Whether you're moving out of your parent's house or want to make the shift from your hostel, renting an apartment for the first time can be an exhilarating experience. However, this rite of passage comes with new tasks and responsibilities, not to forget the freedom to choose the perfect apartment for your needs.
Even the most organized and ambitious first-time renter can easily get overwhelmed by this process. Apartment searching, budgeting, packing, fees, and all the logistics of relocating come with their fair share of headaches, but ultimately, it's well worth it. If you are looking to have a smooth experience, then this read is for you. In this article, we're going to provide six tips that you should keep in mind when you rent apartments.
Determine Your Budget
Most first-time renters tend to overestimate how much they should spend on rent and other expenses. It's advisable to not spend more than 30% of your monthly income on rent. Of course, this is not always possible in places like Florida or New York, but it's important to do your best in order to minimize the expenses. One of the best ways to avoid spending too much on rent is to consider a roommate.
There are numerous calculators online that should help you determine your household budget. These applications provide a structured way to determine your total monthly expenses, including utilities. However, keep in mind that these calculators just provide an estimate and the actual cost of utilities will vary depending on household preferences in regards to what constitutes a comfortable temperature for you, and how much energy you can afford to use. Also, ensure you know what is and what isn't included in the rent you pay. Most complexes charge for water, sewer and trash removal.
As with any budget, some expenses will be fixed, meaning you will not be able to reduce the costs. Examples include recurring payments that need to be paid and are almost always independent of the location or property. Some of these expenses are student and car loans, auto insurance, healthcare and food. When determining your budget, it's important to factor in these expenses as they will have a direct impact on the money you'll have available for monthly rent.
Determine the Features & Amenities
Before you embark on your apartment hunt, it's advisable to factor in your needs and wants. Simply put, what are the features and amenities you'd like in your new apartment? It's important to consider the location before searching for specific apartment features and amenities. Is the apartment close to work or school? How long will it take to get there? Is it located near a shopping center? Is public transportation available? Once you've narrowed down the location, you should consider the building amenities and features. Ensure you take into account whether you need a studio, one-bedroom, or two-bedroom apartment. If you need a two-bedroom unit, do you need more than one bathroom? Most buildings are walkups and so, you need to consider the importance of floor location to you and your loved ones.
Ideally, you should consider the importance of having a washing machine, dryer, balcony, and modern kitchen in your apartment, building safety, type of construction, etc. How important are amenities like a pool and a gym to your loved ones? If you determine what is important and what's not, you'll be more productive in your apartment hunt.
Determine the Cost of Additional Fees
Renting an apartment will always come with additional fees. These include security deposit, application fees, utility deposits, and pet deposits. The security deposit for most apartments is a month's rent and gets refunded at the end of your lease period, given you leave the apartment in the same condition you found it in. Application fees tend to vary, but they don't go beyond $150. It is imperative to understand these fees before you place your security deposit.
Check the Apartment Before You Put a Security Deposit
If possible, it's best to see the apartment you're looking to rent in person. Even if it's just like the model, it might be in a location undesirable to your needs and wants. Visiting the proposed unit will also give you an opportunity to see its condition. If you come across dirty hallways and trash all over, it is a sign that the management doesn't have its priorities right. More specifically, visiting the unit before settling allows you to know your future neighbors and also the security of the neighborhood. The last thing you want is surprises after settling down.
Review the Lease
You'll also want to read the fine print of your lease. Most apartment leases are standard, but some owners have their own specific rules and regulations when it comes to moving in, laundry, and what is and is not accepted in the complex ( water beds, pets, barbeques, grills, etc.) It's important to confirm that all the fees and costs mentioned verbally are put into writing. Also, confirm the lease term as well as notice provisions requirements. The latter specifies how many days in advance are required in advance before you terminate your lease, and the party the notice should be sent to. The lease is a written contract that obligates you to its provisions and so, you need to comprehend and review everything.
Before you sign the dotted line, ensure you ask as many questions as possible. Things like noise levels, temperature levels during extreme seasons are good examples. Make sure you are specific and thorough with all your queries, and if something needs to be repaired, ask for it before you move in.
Learn How to Spot Rental Scams
As earlier mentioned, knowing how to lease an apartment unit while on a budget is it walk in the park, but it becomes complex when there are too good to be true listings. Learning how to spot rental scams calls for experience. Renting for the first time puts you in a more susceptible position. In fact, almost 5.6 million U.S residents have fallen victim to these scams. As such, ensure you do your homework using the above-mentioned tips. This way, you'll ensure you get the unit you really need and want.