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First Time Renter’s Guide for Apartments and Houses

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Congratulations! You’re paving a path of independence on a major milestone of adulthood. It’s a daunting and exciting feeling, and as with the first time for everything being prepared is the best thing you can do. Seeking out how-to guides and information to prepare yourself to rent your first house or apartment is a great first step.

Renting for the first time may seem like the wild wild west…that is of course if you blindly start calling landlords and searching rooms online. From the terminology in the rental world, the questions you must get familiar with, to the amenities and common costs associated with renting this is an essential guide to make your first experience as seamless as possible.

1. The Basics of Renting an Apartment

The best place to start your evaluation is with a budget. It’s crucial to confirm your monthly income and then document what you expect to spend on food, entertainment, and bills to ensure a comfortable lifestyle. Clearly, you do not want to allocate your entire income to paying rent.

Health is vital and it starts with what you eat. Unless you expect to scrape by on ramen and pasta every day, you should budget at least $150-$200 on food. Renting experts advise that no more than $25-30% of your take-home income should be spent on rent. This is a rule that most first time renters bend, however it can quickly backfire because utility costs change throughout the year and internet service providers may change rates on a whim.

Landlords expect security deposits, and they expect the apartment or house to be left in the same condition as it was when you arrived. You must budget for the security deposit which is usually equal to one month of rent. Depending on the state and the landlord, an application fee between $25 and $100 may be required and if your pet is coming along then expect to pay an additional amount for the deposit and an even possibly higher monthly renting rate.

It is becoming more normal for landlords to expect the first and last rent payment for insurance as a security deposit. Yes, this means that before you even make your bed in your new apartment, you’re paying three months worth of rent.

First time renters are usually required to have a cosigner for the application process, to give the landlord a piece of mind in the case you miss payments. Legally, the burden of a missed payment falls upon the cosigner. This person is typically your parent. Another reason for a cosigner to be required is if you have little credit history or no previous rental history – be it a car or a boat, for example.

Major Five Steps of the Renting Process

  1. Search online and classifieds for apartments and homes to rent. There are hundreds of services to help you locate properties in your preferred region.
  2. Narrow your search to your top two favorite places and fill out applications.
  3. Curious landlords are just trying to protect themselves. They may request you to provide references to demonstrate your character. In line with this, always be sure to communicate professionally with landlords on the phone and via email.
  4. If you work with a home or apartment rental agency who helps you secure your first place, they will contact you on behalf of the application status.
  5. Upon being accepted, the first month of rent, security and pet deposits are required to get the keys.

2. The Top 8 Questions You Must Ask

While each state and landlord have their own set of rules, be sure to get solid answers for the following questions no matter where you want to live. These questions are usually answered in the contract that is provided upon signing, but it’s best to get the answers before you mark the dotted line:

 1. What Will I Have To Pay If I Rent The Property?

From rent, deposit, utilities like sewer, gas, trash, water, electricity, parking and pets, request a written transcript that outlines what is covered by your monthly rent and what is not.

 2. What is the duration for the contract?

1-year contracts are most common, but month-to-month and 6-month contracts are offered, too.

  1. What are the quiet hours for the property?
  2. How many roommates are permitted in the property? Ask this if you plan on renting with roommates.
  3. What type of heating does the property have?
  4. Who do you call if something is damaged in the apartment?
  5. Are utilities included in the rent? How much do they approximately cost?
  6. Which amenities are included in the property? Will you have to purchase a new bed, or does the property already have one? Will you have a washing machine at your property that is included in the rent or will it require quarters?

3. Get Familiar With The Renting Lingo

There are keywords and terms that sound like a foreign language for every first time renter. Get to know them, so you can hold your own in conversations with landlords and perhaps negotiate on some of the terms.

Amenities are pretty much everything in the apartment that will add convenience to your everyday life. Unless you plan to budget to purchase your own amenities, look for rentals that are furnished as much as possible. Key amenities include a washer, dryer, microwave, and toaster. Other amenities on site could be pools, fitness centers, and tennis courts.

Subleasing or subletting is the process for when an original renter (who is currently paying rent) signs another renter under their name. For example, renters who sign 1-year contracts are obliged to stay the complete 12-months, but may need to relocate for a month or longer. It’s common for renters to ‘sublet’ their room to new renters for a short period to ensure that rent is covered while away.

Utilities included or ‘all bills paid’ is a term commonly used in the renter’s world which means that the monthly bills for the property will be paid for under the cost of your rent, including garbage, sewer, water, electricity, trash and gas.

Move-in offers or specials are tactics that agents and landlords use to attract renters with discounts such as $100 the first month’s rent, or no security deposit required.

Landlords and owners are the people who manage the property or own it. If you decide to work with a leasing agent, you may never actually meet the landlord, as the agent is the intermediary between you (the renter) and the landlord.

Leasing agents are commonly employed by apartment complexes which hire office staff to look after all of the renter’s questions and concerns.

Studio apartments are the most basic form of an apartment which include one bedroom and one bathroom. It’s common for studio apartments to not include a kitchen, and also to be very tight on space. You will learn after your first tour the truth of apartment photographs. What you see in the pictures is never what it’s like in real life. Photographers usually use wide lenses to portray spaces to appear larger than they are.

Townhouses also go by the name of townhomes and are usually two story rentals that resemble more of a home than an apartment. These are perfect for first time renter couples.

Realize that renting is a major responsibility. Late payments won’t fly, and missing payments can lead to eviction and even negatively affect your credit. So whether you’re moving out of the dorm room or saying farewell to your parents for the first time, print this page, get out a highlighter and take your notes.

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