Moving into your first place is exciting. Lots of new things to experience, being away from home or the dorms for the first time is important to organize, plan, budget and savor the experience. Here are a few things to consider.
How Much Can You Spend Each Month on Rent?
This first step is the most important. The brutal reality question is–can you afford to move to your first apartment? A lot of new renters may not know exactly what paying bills involves. It includes more than rent–you need to consider your electricity, parking, transportation, cable, water, trash, telephone, HOA (homeowners association). Also, you need to look at your personal costs. Entertainment, food, gas, etc. If you need to know how much that might be, then write down everything that you currently spend on each of these. For the things you haven’t spent yet, like utilities, check out the average cost of them in your state or call your local utilities companies to get an average estimate for the size of apartment you are looking to rent.
Most apartments/houses for rent require both first months’ rent and last months’ rent when you sign the lease. So even before you move-in, you’ll already need double the amount you’ll be paying each month. Also, to be safe, you should always have at least three months worth of rent and living expenses in your savings account. This protects you should any emergency arise, such as unemployment, illness, etc…
This varies from building to building. Some places will require anything from $500 to an additional months’ rent. Ask before you sign the lease. Also, make sure you’re clear on what is considered damage versus day-to-day wear and tear.
If you have any pets, a pet deposit is becoming more common. These monies are in place to pay for any damage or loss of revenue to the building owner due to animals on the property. Again, ask your landlord what they consider “damage or loss of revenue” to ensure you receive the full amount when you move out.
There are so many things you’ll need in your first home. These things may seem small and trivial, but their costs can add up quickly. Go through each room and think about the things you need on a daily basis. For the kitchen make sure you include small appliances, pantry supplies, spices (these really add up), dishes, flatware, towels, soap, dish rack, food staples, pots and pans, containers, garbage can, etc…
Searching for a new residence can be stressful and time consuming. Creating a “must have” list not only eliminates houses efficiently, but will set you up for success for the duration of your stay.
- Know Your Lease: As a renter, in most cases you are not protected by the leasing laws of the local government, but rather by your signed lease. Because of this reality, it is incredibly important that you take time to read over your lease, ask for clarity where needed, and ask for changes (using your tenancy as leverage) where you believe things may be unfair or not make sense within the lease itself. Do not settle a change in the lease in the form of a verbal agreement. If you do this there is no way of proving this agreement in the event that you need it. Don’t be afraid to protect yourself and get any changes and agreements in writing.
- Know What Needs to be in Writing: Certain items that are often left unclear and left out of the lease should be addressed and added into the agreement. Particularly, things like lawn care. Who is going to maintain the grass and landscape? Is there a lawnmower provided? Are you paying for lawn services? Sometimes there are laws against leaving your lawn unkempt so clarifying this will prevent any surprises. Also, clarifying who is to fix and pay for large appliances in the house that are already provided. Payment and method to dealing with these in the event they break is essential. Lastly, privacy rights. Many people assume that the landlord must give at least 24 hours, written notice in order to enter the premises. This again, is not always true—only if it is included in the lease agreement.
- Know Your Rights: According to the Fair Housing Act it is Illegal to discriminate against applicants because of race, sex, religion, ethnicity, mental or physical disability or family status. However, if you are denied due to your financial, job, references, or income status this is completely legal.
- Know the Terms of Your Security Deposit: Protect your money! Renters most of the time are walking into a previously lived in home so keeping track with a written report of your findings in the house should definitely be your first move. Next you should walk through the area and take pictures of the entirety of the apartment so that any previous damage is noted in the photos. Make sure that you are not using a digital camera but rather a 35mm. This is generally the only type that will hold up in court because of the date inscription (digital cameras can be changed)
- Know About Renters Insurance: Important! Worth it! Renters insurance protects you against unexpected tragedies such as fire, flood, robbery, etc. Being able to have your things protected will not only save you money but let you sleep a little easier at night.