Maybe you're studying away from home. Or perhaps you landed your first real job. Or you're just tired of mom and dad nagging you all the time. Whatever the reason, a first apartment is a huge step to becoming financially independent and a giant leap into adulthood. It's an exciting time but it can also be incredibly intimidating. Here are five things I wish I knew before I rented my first apartment.
Know your budget
Before you move out, it's important to consider all the costs of living on your own. Knowing the costs of independent living and planning ahead of time will help prepare a realistic budget that covers your monthly expenses. What kind of fixed costs can you expect? Landlords often require you to pay some fees upfront such as your first month’s rent, last month’s rent, utilities, and a security deposit. Security deposits (up to a full month’s rent) are used to cover potential damage to the rental home and you will usually get your deposit back if you leave the home in the same condition as when you moved in. And don’t forget renter’s insurance! Renter's insurance protects you in the case of accidental damage, theft and disaster. It usually doesn’t cost much per month, so you should definitely fit it into your budget.
Check your credit report before you consider moving
Your credit report and credit score can affect your options when you decide to move out on your own. Some landlords may run a credit check on you to make sure you'll be able pay rent on time. If you don’t have any credit history or have bad credit overall, they may request for a guarantor - usually a parent or guardian with a good credit history who agrees to pay on your behalf if you're unable to pay your rent. Take the time to understand your credit score and history so your potential new landlord is comfortable renting to you.
Find an area you want to live in
You need to determine the best place for you to live based on work and your own personal interests. The farther away you are from work, the harder it will be for you to get up every morning and commute. If you don't drive, make sure public transportation is easily accessible from where you live. At the same time, why not make your life easier by having essential amenities closer to you? The trick is to find a balance between the two. Go take a tour of the surrounding neighbourhood and check to see things like: accessibility to public transit, traffic levels, local amenities and other important considerations.
Read the lease carefully
Understanding the lease could save headaches and money. The lease should specify the ground rules of what you and your landlord have agreed to. Things to consider include: Does the lease contract cover rent only? How long is the rental term? Confirm the lease language matches what you’ve been told. Some clauses may be illegal, while others are totally legal and just overlooked because you didn't read the lease as carefully as you should have.
Inspect the apartment
Before you move in, inspect the apartment to be sure you're getting exactly what you signed up for. This will ensure you won't be held responsible for any damage that may already exist. The inspection should be done together with the landlord and any visible damage should be documented or photographed.
Renting your first apartment can get overwhelming at times, but it's not as much work as one may believe. Just remember to do your research, ask a lot of questions and the problems you do encounter should be pretty minor and easy to resolve.