Whether you are setting out to rent your first apartment, or you are relocating to a new city, renting an apartment is a challenge. It is easy to get pressured into an apartment that is not exactly what you were looking for. Rental agents and apartment managers get paid when people rent from them. They often offer you special deals or discounts in order to get you to sign on the dotted line. This is why you must be prepared before you embark on this journey.

What you need to know

Most apartment managers charge a fee to check your credit. Some also charge a fee for a background check. This is a way to get quality renters, which you can appreciate. Finally, some may tack on an application fee. Before you agree to pay, find out what you are paying for. If someone is charging an application fee, as well as a credit check, you may want to argue that point. Keep in mind, these fees are charged every time you apply for an apartment. This is why you need to be very sure that you want a particular complex before you fill out the papers.

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Make A Plan

This is an important step and one that is often ignored. If you go in not knowing what to expect and not knowing where you stand, you are asking to be taken advantage of. It is the smart person who put in the work that secures the apartment they need at the price they can afford.

Below we will highlight the information you need to gather and the work you need to do before you even begin to look.

  • Make a budget

You need to make a budget in order to know what you can afford to pay for rent. The apartment manager will consider your income before allowing you to rent from them. Different complexes have different rules, but most will not rent to you if your rent would be 40% or more than your income. If you do not pay rent yet, and you have a large enough income to afford it, ask yourself what you are spending your money on. Once you determine where your money is going, ask yourself if you are willing to give that activity up in order to rent the apartment you are seeking.

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  • Select the area where you want to live

Of course, we all want a nice apartment in the most sought out areas. You may need to live close to your job or university. Maybe you have no transportation and need to live where there is good public transportation. These are reasonable issues. Your choices are, living alone and paying all of the expenses, share your apartment with a roommate, or look for a cheaper apartment that has transportation a bit further away than you would like.

  • Run your own credit check

Every time a potential landlord runs your credit, it costs you money. To ensure you do not have issues that will cost you repeatedly, request your own (free) credit report. If there is a glaring problem, address it. If there are errors on your report, which happens more than most people think, contact the company and ask them to correct the error.

  • Collect your documents

There are certain documents that are usually required at the time of processing the application. You should gather the following:

  • Pay stubs
    • Some apartment companies also require a letter of employment that verifies your salary and your start date
  • A recent copy of your bank statement
  • Your last years tax return documents
  • References
  • Letter of recommendations

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Start The Search

Head to your computer and your social media platforms. There is no better way to find what you are looking for than to hear about via a trusted friend. Ask your friends and family to ask their friends. Networking is a powerful tool.

(Note: you need to begin your search a few weeks before you want to move. Otherwise, the ads you will see are probably be invalid and a waste of time.)

Next, go to sites like Craigslist. This is not going to cost you anything. But you must beware. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Before you take your checkbook and head for the address, send an email or text. Verify everything the ad said about the apartment. Ask any questions you have. Keep all of your emails and texts. Verify the price, fees to move in, and any extra expenses like pets deposits, number of people who are allowed to live there when you sign the lease.

Read The Fine Print

Don’t make the mistake of signing the lease based on what the agent told you verbally. There is no penalty for not being truthful and people have been known to leave things out that you should know. Put on the breaks. Do not sign until you have read all the details.

For example, you may find an apartment that has the amenities that you need, but you do not care for the colors. You ask if it is okay to paint or change the blinds. They tell you that it is okay. When you are ready to move out, you go to collect your refundable deposit and they refuse to return it. They keep your money to return the apartment to the condition it was in before you decorated. In some cases, they even bill you to have it repainted. This is one of the things that you needed to ask before your excitement carried you away.

Now that you know how to look for an apartment and how much money you are expected to pay, let’s look at some things to ensure you are comfortable and not held responsible for damages that were already there.

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Things to check

Before you rent an apartment, do a walkthrough. Take pictures of the rooms, the carpet, and the appliances. If there is anything wrong have them note it on the lease.  You need to check the following items as well:

  • Do all the doors and windows shut properly and lock properly. Check the doors to the bedrooms and bathrooms as well.
  • Check the cabinets and baseboards (and behind appliances if possible) for signs of mice and roaches.
  • Look for any signs of mold.
  • Make sure the toilets flush.
  • Check the appliances
    • Are they clean?
    • Do the oven and eyes warm up?
    • Does the refrigerator and freezer section operate?
    • Bring your phone and charger with you and use it to check the electric outlets.

“I can get used to it.”

These are words that eventually will make you laugh or cry. This means you see something that is less than ideal, but you will overlook it to get the apartment. Maybe the only empty apartment is on the third floor. You do not want to climb three flights of stairs, but you reason that it is good for you and you will overlook it. When you have lived there a couple of months and you are dragging groceries or a case of bottled water up all those stairs, you may wish you had not overlooked that detail.

Perhaps your apartment is directly in front of the swimming pool. You may think that is not a problem. That is until school lets out for summer and dozens of children are screaming and splashing outside your window every day. This is less than ideal when you have pulled a double shift or you are trying to study for exams.

Be honest with yourself. Think of every scenario before you agree to overlook anything.

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Safety

Just because an apartment looks like it is secure, does not necessarily mean it is. First, ask of the complex has security and if so, is it around the clock? This is one thing that may not make you feel better. Where a lot of complexes have electronic gates and some have security that make rounds periodically, the need to have security 24/7 sends up red flags.

Ask the people who live there. Knock on the door next door to the apartment you will be renting. Ask them if they have had any problems with criminal activity.

Go online and pull up the number of crimes that have happened in that area. They may not be in your complex, but are they too close for comfort? You want to feel safe while you are home and while you are coming home and leaving.

Conclusion

Renting an apartment is something that people do every day and the great majority of lessors are fair and honest people. But, as with any business transaction, you have to proceed with caution. The process can get costly quick. Do not just take the landlord’s word for things. Do the work. Verify everything and make sure it is noted. Knowledge is power in this situation. When you feel comfortable about the situation and you can make an informed decision, then go for it. Your experience with this rental should be a positive one.

About the Author:

Ashley Lipman

Ashley Lipman - How To Affordably Search For An Apartment

Content marketing specialist

Ashley is an award-winning writer who discovered her passion in providing creative solutions for building brands online like TheUrbanAvenue. Since her first high school award in Creative Writing, she continues to deliver awesome content through various niches.

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