Locating your first apartment is both exciting and nerve-racking.
As a first-time renter, you are new to the process. Without apartment rental history and first-hand knowledge of renting, you could spend months instead of weeks or days trying to find and secure your own place. Things to consider when starting the process are location, budgeting, credit scores, checking neighborhoods, parking, avoiding scams, filling out applications and deciding on furnishings. At David The Locator, we are apartment locating experts. We can truly help you get into your first apartment. Check out our guide below for some general pointers.
- Calculate your budget
This is the first, and often the most overlooked, step. How you calculate your monthly budget is important, as your landlord will estimate how much you can afford based on your income. A good rule of thumb is 30% of your income. Others state the 50/30/20 Rule. Most apartments require income greater than 3 times the rent in order to qualify, without having to use a co-signer. You can find more information on both rules in this article by NerdWallet here. If you think you need help making rent, look for a roommate.
- Check your Credit Score/ Background Check
Before getting into an apartment, the landlord will run a background and credit check. Sometimes, the credit score is not a key factor if you put a sizeable deposit down. A good rule to follow is the higher the rent, the better your credit score needs to be. Depending on your history, some apartments will not let you rent. Check the policy of each apartment complex before putting in an application that is non-refundable. Landlords must give you a form that is called a Tenant Selection Criteria Form prior to paying an application fee and submitting an application. Some apartment complexes will allow for criminal backgrounds; however, felony convictions will severely limit viable options. You can get your credit score checked by Experian here. If you need a co-signer because of poor credit, you can turn to family and friends. There are co-signing services available as well. You can find several background checking services online to use.
Check out the Neighborhoods
When moving to a new area, it is important to do your due diligence and check out the neighborhood. Here in Houston, this is vitally important, as there are no zoning laws and neighborhoods are quite patchy. Living close to your job is ideal, but often it is impractical due to rent prices or social issues.
First, do your homework online. A great tool to use for scouting neighborhoods is Neighborhood Scout, followed by Street Advisor. Use social media sites like Nextdoor to understand what your new neighbors might be like. Your BEST resource is a David the Locator agent.
If being able to walk to many venues close to your apartment is important, use Walk Score to get an idea of the neighborhood’s walkability. A lot of rural areas have low walk-scores, with cities having much higher scores. There are also bike scores for those willing to bike where they go.
Understand how affordable the area is you plan to move to. You can find out how much it costs to live in certain cities with this handy Living Wage Calculator here.
Scope out the schools in your neighborhood. Sites like Great Schools can help you find out if the school you are considering for your child is worth it. Often your David The Locator agent will have a good idea on the local schools.
Understanding what type of criminal activity happens in your neighborhood is important to most of our clients. My Local Crime a website that reports all the current crimes happening in your chosen neighborhood is quite helpful. Another useful resource is Spot Crime. Neighborhood Scout mentioned above has some great resources for running crime reports with up to 90% accuracy.
- Understand Your Needs for Parking and Amenities
Careful consideration is necessary for some first-time renters. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I have any special physical needs?
- Do I need a handicap parking spot?
- Does my vehicle need cover every night?
- Do I need a gate code/ key/ pass?
- Will I need a sticker for the vehicle?
Also consider amenity questions such as:
-How important is it to not walk up too many flights of stairs?
- What type/ how much laundry service do I need?
- Do I need a space to host parties, guests?
- Is there a dog park for my pet?
- Is there a gym on premise?
- Are there stores within walking distance to the apartment?
Understanding your daily routines will give insight into what amenities and needs/wants you have.
In this age of the internet, there are clever scam artists willing to take your hard-earned money. First-time buyers are easy prey for these nefarious criminals. Most rental scams are easily spotted. If the offer seems too good to be true, it often is. NEVER deal in cash. You do not need to put down a deposit before applying for the lease. Look for spelling errors in the listing. Always inspect the property before putting in an application unless you are working with a trusted locator like us. For more tips, check out this article here.
Filling out apartment applications
Once you have found the perfect apartment that fits your lifestyle and budget, it is time to apply. Most apartment communities require you to apply to one of their on-line portals instead of completing a paper application. It is important when you fill out your application to have several items on hand when you apply online or in person.
- Bank Statements
- Govt issued ID Card
- Information on references
- Vehicle Registration, Insurance and License Plate Number
- Social Security Card
Furnishing your first apartment
Furnishing your apartment can be a chore, but it can be fun too! There are items you need before you move and some you can get later. This list covers both and can help you plan for what you need in the future. Setting up a good mover for your timeframe is also important. Rental furniture is an option for the short term as well if you want to take your time finding the right stuff to fill your new home.
Get a locator
As you can see from this article, getting your first apartment can be a huge undertaking. It takes a lot of time and effort to find the right place. Choosing the wrong apartment can become a real bummer, and no one likes to be stuck. Contact us to avoid this potential pitfall. Our service is 100% FREE and we will help you check neighborhoods, ask the right questions, avoid scams and check for the right parking amenities. We are here to help you and, by doing so, we serve the community with you. If you are ready to look for an apartment today, fill out our client interview and one of our locators will get with you shortly.