The Ultimate Guide to Your First Apartment

Authored By: Community Financial Credit Union on 1/22/2019
If you’re in the market for your first apartment, you may be feeling a little lost—and more than a little overwhelmed. How do you get started? What should you be looking for in an apartment? How do you check out a building? So many questions, and we’ve got answers!

Let us walk you through the apartment-hunting process from start to finish, so you can get the keys to your new apartment as soon as possible!
Getting started
First, make a short checklist of what you’re seeking. Create a list of features in order from most to least important.

Next, determine the maximum amount you can afford to spend on monthly rent. This should include all associated fees and utilities. With your wish list and budget in hand, you’re ready to start looking. Check out rental listings on sites like Zillow, look up units in the local paper or ask friends if they know of vacancies in the neighborhood. Once you’ve compiled a list of prospects, contact each landlord and start hunting!

What to look for
Take this handy guide along on your apartment hunts so you can make an informed decision.

1.) Price 
Find out exactly what’s included in the quoted rental price. Will you be billed separately for utilities? Do you need to pay for a parking spot? Check for any additional fees attached to this rental. Ask about the following:

  • Application or background check fees
  • Association or amenity fees
  • Pet fee
  • Security deposit fee
  • Early termination fee

2.) Maintenance 
Who is responsible for general repairs and maintenance? What’s the procedure for submitting a request? What’s the estimated response time?

3.) Decoration policy 
Will you need permission before hanging a picture or painting the walls? 

4.) Apartment location 
Is the apartment near a popular café or bar? Is it close to a busy intersection or highway? Is there public transportation available nearby?

5.) Common areas 
Are the common areas in the building kept clean and in good condition?

6.) Noise level 
When checking out an apartment, listen for the noise level that filters in from surrounding units.

7.) General condition 
Flush the toilets, run the sinks and showers, check out the electric sockets and try out the windows. Make sure everything is in perfect working order before you sign the lease.

8.) Cellphone reception 
Make a phone call while you’re checking out the apartment to see if you’ve got good reception.

Sealing the deal
Before you sign a lease, follow these final steps.
  • First, get the contact info of another renter in the building. Ask your reference to clear up anything you’re unsure about regarding the building or the neighborhood. 
  • Next, read through the lease very carefully. Check for hidden fees, lease renewal and termination policies as well as rent collection procedures.
  • Finally, if everything checks out, you’re ready to sign. Best of luck in your new home! 
Your Turn: Have you recently signed a lease on a new rental unit? Share your tips on the process with us in the comments.

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