Finding and renting your first apartment is as exciting as it is daunting. Especially now. Many young adults are now living with their parents due to the pandemic. But maybe you’re striking out on your own for the first time or dreaming of the day you can live on your own.

No matter where you are in the process of renting an apartment, we can help demystify. With these essential tips, you’ll be a first-time apartment renter who’s in-the-know before a lease is signed.

Determine Your Budget

As a first-time apartment renter, this might be the first time you’re on the hook for a major monthly expense. The last thing you want to do is misjudge what you can afford. Missing rent payments or, worse, getting evicted, both have long-lasting effects on your credit history. It’s best to be on-time and conservative about what you can afford.

We love the “rent affordability calculator” found at Zillow. It’s a useful tool for determining your rent budget. It calculates your income-to-debt ratio (a great thing to learn about now before it’s time for a mortgage) and customizes your rent affordability based on your location.

Dont’ forget moving expenses. Even if you’re planning a DIY move, be prepared to spend some money packing supplies and sturdy, clean moving boxes.

Use Apartment Finders & Your Network to Your Advantage

Whether you’re new to the area or grew up there, it’s important that you explore your options when apartment hunting. While your grandparents or parents might remember a simpler time when you drove down the streets looking for “For Rent” signs in windows, these days, you have many more tools at your disposal.

Several online apartment sites are offering virtual tours with some offering a contact-free apartment rental process from start through lease signing. Be sure to check out renthop.comstreeteasy.com, and zumper.com. Also, don’t forget to use the power of your social media accounts. Put your apartment hunt on blast, and you never know—a friend of a friend might just have that unlisted dream loft in SoHo that you’ve always wanted!

Find the Right Location

As they say in the real estate profession, finding a home is all about “location, location, location.” Even the dreamiest apartment is not the right match for you if it means a multi-hour commute to and from work.

Make sure you’re not just looking at how beautiful space is, but also, is it located in proximity to the things most important to you?

If you’re working remotely during COVID, your commute is probably just a few feet to your laptop on the kitchen table, so you have more wiggle room than ever to live in more affordable neighborhoods!

You might also want to check with your boss to see if there’s any chance of continued remote work. Many companies are switching fully or partially to work-from-home. Even so, you’ll want to make certain grocery stores, entertainment, and other essential amenities aren’t too far away.  

Pick the Right Amenities

When apartment hunting, ask yourself what you want out of your space. Answer truthfully. You might not require much beyond a place to crash. However, if your budget can afford it, apartments marketed as “luxury” have a lot more to offer.

Amenities aren’t just things like air conditioning and a community pool either. Today’s modern apartment communities include a wide range of desirable options such as work-remote spaces. A WiFi-enabled business center helps provide some much-needed separation for your work/life balance. 

Traditional luxury apartment amenities include outdoor barbecue and picnic areas, swimming pools, game rooms, mini dog parks, dog washing stations, and expansive community rooms designed for remote workers.

The 74-story luxury 1000M in Chicago’s South Loop makes working from home even more enjoyable with its 11th-floor co-working space, conference room, library lounge. Residents can bring their laptop to one of the many indoor and outdoor spaces located throughout the building. 

Don’t forget about logistics. Is your neighborhood walkable? Are there cafes, parks, and restaurants nearby? These are the kinds of “community amenities” that will add a lot to your apartment experience.

Have Room for Your Pet(s)

If you own a pet, make sure you fully understand your community’s pet policy before you sign your name on a lease. Many apartments do not allow pets at all. The apartment communities that do often have an extra pet fee, sometimes monthly, that can add up.

If you’re a dog owner, then you also want to make sure there’s easy access for you and your pup to take a stroll outside. As a cat parent, you’ll want to be equally sure there’s an appropriate place inside your apartment without tripping over the litterbox!

Make Sure You’re Safe & Secure

As a first-time apartment renter, you might feel inclined to quickly sign a lease without first thinking about your neighborhood’s safety and the security of your apartment. Do all of the exterior doors lock securely? Are the ground-floor windows secured?

Take a stroll around your neighborhood during different parts of the day to get to know how your locations feels and fits in with the rest of the city. 

Keep in mind peace-of-mind is just as important as a great apartment. Check out niche.com to quickly get a feel for a neighborhood. The website assigns simple grade letters for things like nightlife, diversity, and good for families.

Be Prepared for a Co-Signer

First-time apartment renters are oftentimes young and with little to no credit and little or no work history. That’s okay; good credit takes time to accumulate. While it can sting when you’re asked by a leasing agent to get a co-signer, it’s not as big a deal as it may seem.

All it takes is a parent, guardian, peer, or mentor with good credit to give you a leg up by supplying their signature. What are they signing up for? To be where the buck stops if you should fail to pay rent. Think of a co-signer as someone you want to impress with your financial acuity.

First-Time Apartment Renting is a Sign of Maturity

It’s daunting, it’s exciting, it’s expensive, but apartment renting is a sign of maturity. You’re saying to those that know you that you’re ready to strike out on your own. And, once the lease is finalized the sooner you can get started on enlisting friends to help you pack your moving truck.

Whether you’re renting an apartment on your own or sharing the cost with roommates, you’re still telling the world that you’re entering a new stage of adulthood; embrace it, but do your research!

Top 10 Questions to Ask Potential Landlords

1. How Long Is the Lease Term?

2. What’s Included in the Rent?

3. When Is Rent Due and How Do I Pay It?

4. Is the Security Deposit Refundable?

5. Is Renters Insurance Required?

6. How Much Notice Do I Give Before Vacating?

7. What’s the Penalty For Breaking My Lease?

8. Are Pets Allowed?

9. How Much Notice Will You Give Before Entering My Rental Space?

10. Is There Emergency Maintenance?