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What You Should Know About Renting Your First Apartment

Hunting for your first apartment can be daunting, to say the least. You may know how to write a research paper in your sleep and run a marathon without breaking a sweat, but there is so much to learn after college. That’s where we come in.

Check out this list of tips to find that perfect first home away from home. Here’s what you should know about renting your first apartment.

Inspect the Neighborhood

Location, location, location. The first thing you want to look at when considering an apartment is the location. It may not seem like a big deal at first, especially if you are blinded by how wonderful the place looks inside. But a neighborhood can make or break any experience. What goes on outside will directly affect the inside, as gorgeous as it may look on paper.

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For example, if it’s not safe to leave your bike out at night, you’ll have to bring it in. And if you don’t have the space for a bike in the hallway, you may want to look elsewhere.

Find the nearest parks, grocery stores, subway stops, bus routes, and bike racks. If your city is more conducive to driving, think about where you would park your car. Look out for noise makers, like bars, schools, or even airports. If you like noise, then you’re in luck! It’s usually more difficult to find a quiet spot in this world. Whatever you prefer, reserve a hotel room for a night to get a feel for the area. You’ll thank yourself in the future.

Screen Roommates

While you may be convinced you want to live with your best friend from college, make a pros and cons list before committing to a lease. Just because you are great friends doesn’t mean you will be good roommates. In fact, you may want to skip becoming roommates to preserve your friendship! Remember that you will be living together for at least a few months. Compare lifestyle choices, TV usage, schedules, living habits. It’s OK to change your mind, but do it before you sign a lease.

Be prepared

When you meet the landlord or property manager, you’ll want to come prepared with copies of any document you may need. They will likely run a background check that includes your credit score and eviction history. If you are adding a cosigner to the lease, make sure you have copies of their driver’s license or some form of identification.

The person in charge should inform you of what is needed on their end. If they do not, do not hesitate to ask. Depending on where you are looking to move, finding an apartment can get competitive. You don’t want to lose out on a place just because you forgot to include a document that would have been easy to throw into the mix.  

Get References

Because this is your first experience as a renter, you won’t have a previous landlord to write a reference for you. Reach out to respectable characters in your life, like an old boss or the head coordinator at an organization you volunteered at. References are a great way for you to put your best foot forward, so choose who you ask to represent you carefully. In addition to providing references, you will probably need to schedule an interview with the landlord or property manager. There is no reason to be nervous, just make sure you follow their instructions and come prepared like you would for a job interview.

Study the Lease

No matter what your landlord has agreed to, whether it’s pets or a piano, it only counts if it’s on the lease. Read every line of it, even the fine print. Have someone you trust comb through it too. Pay attention. Some provisions will affect you more than others. Method of payment, for instance, is something you will be dealing with every month. If your landlord agrees to online rent collection, go for it. Automated reminders and payment tracking features guarantee you get your rent in on time.

Being super busy is another factor of adult life you’ll likely discover after college. Don’t mess around with late rent fees. Remember that your first landlord’s reference in the future could make or break a deal on your future favorite apartment.


Do not despair if your first efforts don’t pan out as you would hope. Think positively and you’ll get to where you want to be in no time. Trust that you will find the right place for you, in time. If you don’t want to commit to a long-term arrangement, seek out shorter leases. Some landlords agree to shaving some months off their leases. All you have to do is ask. The worst they can do is say “no.”

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