7 Tips for First Time Renters

Updated June 18, 2019
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Whether you are a newly graduated college student or an adult who is downsizing from a house or townhome to an apartment, there are many things to consider! Here are seven tips for first time renters.

Tips for First Time Renters

1. Get Your Apartment Budget Straight

tips for first time apartment renters: budget

When setting a budget for your rental pro, you should consider that the average rent should account for about 30% of your monthly income. Now, some cities like New York City and Los Angeles are upwards of 45% of the average monthly income of their residents.

We have a little bit more purchasing power here in the midwest. Find a number that you believe you can pay in rent, for an entire locked in year, without living paycheck to paycheck, and with considering other expenses that come along with it like utilities, parking, and moving expenses.

Sometimes doing a practice budget for a few months before you move into your first rental property can help give real-life experience to what your budget will be. First, if you know the range of rent you think you can afford or are willing to pay, start by making sure you are setting that amount aside each month to factor for your future rent. You can then see how much money is in your budget to pay for necessary utilities, groceries, and other expenses.

You will want to factor in future utility costs (or if you are saving money there, plan accordingly) as well as parking, public transit, furnishing your new apartment, etc. This can all add up and to practice beforehand can give a better idea of what you can and cannot spend, or what you are willing to give up to rent the property of your dreams.

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2. Be Prepared To Make A Security Deposit

tips for first time apartment renters have your deposit

For the most part, you will always pay a security deposit anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars, to the equal amount of rent. This amount covers any mishaps or damages that may or may not occur during your time renting the unit.

When looking for a rental property, it is probably best to plan for paying rent x 2 when you sign the lease. Often advertised as first and last month’s rent to lock you in.

Now, when you have pets, this deposit can increase. If you’re lucky, your rental property will not charge a pet deposit. Cats and dogs are usually ok, and smaller animals without a deposit. That can be a one-time charge when you move in, as a security deposit for the pet. The other instance is a monthly fee added on to rent for a pet fee, anywhere between $50-200. If you have pets, keep that in mind in your search!

3. If You Can, Get A Virtual Apartment Tour

digital apartment tour for first time renters

Looking for a place to rent can be a full-time job, especially if you are searching online, driving around prospective neighborhoods, calling different

places, and setting up times to SEE them in person. Finding rental listings that offer pictures, and even better, virtual tours are ideal. If you see a place that hits a lot of your marks but doesn’t have good images, video, or either of those at all, make sure you try and get that virtual tour ahead of time.

This can help eliminate any prospects ahead of time, so you don’t need to show up without knowing what to expect. You want to be able to do a walk-through on a place that has already caught your eye, and is in your sights as a real option!

4. Check The Apartment’s Location

Tips For First Time Apartment Renters Location Is Key

Beyond price, size, and location, convenience is a major factor to consider when renting your first property. If you commute for work, how long will your drive be? Is it going to be easy to navigate to the highway? Will you have a parking space, or will you need to park on the street? Walkability is also a factor if you enjoy walking to local parks, restaurants, bars, etc.

Is there laundry in the unit, or building? Do you have to pay for laundry? All of these convenience factors that often don’t need to be considered for homes, townhomes, other communities can be deal-breakers for renters. Make sure you factor in those convenience factor pros and cons before jumping into anything!

5. Make Sure Your Apartment Fits Your Lifestyle

Lifestyle tips for first time renters

Lifestyle kind of goes hand in hand with a lot of these tips listed so far, but sometimes making a big move means making sacrifices to lifestyle. Though it might not seem like one of the most crucial tips for first time renters, it is important for maximizing your satisfaction.

If you are a foodie and love to go out to eat, is the place you are looking at close to restaurants? Are the restaurants good? Are there local activities that you enjoy doing? Lifestyle can also be a stylistic thing, and if you like an old school charm, you may not love being in a modern design complex, or vice versa. Make sure whatever property you rent isn’t a sacrifice of everything you love. Just because you are a renter, does not mean your home shouldn’t feel like a home.

6. Read The Apartment Lease Thoroughly

Tips for first time renters on property

When it comes time to review and/or sign the lease, take your time! Make sure you don’t rush through this process. Read through it properly and slowly, fully understanding the terms, and discussing any issues with the landlord or rental company as you go.

Make sure you don’t sign it and get surprised down the road with fees for parking, pets, late fees, etc. This might be the most important tips for first time renters! There’s a lot to cover, and this is your chance to ask questions, suggest changes, and settle the lease terms before you sign your binding contract.

7. You Need Renters Insurance, Don’t Skip It.

Tips For First Time Apartment Renters: get insurance

One of the lesser-known tips for first time renters- similar to home owner’s insurance, you can get renter’s insurance to cover any damages or losses due to fire, water damage, theft, etc. that happen on the rental property.

Some apartments or rental homes may require renters insurance, which is easily obtained through any major insurance company. Adding it to your existing car insurance policy is as easy as can be, and rates are as low as $10-$20 a month!

8. Know Where to Furnish for Less

When you’re moving into an apartment, you’re already putting down a security deposit, plus first month’s rent — that’s a big chunk of change at once! So, you may be looking for ways to furnish your new place on a budget, but without sacrificing style and design.

There are a few places where you can furnish your place without breaking the bank. IKEA is an obvious one, especially since they are literally designed to furnish small, Swedish apartments. So everything is designed with small spaces and little organization in mind. You can find furniture pieces that double as storage and have added functionality that you can’t get many other places. It’s definitely possible to completely furnish your new place for under $1000 if you venture to IKEA.

Target, Wayfair, Overstock, and Urban Outfitters are also great places to furnish a space with a modern look. If you’re looking for furniture pieces, Wayfair and Overstock can be great for that, but also Craigslist and the Nextdoor App has a lot of gems being sold by neighbors and people nearby. You can get some steals if you hunt for the right thing and strike while the irons hot. Target and Urban Outfitters can be super fun to furnish your space with small decor like lamps, throw pillows and blankets, and cute kitchen utensils.

9. Set Up Your Utilities, if They Aren’t Included

If you’re lucky, your apartment might include much of the required utilities like water, trash, heat. Oftentimes gas and electricity will not be included and tenants will be responsible. Be aware of which utility companies service your area, and before you even move in you can set up your accounts for utilities with a start date of when you move in. For example, Xcel Energy and Centerpoint Energy are likely the preferred utility companies for the areas in and around St. Paul, Minnesota where we are located. This way you can be ready to go and won’t have to worry about backdating any of your services. It will start billing you day one.

10. Know the Important Questions to Ask the Property Manager

When you go to visit an apartment, it’s great to see the property and get the tour, but this is also an opportunity to get any and all questions answered by the property manager. The last thing you want to happen is to move in, or receive the lease and have surprises when it comes to amenities or other stipulations that may be deal-breakers for you. Which by that time it may seem too late to back out.

So, when you are visiting the property make sure to ask about all the amenities, the parking situation, and rules, if you can have pets, roommates or guests, and most importantly, what happens if you need to break your lease.

Were these tips for first time renters helpful to you? Whether you are a first-time renter or a life-long renter, we would love to be a resource for you. Please feel free to contact us anytime for more information and available properties. Send us an e-mail at info@tbigos.com to get the conversation started.

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