A Comprehensive Guide for the First-Time Renter

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There are many things you need to consider if you’re about to become a first time renter. This guide will help you prioritize and think through the main aspects of starting your rental experience. Once you make decisions on these, you’ll be off to a great start.

Create a Budget

You need to budget to determine what amount of rent you can afford. A budget is just a plan on paper showing how you want to spend your money. It takes into account what you have coming in (your income) and how much you have going out (your expenses). There are many free budget worksheets available online. You should get one and create a budget. Your budget should also include the costs of your moving supplies and security deposit.

Decide on a Roommate (or Not)

After you complete your budget you might find out that you can’t afford to pay rent by yourself. The next thing to do then is to think about whether to get a roommate to help pay rent. The upside of having a roommate is that they cut your expenses as tenant to half or more if you get more than one. They can watch your pet when you’re away, and many roommates become friends for a lifetime.

The downside is that your roommate may not pay his share of rent after all. They might move out without notice and with some of your valuables. Finally, there could be tension between the two of you if you’re complete opposites when it comes to noise levels or cleanliness in the apartment. Decide carefully if you want to share your living space with someone else. If you do decide to move in with a roommate, be sure to discuss with them in detail your expectations, concerns, and even how you would end the arrangement if needed.

Decide Where to Rent

One of the most important decisions you’ll make as a first-time renter, besides whether to get a roommate, is where to live. Things to consider are:

  • Proximity to work and/or school
  • Nearby grocery stores
  • Closeness to family and friends
  • Availability of public transportation

Research Your Landlord

It can be a nightmare if you get stuck with a bad landlord. When you find apartments that you want to rent, make sure you do some research about your landlord. Ask current tenants about their experiences renting. Check court records for civil and criminal actions involving your landlord through your local court’s website. Search their name using Yahoo!, Bing or Google. It’s important to avoid a landlord who has a reputation of being “problematic.” You’ll have a better chance of getting your deposit back without going to court, and you’ll avoid the headaches of fighting with them while you’re renting.

Now that you’re going to be a first-time renter, you want to plan early. Take at least three months if you can so that you’ll have enough time to make your budget, find a roommate (if needed), find a location, and research your landlord.  This will help your rental experience go better.

One Response to “A Comprehensive Guide for the First-Time Renter”

  1. August 15, 2009 at 1:38 pm, diana said:

    I’m looking at apartments right now and I found apartmentratings.com to be a great screener for whether I want to spend the time looking at the list of apartments I had compiled.


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