Tips for First Time Apartment Hunters

Finding Your First Apartment

You may have made the decision to rent versus buy based on many reasons such as; your financial situation, you want a hassle free living arrangement where you are not responsible for maintenance or structural issues, or you may want to live lavishly in an apartment community where you can take advantage of amenities like pools, tennis courts, tanning beds, cable discounts, and pest control.

Factors to Consider

However, there are some other necessary factors to consider when it comes to first time apartment hunting.   With all of the many options to choose from, apartment hunting can be a daunting task if you don’t take some time to prepare in advance.

  1. Create a budget before you start your search
  2. Research the apartment communities in your price range
  3. Seek advice from current residents at the prospective community
  4. Inspect the unit before you sign the lease and then start moving in.

From the college student looking to split the cost of an apartment with roommates, the newlyweds who just relocated to the area, the family of four looking to downsize in order to save money, to the working professional who has never rented an apartment before; here are some tips on apartment hunting (and living) that will help make your apartment search less stressful and a more enjoyable experience.

Know Your Budget

Before you jump in your car to start visiting every apartment listing that you see in the latest issue of a popular apartment hunting guide, it is important to know your budget.  Many apartment management companies have selection criteria that include income requirements that must be met prior to your approval for residency.  It is standard practice but could vary from one community to another. It could be 3 times the asking rental rate for the unit or higher, so be sure to do your math before start filling out applications.

For Example:

  • If the monthly rent is $1,000, the minimum monthly income requirement may be $3,000 (before taxes in most cases) depending on the criteria.  Landlords want the reassurance that you can afford the rent as well as basic living necessities (i.e., electricity, food, etc.).
  • Your phone will be your best friend during your apartment search.  Call ahead and ask about the management companies income requirements.
  • Credit checks may also be a part of the qualifying criteria so be sure to ask how stringent or flexible they are if you have less than perfect credit.  In some cases, no credit is bad credit, but explaining your situation prior to paying application fees, holding deposits, etc., will save you time and money.

Different Types of Living Spaces

Based on personal needs and preferences, an apartment search for a college student may be very different from the search of a growing family.

  • There are apartment communities that offer all-inclusive and individual leasing options specifically for college students who agree to be financially responsible for their own individual bedroom (in most cases including a bathroom) and share the main living space (living room, dining room and kitchen) with other students.
  • Living off campus, while studying at college, can be a satisfying and rewarding experience.
  • However, a growing family would probably not be sharing their private living space with strangers so a more likely search would be conventional apartment living that provide a sense of ownership and privacy ( a home like atmosphere) without the actual home ownership responsibilities.

Get Opinions

Once you find the type of housing that fits your needs, one easy tip that most apartment hunters overlook is simply seeking advice from family and friends but more specifically, talking to current residents who live in the apartment community.  Apartment managers and office staff will take you on a tour, show you their best dressed model unit, and describe the community in the best light because they have been trained to persuade you to sign a lease with them instead of the competition.  However, don’t be afraid to ask current residents for their opinion as well.  Keep in mind that no apartment community is without a flaw or two and apartment living comes with many pros and cons, but a current resident could provide you with an unbiased perspective from the other side of the apartment managers’ desk.

Inspect Before You Sign the Lease

Once you have decided on your new apartment to call home, you’ve passed the rental criteria, the move in date has been set and all fees and deposits have been paid, the only thing left to do is move in, right? If you were only shown a model apartment and not the exact one that will become your new address for at least the next year, it is advisable that you make an appointment to view and inspect your new place with management once it is ready for move in. By inspecting the apartment before you sign the lease, it will allow you an opportunity see your new apartment and confirm that it is the one you want to move into.  Also, feel free to take measurements of the space to get an idea of how your furniture will fit, take pictures of the wall space so you can shop for wall décor and determine the best arrangement for hanging pictures.  It is also important to inspect for any damages above normal wear and tear from the previous residents, including but not limited to; burn marks on the counter top, stains in carpet, etc., none of which you want to be charged for when you move out.   Be sure to document any discrepancies that you find, on a move in inspection checklist that is signed by both the resident and management agent.  Once the inspection is completed and you are satisfied with the lease terms, then go ahead and sign on the dotted line.  Get copies of everything you sign and put them in a safe place.  Pat yourself on the back, you survived apartment hunting!




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