Take a look at these mistakes first-time renters make and use this information to be sure that renting your first apartment will be a great experience.
All first-time renters are enthusiastic in the beginning. The day you move out of your parents’ place, and start to build the independence you’ve been dreaming about for so long, is going to be a very exciting moment for you!
You’ll no longer have to worry about being home by a certain hour; you can watch the shows you want without a limit on TV time; and you can leave your clothes lying around wherever you like! Sounds great, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately, there’s this little thing called the real world that often gets in the way. Young adults searching for their first apartment don’t have a lot of experience when it comes to finding the perfect pad to make their own.
Landlords and rental agencies know that very well. You can bet that they’re going to take advantage of the fact that, if you’re being honest, you have no idea what you’re doing.
So here’s the deal – yes, you’re starting off at a disadvantage. You may be young, hopeful, and bright-eyed, and that’s great. But that optimism can sometimes blind you to just how easy it is to make a mistake when it comes to renting your first apartment.
Take a look at some of the most common mistakes that first-time renters make. Use these tips to make sure that you don’t become your own worst #epicfail story.
Not Figuring Out the True Cost
I remember my first apartment – three bedrooms, a full-size kitchen, two full bathrooms…it was awesome! And expensive. Like, way more than what I thought it would be, to the point that I was “apartment broke.”
That’s because I, like so many first-time renters, only looked at the listing price on the rental ad. As a result, I didn’t understand just how many costs are associated with an apartment.
First off, when you apply for an apartment, I guarantee that you’re going to have to pay an application fee. Usually, these aren’t too bad, maybe $30 to $50, but the hits just keep coming after there.
Most agencies require that you pay a security deposit of at least one month’s full rent. You may also have to get renter’s insurance, which can run you an average of $100 to $300 extra dollars every few months.
If your lease doesn’t cover all, or at least some, of the maintenance costs, you’re going to be paying out of pocket to fix or replace dishwashers, light fixtures, water heaters, and other utilities. If you’re a dog mom or dad, it’s a safe bet that Fido is going to cost you some extra money as well, if he’s even allowed in the first place.
When you meet with the rental agency, ask them to flat out what expenses are associated with the apartment and the application, aside from the rent. Make sure you verify what opportunities there are, if any, for refunds on things like application fees and security deposits.
I would even recommend you phrase it exactly like this: “If I signed a lease and moved in today, how much would I have to pay total? How much will I get back at the end?” If they can’t answer those questions and put it in writing, or they’re beating around the bush with responses like, “Well, it varies by…” and “Well, you have to understand…” then that may not be a place you want to live.
Not Understanding the Terms and Restrictions
Now, you may be thinking that you can just bounce in, find an apartment, do whatever you want with the place, and take off at the end of the month if you decide it’s time to move on. I’m here to tell you – that’s not how it works.
Most apartments have very strict terms and conditions
First of all, these terms outline what you can and can’t do with the apartment. But they also obligate you to live there (or at least pay to live there) for a certain amount of time.
When you look at your lease, check and see how long their leases run for. Most apartment and home rentals start with a one year lease, then transfer to either six-month, or month-to-month, leasing structures.
Don’t you dare sign without knowing how long your lease is for! According to Apartment Guide, too many first-time renters want to rush into signing a lease, without really reading it, because they feel pressured, or scared that they’ll lose the apartment.
Here’s the thing. You may think it’s worth it to sign immediately to secure your dream space, or avoid the headache of shopping around. But the moment you sign that lease, you’re on the hook for the duration of your agreement. If you hate your apartment after three months, but you’ve got a one year lease? Too bad. It’s yours to deal with.
You also need to pay attention to the restrictions on what you can and can’t do with the property. In most instances, you’re limited in the degree to which you can change colors, swap out appliances, put holes in walls, or alter the foundation to free up space.
Ninety percent of the time, you’ll need your landlord’s express permission, in writing, for the changes you want to make, if you get approval at all. If you want to have a lot of freedom to inject your own personality into your apartment, understand the terms first.
Not Checking the Location
The rental agency said they can meet you this coming Thursday, just after lunch, and the weather’s supposed to be bright and sunny, so you can see for yourself just how beautiful this apartment really is! Perfect, right? Just one question: what’s the neighborhood like when the sun goes down?
Many first-time renters just pick the first place they can afford (or think they can afford). So they sign a lease right then and there and get their boxes of stuff moved in. I think we’ve established already why this isn’t a great approach. But to compound the problem, many first-time renters don’t take the time to really look at where they’re going to be living.
It’s only after they move in that the real personality of a place becomes apparent to first-time renters.
That corner on the street to your apartment? Yeah – best drug dealing spot on the block. That back lot you failed to take note of during your walkthrough?
Brand new construction site – should be wrapped up in five years. Hope you like the sound of jackhammers. The point is, there’s a reason that most landlords and agencies want to meet you on a specific day and time. They simply want to show the apartment in its “best light,” literally and figuratively.
Even if it’s a safe neighborhood, and you won’t have to endure the sound of bulldozers at 3 a.m., how far is your commute to work or school? Are you going to have to drive a half hour to buy groceries? Does the neighborhood see a lot of rain, and is prone to flooding?
These are all questions you need to think about and ask when you’re considering an apartment. Try an experiment, and see if your landlord is willing to tour with you later in the evening.
Granted, they probably have business hours that wrap up around 5 or 6 p.m., and that’s perfectly understandable. But if they won’t even consider going near the place after the sun goes down, or at certain times of the day, that may be a sign of things to come.
Don’t take their word for it either. Read reviews, and try to speak to people who currently live, or have lived, in the neighborhood, if you can.
Make a List and Take it With You
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this. I also hope you’ve now got a better idea of what to expect when you start shopping for your apartment.
Take these suggestions I’ve given you here and check some other sources. Also, make a list of points to discuss and check when you search for an apartment. It will help keep your thoughts organized and ensure that you don’t miss anything critical.
Now, one thing I want to clarify. I may have painted a pretty bleak picture in certain parts of this article. You may be feeling discouraged about trying to find an apartment that works for you.
Don’t. You’re going to be fine. You’re never going to find an apartment that’s completely free of headaches. There’s always going to be some loud neighbor who listens to death metal in the wee morning hours or an ice machine that cries out in pain whenever you fill your glass. These are normal, and just part of the realities of living in rented spaces.
If you follow these tips I’ve given you, take your time, and weigh your options carefully, you probably still won’t find a perfect apartment. However, you may just find an apartment that’s perfect for you.