Real Estate & Housing

Apartment Hunting: 10 Tips for First Time Apartment Renters

Did you know that occupants rent almost 35 percent of households in the United States? Due to financial problems, moving around, and a variety of other factors, people want to rent more than ever.

Most renters start out with a basic apartment, whether by themselves or shared with some friends. Apartment living can be a fantastic way to transition out of your parents’ house and into living independently.

Have you ever considered renting an apartment, but you do not know where to begin? Here are some tips for first time apartment renters, so you can navigate the process with as little hassle as possible.

1. Research Online Reviews

Thanks to the internet, it is easier than ever for renters to get honest reviews of local properties. This makes it much less likely that you will get scammed if you can catch a negative review ahead of time.

If you want to move into an apartment complex owned by a major corporation, then you can see how they manage their properties. See if tenants have trouble with amenities, getting repairs done, and other common problems associated with apartment living.

2. Calculate Your Monthly Utilities

When renting for the first time, you may underestimate how much money to set aside every month for basic living expenses. When you look at the apartment listing, check to see if utilities like water, gas, and electricity come with the monthly rent. If not, then you have to factor those into your bills.

If you are new to apartment living, then you should use the internet to get a rough estimate of how much your electric bill will be. Look at average rates for your area at different times during the year. You should also calculate your apartment size and how many people live there.

Many online calculators can give you a great estimate of your utility bills when you fill out information like appliance usage. Always estimate on the high end so you’re not left short at the end of the month when the bills come due.

3. Walk Around the Neighborhood

You may have more success finding a rental property by hitting the pavement in the area you want to live in. Often this is where you can spot great deals that you will not see with an internet search.

Most of these types of listings tend to be budget-friendly and negotiable with the landlord. Since many of these landlords are small investors who get rental loans for their properties, they may be willing to bend on the rent in order to move a tenant into their unit.

You can also see how walkable the area is and which convenience stores are around the neighborhood. For example, if you do not have a car, then it’s important to check out public transport options as well.

If you have children or pets, then you need to know how accessible your home is to local parks and schools. By walking around the neighborhood, you can get a true idea of how long you can walk to get some fresh air, exercise, or take your children to school every day.

4. Check for Bugs and Pests

Before renting an apartment, you should thoroughly inspect the place for any signs of bugs or pests. This includes bedbugs, cockroaches, termites, or rodents such as mice and rats.

Bedbugs can be the peskiest creatures out there, and you should definitely do a thorough check for them. Be extra careful if the apartment is pre-furnished, even more so if the previous tenant left furniture behind.

Common signs of rodents include shavings and nesting material in corners and secluded areas, as well as telltale droppings. If the landlord or manager is aware of the issue, you should get it in writing that it will be resolved before you move in.

If you have some money to set aside, you should consider hiring a pest control service to do a thorough inspection. They may be able to find signs that you overlooked when you did a cursory check on the apartment yourself.

5. Know the Parking Situation

For vehicle owners, you need to evaluate the parking situation before renting an apartment. Often times for large complexes, you can get a designated parking spot for one vehicle. You’ll receive an assigned number and have to book guest spots in advance.

Usually, if you have multiple roommates living in the same space, you can pay an extra fee every month for additional parking. This may be a better option than street parking because your car is safer in a somewhat protected area.

If you rent from a smaller landlord, then you can talk to him or her about the parking situation. They may offer free parking or a space on the street that you can use.

In general, try to avoid apartments with first-come, first-serve parking. Although this may seem like a good idea, it could leave you in a hairy situation if you wind up parking around the block or further away from the building than you are comfortable with.

6. Read Your Contract Carefully

More often than not, you need to sign a lease when renting an apartment. If you are renting for the first time, such a contract may seem intimidating and confusing when you look it over.

Some things to look for in your lease include:

  • the security deposit
  • length of lease
  • utility inclusion
  • rent due date
  • early termination fees

For any parts of the lease that are unclear, make note of them to discuss with the landlord or property manager. They may be able to clarify and explain sections further so that you understand.

If you are still not sure about the terms of a lease, then you should consult an attorney that specializes in real estate law to go over it with you. They can explain things in layman’s terms so you know exactly what you sign up for as renters.

7. Ask About Pets

For pet owners, it is important to find a property where renters can have furry friends. Most places offer reasonable policies for cats and dogs. You may need to pay a deposit for your animal and a small fee as monthly pet rent.

If you have a service animal, you may be able to have them with you without paying extra. You can also ask for accommodations when renting an apartment, such as a unit on the ground floor.

8. Photograph Everything Immediately

Once you decide on renting an apartment, you should take pictures of everything when you do a walk-through. These may come in handy in a variety of situations that could arise with your landlord.

Even if you are on the fence about whether you want to rent a particular unit, document everything. That way, if your landlord tries to give you a bad deal on rent, you can show them visual evidence of why you think you can get a better deal.

Once you move in, you should also take pictures, especially if there are damages. If you move out, you can show them to your landlord with a time stamp. This is helpful for people who want to recoup the full amount of their security deposit.

9. Budget for Extra Expenses

When you form your monthly budget, you should also leave room for extra and unforeseen expenses. For example, if you live somewhere that gets hot during the summer and cold during the winter, your electric bill will likely go up.

Sometimes you can also pay for small repairs yourself, rather than bother your landlord with them. If the repair can be fixed with a simple tool or a cheap part, then it may be quicker to fix it yourself.

10. Check Out the Amenities

One of the perks of apartment living is the amenities that often come with apartment complexes. If you have your heart set on a large complex rather than a small building, you should look for amenities that will make it worth the extra rent.

If you want to work out but cut the cost of your gym membership, you can use the gym in the apartment complex. These often come with luxuries like a sauna and a hot tub that you can relax in afterward.

Some apartment complexes even have business centers and coffee shops on-site. You can go there to work on projects or hold meetings by simply reserving the space ahead of time. This can be a big money-saver in the long run.

Use These Tips for First Time Apartment Renters

When you start your journey with apartment living, you should not have to worry about renting an apartment that you do not like. With these tips for first time apartment renters, you can feel safe, secure, and know that you have the apartment of your dreams.

Want more ideas on how to make your home the best it can be? Check out our site for more tips, tricks, and inspiration for bringing your living space to the next level.