The glamour and excitement of finding a new apartment can sometimes lead prospective renters down the wrong path. In all of the hustle and bustle, whether it be a pushy landlord or landlady, an impending move-in deadline, or the lure of finally having your own place, many significant details can fall by the wayside or go unnoticed. As a first time renter, do your best to take your search seriously, and use it more as a learning experience to ensure your future in your new home, and the ones to come, is a stable and safe.
Crunch Your Numbers and Plan Ahead
As many people will tell you, budgeting is of the utmost importance. Crunching the numbers before you start the apartment hunt will save you from a financial crises when you realize 3-6 months later that you can’t afford your new place, or even that the first month with security deposits and upfront fees are too expensive. Be thorough—check with your landlord or realtor about unexpected maintenance or move-in costs and other deposits. So before you start looking, calculate your income and expenses (after taxes) and then make sure that your rent is no more than 25-30 percent of your annual income. This will help you to establish a good line of credit to help you later on in life when you are making bigger and more important purchasing decisions—not to mention that cultivating good spending and saving habits at a young age will stick with you for life. This way you can move in with peace of mind that you can enjoy all the spoils of living on your own without worrying about your next bill.
Gather Your Information and Come Prepared
Before you can sign a lease, you will need to apply for one first. This application also consists of a background and credit check. It will also require some major documentation like your photo ID, Social Security number, and proof of work history that might even include a few recent pay stubs. This is all to ensure your realtor or landlord that you can be trusted with the space and pay your rent on time. If you don’t have a long enough work history, you will need to have someone co-sign the lease, like your parents or another adult who can guarantee that even if it’s not by you, each month the rent will be paid.
Do yourself a favor and ask plenty of questions! Those things you were wondering about when you first walked-in but didn’t ask about—what was that smell? Are the neighbors always that noisy? Exactly how far away is public transportation?—may very well come back to haunt you either in the long or short term if you don’t get answers. Also make sure you diligently walk through the apartment before signing the lease and inspect as much of it as you can. It’s much better to find out during your walk-through that the hot water runs out by a certain time every morning, rather than discovering it while showering the day after you move in.
Always make sure to have someone who has been through the renting process before read the lease over with you so that you understand everything you are signing off on. Know the ins and outs and what’s expected of you and your roommate if you have them—and if there’s something you don’t understand, have them explain it to you. At Modernize, we believe you should feel good in your space, so forget your rookie-status and act like you own the place…even if it is only for the next twelve months.