Renting an apartment for the first time is one of the most exciting times in a person’s life. You’re getting out into the world and striking off on your own. Whether you’ve snagged a beautiful loft downtown, a cozy second-floor walk-up or a stylish and efficient studio unit, you’ve taken your first steps on the road of independent living and, eventually, property ownership.
We’ve been in the moving business for more than a century, so we’ve seen plenty of people get the jitters when it comes to renting their first place. It’s perfectly normal and that slight bit of nervousness comes right before the flood of joy that most people get upon moving into their new place. We always do everything we can to help out in these and any other moving situations. That’s why we thought it would be a good idea to put together a list of tips for first-time renters.
Dress the Part
When you meet your landlord for the first time, dress in a way that makes a good first impression. There’s no need for formal wear, but avoid things like jerseys, ripped jeans, short skirts, graphic tees and any piece of clothing that is worn or tattered. Have a clean, casual look with properly-fitted clothing. Also, avoid things like smoking cigarettes or chewing bubble gum or snacking, give your undivided attention to the landlord/leasing company. Remember, you’re likely not the only person looking at renting the space.
Bring a Check
Nowadays, many people don’t even own a check book because it is so easy to pay for most things without checks. The opposite is true for renting an apartment or house. Often, you’ll be asked for first and last month’s rent and a security deposit. Since the total amount of these expenses will often be in the thousands of dollars, writing a check demonstrates that you have the ability to manage a bank account, which is a must for most renters. If you don’t have a check book, you can pick up cashier’s checks at your local bank branch.
Talk to the Neighbors
You might be surprised at how many things you can learn about your new neighborhood simply by introducing yourself to the neighbors. For example, you may be considering a certain unit within a complex, but discover that you might be better suited living near the people in a different building. Best of all, you give the new neighbors a chance to learn about you, and introducing yourself right off the bat often makes a very good first impression.
Ask About Parking
Parking regulations can vary greatly, even within a specific city, depending on the place you’re moving to and who owns or manages the building. It is important to ask questions about parking costs, spaces available to residents and visitors, and the local parking rules and regulations for the town or city you’re moving to. You can avoid ever having your car or a friend’s car towed simply by asking a few questions before you move in.
Never Go Over Budget
Living expenses are often the first thing that you’ll need to manage at the beginning of each month. Therefore, it’s important not to sign a lease for a unit that is over your budget. A great rule to remember when looking for a place is to try and stay at or below 1/3 of your gross monthly income. This means that if you make $3000 a month, your rent should only be around $1,000 per month. This may not always be easy to do, depending on where your moving to, but using it as a general guideline will go a long way toward stress-free living. Remember to also be prepared for the inevitable credit check when you apply.
Read the Lease
A lease agreement is legally binding, so it’s a good idea to read your lease from cover to cover. You’ll want to be sure that you are allowed to do the things you’re accustomed to already in your new home. This includes information about pet policy, loud noises, visitors and many other aspects of everyday life. You’ll more than likely be able to find a place that perfectly accommodates your lifestyle if you search hard enough, so don’t rush and be sure you know what you’re agreeing to.
This is something that slips the minds of many renters. Getting insurance is actually very easy and can help protect your belongings. In fact, many insurance companies will offer great discounts for bundling auto and renter's insurance, often making it cheaper to carry both, rather than just auto.
You may be tempted to rely on friends and family to help with the move so that you can save some money. However, since this is probably your first time encountering the property renting process, we highly recommend focusing all your attention on that. Many moving company services are actually very affordable and they may be able to give you valuable information and insight on your new area. If you need help finding a local mover, you can use our Find An Agent Tool.
After you’ve followed these steps and have gotten settled, you’re ready to start decorating! Remember, above all else, to relax and enjoy your new home, you’ve earned it. For more helpful moving tips, check out our regularly updated blog.