When thinking about finding an apartment, it can be stressful, especially when you don’t know what you are looking for or how much you can afford. If this is your first-time apartment hunting, it may even be a little bit scary. Make your first move is all about organization. Below we have provided ten simple steps to help you find an apartment with confidence.
1) DETERMINE YOUR BUDGET
Determining your budget is critical and will help you save time. Your contentment and security centers on getting this part right. If you decide on a place you can barely afford, you may not have money for entertainment and evenings out with friends. Inappropriate budgeting can hamper the initial excitement of moving into your first apartment and cause undue stress when trying to make ends meet; it isn’t healthy.
Advisors recommend that rent should not exceed 30 percent of your income. When calculating 30% of your income, use your net income, the amount you deposit, not your gross income (gross income is your check before taxes, and other deductions are taken out). Better yet, following the 50-30-20 rule for budgeting allows you to spend 50% of your income on bills (this includes rent) and necessities, 30% on yourself (dinner out, a new outfit, etc.), and 20% on savings. When factoring the 50% include rent, utilities, car payments, insurance, and credit cards.
Once you’ve determined the amount of rent you can comfortably afford, put it on paper, you want to commit it to memory, so you remind yourself not to go over that budget. It’s important because many first-time apartment shoppers find themselves caught up in looking at apartments they can’t afford.
2) KNOW YOUR CREDIT SCORE
Your credit score can make or break your ability to rent. You can avoid surprises by knowing your credit score ahead of time. You can obtain a free credit report from annualcreditreport.com. This website is the official website for free credit reports. If you choose to use another source be wary of sites that ask for credit card information, it is best to avoid them. Knowing your credit score ahead of apartment shopping is important; if your credit is subpar, you can take steps to repair it, fix errors, or find a cosigner (usually a parent or guardian) before apartment hunting.
3) BUDGET FOR RENTERS INSURANCE
Most first time renters fail to budget for this inexpensive way to protect their belongings. Depending on the dollar amount insured, the national average is around $15-$30 a month.
Renter’s insurance covers your possessions if they are destroyed, damaged, or stolen in a covered event. Many policies cover hotel or temporary living costs if your rental is damaged and deemed uninhabitable. Renter’s insurance also provides liability protection and can cover visitor injury while in your apartment. Many apartment communities and rental property-owners require tenants to obtain renter's insurance. You may be able to save money by shopping and comparing rates, so shop now and budget for this valuable protection.
If you already covered by renter’s insurance, you should let the insurance agent know you are planning to move as soon as possible. Your policy should transfer with you and will typically cover your new place up to 30 days after you drive in. Your insurance carrier will adjust premiums up or down to cover your new residence appropriately, you might need to make allowances for higher premiums.
4) DECIDED ON YOUR LOCATION
Where would you like to live? Where you want to live seems like a straightforward question until you start thinking of the pros and cons of cities and neighborhoods. Do you need to be within walking distance to work? Do you envision a quiet neighborhood or prefer an urban neighborhood? Is commute time important to you? Will school districts be important? How far from family and friends do you want to be? Is access to nightlife and restaurants important to you? Not so straightforward when you uncover all your requirements. With internet access, you can get a handle on most of the questions you have. Find out about neighborhoods, view images of apartments, find amenities, school districts, and even plan your commute.
By narrowing down your choices based on comparisons of locations, you will start to develop a sense of what is most important to you. For example, if school districts are not important, but a five-minute walk to work is, neighborhoods will quickly be eliminated. Now you can start nitpicking the remaining neighborhoods for items that fit your lifestyle and your budget.
5) MAKE A MUST-HAVE LIST OF AMENITIES
Amenities are one of the chief reasons to rent, but sometimes they come at a cost. Unless you have a healthy budget or incredible luck, you are probably not going to find an apartment with all the features on your wish list. So, make a list of all the amenities you would like in an apartment: dog park, tennis court, swimming pool, 24-hour gym, granite countertops, wood floors, etc. then go back and put a check-mark next to the amenities you can’t live without. From those you’ve check-marked, choose the deal-breakers. For example, if you have a dog, then “dog-friendly” will be an absolute, while others might be less important. As you start your search, use the keywords you want in an apartment, for example, “1 bedroom apartments in Lafayette, LA that are pet-friendly”. The search engines will list websites that mention the keywords you provided in the results.
6: MAKE A LIST OF YOUR FAVORITES
By this point, you should have a list of apartment communities with the essential amenities, in your price range and the location you want. Now, it’s time to compare the properties. Write down the pros and cons of each community. For the communities that have more negatives than positives, mark them off the list. By this time, you should have narrowed it down to three to five.
7) VERIFY AND SCHEDULE TOURS
Now it is time to contact the property managers and confirm availability. This step is critical, especially in high occupancy areas where listings last less than a week, maybe even days. Apartments that were available when you started your search could be gone by the time you call. After verifying availability, schedule your tour. Do this for those apartments on your shortlist. While 3-D, virtual tours and pictures give you a fair understanding of the layout and features, but a tour will help you better understand the neighborhood, building’s arrangement, and actual size of the apartment.
8) GO ON TOURS!
Schedule your walkthrough on the weekend. Most people work Monday – Friday, and you will really get a feel for what life at the community will be like on the weekend. This part is fun, stay alert, ask questions and take notes. During your walkthrough, take pictures with your phone.
And do yourself a favor, don’t rent the first apartment you see! Even when apartments in the market you are in move quickly, visit at least three communities before making your decision.
A few things to consider during your tours:
9) MAKE A DECISION & SUBMIT YOUR APPLICATION
Equipped with notes and photos from your tours, it’s time to make a decision. You can enlist a family member or a friend or two to help you.
It may help you keep perspective, and they may see something you missed. If you have narrowed it down to two communities, you might want to take your confidant with you for a final tour of the properties. When you have decided on the place you want, you can go by and submit your application, or in most cases, you can submit an online application. Follow up with a call to make sure the online application was received. You’ll likely incur an application fee, so have a credit card or form of payment handy.
10) AFTER THE APPLICATION PROCESS
You should receive a call that your application was approved. Before you run out to sign the lease, ensure you have everything you need. You will generally need a paystub or bank statement for direct deposits, a photo ID, and your deposit. Be sure to read the lease, especially the section on terminating the agreement.
Many apartment communities require a 60-day intent to vacate notice. Find out what leaving the property looks like, are you expected to fill the nail holes, clean the carpets, or paint the apartment? Know what you are liable for before you sign the lease!
Whether it’s your first time leasing an apartment in Lafayette, Louisiana, or your 21st, it can be intimidating. Hopefully, our list of 10-steps can help you find the right door.
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