Renting your first apartment is an exciting first step into asserting independence and forging your own path in life. However, this important decision involves much more than simply searching for the right location and signing a lease. You’ll need to weigh some of the factors below.
Factor the Cost of Fees, Deposits and Rent Into Your Planning
When searching for an apartment, many first-time renters do not consider the following fees, deposits and rent costs:
- Administrative and application fees: Although amounts vary widely, most landlords charge a fee to submit a rental application. Some may also charge an administrative fee to cover the costs of conducting a background check and preparing lease documents.
- Security and pet deposits: The amounts and type of deposits you’ll pay before moving into an apartment also vary widely. However, plan to pay a security deposit equal to one to two months’ rent. This deposit helps cover damages to the apartment upon move out. Pet owners should also pay attention to the cost of additional required deposits to cover wear and tear or damages on the apartment caused by pets. Additionally, some apartment communities may even opt to charge higher rent each month for guests with pets.
- How much rent can you afford? How do you determine how much rent you can realistically afford to pay each month and still cover your remaining bills? A good rule of thumb is to multiply your monthly rent by three. This number will give you an idea of the monthly income you would need to cover rent, car payments, car insurance, utility costs, school loans, credit cards and more.
Renter’s insurance is an affordable tool that you should seriously consider as a first-time apartment renter. In simple terms, a renter’s insurance policy helps cover the replacement cost for belongings which are damaged or lost due to theft, fire or vandalism. Many renter’s insurance policies also help cover your liability if a visitor sustains an injury in your apartment. In fact, many apartment communities now require renters to carry this type of insurance.
Utility Costs and Timelines
Another commonly overlooked expense is the cost of utilities. Some apartments may cover water and sewer charges, but most require you to pay cable, gas and electricity costs. In addition to utility costs, you need to factor in:
- Utility deposits: Most utility companies base deposit requirements on your credit score. If you have bad or no credit, expect to pay initial deposit costs for water, electricity and cable to establish accounts. Often though, even renters with good credit may be required to pay a deposit if establishing a utility account for the first time.
- Set up accounts before your move: Be sure to set up your electricity, water and cable prior to moving into your apartment. Many utility companies require one to two weeks’ advance notice before setting up your account. Additionally, many communities require that you provide them with these account numbers before moving into your apartment.
Plan Your Move
Don’t wait until the day before the move to craft a plan to move your belongings. For smaller moves, consider enlisting the help of family and friends. If you cannot locate assistance, hiring a moving company is another option. Most provide a free initial estimate either over the phone or through a quick in-person assessment.
What Features Do You Want in Your First Apartment?
Now that you have a general idea of the costs associated with moving into your first apartment, and what you can afford, it is time to start the hunt. Read more about the key factors to consider for your first apartment. At a minimum, you should think about items including:
- Amenities like an on-site gym, pool or laundry facilities
- Layout preferences like an open floor plan
- Size and number of bedrooms/bathrooms
- Special features such as handicapped-accessibility, walk-in closets and more