If you’ve never rented an apartment, it can be a harrowing experience. In fact, even if you have, it’s a stressful experience that no one really talks about. It’s not like there’s a college or high school class that walks you through this process and there are things that you should be aware of before you even start putting in applications. Since it’s a difficult thing that there’s very few resources on, we’ve created this ‘Ultimate Guide To Renting An Apartment’ to help you make an educated decision that fits your unique needs.
Moving out and renting your first place is probably the first major decision a lot of folks make and they make it for a variety of reasons. It’s not just young people choosing to rent- we see first time renters from all walks of life and a variety of situations and needs. There is not a one-size-fits-all solution for everyone, but there are some basic things that everyone needs to keep in mind as they progress through this transition. Just like buying a house, renting an apartment is a responsibility and a financial transaction that can impact your life in a pretty dramatic way and this can be either a good impact or a poor one. Follow these steps to ensure that you land on the right side of the coin in a situation that enhances your life!
Before You Start Your Search
Before you even start searching for apartments and setting up tours/appointments, you’ll need to make a few decisions and iron out the following details:
Setting up a budget that you can afford
Deciding on the size of apartment that fits your needs
Selecting ideal locations
How to Calculate a Budget You Can Afford
Making a decision on the budget range that works for your situation should be the first step in any major financial transaction and renting is no different. You need to take the time to crunch the numbers and figure out how much you can afford each month for rent plus utilities. Here’s a simple equation:
Monthly Income * .25 = Low End of Range
Monthly Income * .35 = High End of Range
Don’t just pay attention to the amount of rent that you’ll be paying- utilities are also part of the equation.
Once you find a place that fits into your budgetary needs, check on which utilities are included in the rent and which ones are your sole responsibility. There’s no clear way to determine the exact cost of utilities, but you should be able to get a decent estimate based on the location and size of the apartment that you’re trying to rent.
Choose The Size That Fits
Next up is taking a look at what you actually need very carefully to figure out what size of apartment you want to rent. Do you only need a studio apartment? Or is a one, two, or three bedroom apartment more aligned with your needs?
Answering these questions is 100% dependent on your unique needs and how many people will be living with you in the apartment. Take note, larger apartments and more occupants will increase utility usage significantly– you may need to adjust your budget.
Location, Location, Location!
The location of where you live is an incredibly important part of your life- it determines the route you take for your commute, what stores you’ll shop at, and the community you’ll be a part of. You should also take into consideration school districts and crime rates.
A location with a tolerable proximity to work, school, retail stores and other places of interest that you can see yourself visiting on a regular basis can have perks. Reducing your commute will save you money on transportation costs and time.
Whether you currently own pets or would want to own one in the future, you must take this into consideration when you’re searching for an apartment. Every apartment listing you come across will clearly spell out whether you’re allowed to have pets or not and what kinds the complex allows. Be prepared- if your community allows pets, there will almost always be a small security deposit required.
Never try to sneak a pet into a property that doesn’t allow pets. Your landlord will absolutely discover your pet and then you could be facing an eviction, damaging your chances of finding another rental in the future.
You’re Officially Ready To Search
Now that you’ve done your due diligence and have all of your criteria in place, it’s time to start finding communities that meet your criteria. Looking at rental listings in local newspapers and magazines is a thing of the past- the only tools you’ll need in your arsenal at this point is a computer/phone and an internet connection.
The Only Apartment Listing Sites You’ll Need
There are a number of sites out there that will help you narrow down your list of available units that fit your needs. Here’s our top 5 favorite sites that are easy to use, have robust features and search results:
Using these tools allow you to efficiently find a number of apartments that match your unique needs and situation. The inventory of available apartments for rent on the market is constantly changing, so don’t feel discouraged if you don’t find something immediately. Reserve a few minutes every day for a couple of weeks to look for and contact potential apartments.
Setting Up An Apartment Tour
When you’ve found an apartment that is perfect for your needs, contact the owner or manager to set up an appointment.
Remember, this is an important relationship and as such, it’s crucial to make a good first impression with a potential landlord. During your phone call to set up the initial appointment, speak clearly and most importantly, be polite while on the phone to create a good first impression.
Visiting Your Apartments
If you can, schedule a few different appointments on the same day- weekends are best for this. Doing it this way allows you to get more done all at once and compare several different properties while they’re still fresh in your mind.
Laws in Oregon prevent landlords from discriminating on housing based on anything other than financials and whoever turns in the first application, but making a good in-person first impression can only aid your efforts. Here are some tips to establish a healthy relationship between you and your possible future landlord:
Be on time
Make eye contact
When you’re doing the initial walk through of any apartment, make sure that you’re being observant and checking the place for issues and basic functionality. Keep your eyes out for issues with mold, insect infestations, water damage, broken appliances, and condition of the floors. Check the functionality of doors, windows, cabinets, water, air conditioning, heating, electrical, and appliances.
Questions To Ask During A Walkthrough
Does rent include any utilities?
What is the security deposit?
What is your pet policy?
What is the neighborhood like?
Any home or car break-ins recently?
What is the parking situation like?
What is the process to deal with maintenance and repairs?
Are you allowed to make small modifications like paint the walls?
What is the guest policy?
What are the exit options if something happens before the lease is up?
Ask about anything else that may come up or addresses any of your concerns. By looking at several places the same day in person, it allows you to determine which apartments you’re legitimately interested and which ones fooled you with creatively shot photos.
This gives you a feel for the apartment itself, of course, but even more importantly- you’ll get face-to-face experience with the management of the apartment complex and get to experience the neighborhood it’s in.
At this stage, you’ll have all the information you need to determine the top two or three apartments. Anyone would love to get their favorite apartment, but the rental market is competitive and there is a chance that you won’t get approval or someone will beat you to the punch.
Filling out apartment applications can be time consuming and requires focus (and if they require an application fee, it can be expensive as well). The good thing? Most of them will require the same information, so once you complete the first one, the rest will be a breeze. Prepare to provide several pieces of documentation like proof of income, your social security and driver’s license number, references, vehicle registration and proof of insurance.
If you’re using a pen to fill out your application, take your time to write legibly so that everything can be easily read and understood without any problems. If your application can’t be read, it can delay the process and lead to errors.
Preparing For A Successful Application
Proof Of Income
Every rental property will require income information to verify that you make enough money to pay rent every month. Even if you enter income on the application, you will have to support that assertion with the documentation that proves it by submitting things like employer letters, pay stubs, or W2 tax forms. You will probably only need to submit one form of the above- every community has different preferences.
Count on providing employer’s details like company name, address, position title, manager’s name and their contact information. This gives the landlord the information they need to verify employment and that you make as much money as you say you do.
Social Security And Driver’s License Number
When you apply for an apartment, you’ll need to provide your social security number. Typically, you’ll sign a document when you submit this that permits your landlord to check your credit worthiness. Your credit score will give management an idea of what your fiscal responsibility is. If you have bad credit (or none at all because you’re young), you should bring this up early on in the conversation or indicate it on the application.
If this is the case, often you’ll need a cosigner with strong credit worthiness. Notify the management company that you can provide a cosigner if your credit score becomes an issue.
Some complexes require you to provide your driver’s license number or a state ID card to run a background check. This gives a landlord an idea if an applicant has any criminal history.