). You may have to pay a fee to apply, so be sure about where you want to apply before you do. Most rental applications are quite similar to each other and will probably require some combination of the following:
- Your photo ID
- Your name, current address, phone number, and email
- Your employment and income information
- Your pets (if applicable)
- Your emergency contacts
- Your background information, landlord references, and personal or professional references
To make the process as smooth as possible, prepare as much of this information ahead of time. That way you’ll be able to access it easily for each application you fill out. Be aware that most landlords and property managers will want to double-check your information. They’ll likely use some form of income verification service, check your credit history, and contact your references. It’s standard procedure, and the more coherent your application, the more likely they’ll feel comfortable taking you on as a tenant.
Sign The Paperwork
With any luck, you’ll find a place that you like, and hopefully, the owners of that place like you too. Or at least they like your money enough that they’ll let you rent their apartment. Now that they’ve accepted your rental application, they’ll send you a lease agreement to sign.
Before you sign that dotted line, you’ll want to read and comb through the fine details of the agreement. Look for:
- The amount of rent
- The security deposit and your rights concerning it
- The tenancy beginning and end date
- The names of any and all authorized persons relevant to this contract
- Tenant responsibilities
- Any other important information previously discussed
Keep in mind this isn’t like automatically agreeing to the terms and services of a freshly-downloaded app. Take your time reading through this contract, as it determines where you’ll be for the next year or so of your life. If everything seems to check out and you feel comfortable moving forward, sign away. And, if everything checks out — congratulations! You’re now a renter, and soon enough you can move into your new apartment.
Slow and Steady
Renting an apartment is a big undertaking. There are so many different factors to consider that it can feel overwhelming. But it’s also something that you typically don’t have to do all at once. Take each part of the process one step at a time to make sure you enter a contract you can afford. With time, diligence, and a little luck, you’ll soon enough be renting a place all your own.