So, you are looking for your first real apartment, huh? Time to start paying the rent? Yea, it stinks, I know – I have been paying rent now for 13 years. And although I want to buy a house, in this market in my neighborhood, it’s just not going to happen! So rent I do, so I have a few tips that might help you out when you start to check out apartments to rent.
1. When you meet the landlord, try to act like a grownup. You might not want to wear your baseball hat backwards or continue smoking that cigarette – it could reflect badly on you. And oftentimes there are several people applying for any apartment, so you want to present yourself at your best…even if that changes once you sign the lease.
2. The landlord is probably going to ask you for a check to cover a credit check, so be sure to bring your checkbook. Also, when you get accepted, you will probably be asked for first, last and security, meaning that your new $1200 a month apartment actually will cost $2400 plus the deposit for that first month. Be sure to have the money in your account!
3. Talk to the neighbors if you get a chance. If only I had done this at a few of the places that I lived, I never would have moved in. Between finding out about the guy that sings love songs to his old girlfriend at 3am to the chain smoker in the apartment next door, you can learn a lot just by being friendly with one of the neighbors. Ask them what they think of the place, how the landlord is, etc. – get a feel for your new home before you sign anything.
4. If having a parking spot is important to you, ask if you get one. A lot of apartment buildings do not have specific spots for everyone, so you should make sure you get one if you want one. I pay $90 for mine each month, that’s how important it is to us!
5. You should never go over your budget. Most finance professionals tell you that you should be paying 1/3 of your gross income, so if you make $5,000 per month before taxes, your rent should not be more than $1,666. Of course, I understand this is not always feasible in certain markets, but it is a good percentage to try to stick to.
6. Clean up your credit. If you have delinquencies all over your credit report, I seriously doubt you are going to get approved for any apartment. Landlords want to get paid every month! Work on fixing your credit while you stay with a friend on the couch.
7. Read the lease. Seriously, read the lease. And then read it again. You wanted to play your acoustic guitar in the house? Make sure you can. Your parents come visit every month? Make sure it’s legal. This is a legally binding agreement you are signing – make sure you read it.
8. Once you move in, buy renter’s insurance. Our renter’s insurance is $22 a month for $35,000 worth of coverage. Not bad for piece of mind. When you live with that many other people in one building, you are trusting all of them to not leave a burner on or plug up the toilet – that’s a lot of trust. You need Replacement Cost Coverage renter’s insurance, which pays the actual cost to replace items that are no longer usable.
9. Make friends with at least a few neighbors. Stay away from the ones that you think will be knocking on your door everyday, but you need to know a few people in your building. Eventually, you could trade keys in case either of you get locked out, or you can pet-sit if one of you has a dog or cat. Also, you want someone to know when you are away, so they can keep an eye on the place. Trust me on this one!
10. Relax, you are in your own place now! Decorate as you see fit. Make it a home, not just some apartment you happen to rent. Enjoy!