College is over and it’s time to get your first real adult apartment. Even if you still have parties and live with six other people, this may be the first place your name is rented in and you pay the entire rent, and that’s a total game changer.

The pandemic has only made the rental process more precarious. Admittedly, while states go through lockdowns, the experience of finding your home may be different. In-person viewing of apartments can be limited and virtual tours have become the new norm.

There has also been a surge in rental scams trying to take advantage of unsuspecting tenants. And when you rent for the first time, you are more vulnerable than ever. Before you dive into these wild waters of adulthood, here’s a guide to renting your first real home.

How do I look for my first apartment?

The first step in getting an apartment is finding an apartment to rent. Some tried-and-true home search websites include Craigslist (or PadMapper, which packs Craigslist listings into a more user-friendly format), Trulia, HotPads.com, Apartments.com, and RentJungle, among others.

When visiting an apartment, pay attention to what you see and ask questions – don’t take anything for granted. Is the hot water working? Try the faucet. Do the windows open? Is there a second exit in the event of a fire?

Sometimes you may not even meet the landlord – many homeowners simply list their homes through a local real estate agent who does all the demonstrations and other work. Depending on how competitive the rental market is, you or the landlord may have to pay the brokerage fee (usually one month’s rent), although this can be negotiated.

Does Your Credit Score Matter When Renting?

If you are applying to rent an apartment, your creditworthiness will likely be considered. Most lenders use FICO, which is on a scale of 300 to 850, with 850 being the best.

If you have a FICO score of at least 670, it is assumed that you have good credit. If you have extenuating circumstances, it is more likely that a private landlord would consider doing this if other parts of your file are fine, such as your home page. B. Good references and pay slips.

If your score is below 670, you may want to rent with a roommate who will hold the lease while you build your bankroll. The Easiest And Fastest Way To Build That Loan? Get a credit card, charge it a small fee, and pay in full and on time every month.

Consider roommates

Sharing your housing costs with one or three roommates can save you a lot of money every month. However, if you don’t have anyone in line, many of the rental websites mentioned above (including Craigslist, but Roommates.com and others too) are geared towards bringing potential roommates together.

The ideal roommate is different for everyone, but usually you’re looking for someone who is respectful, responsible, clean (at least in terms of public areas) and maybe shares some interests with you.

Of course, your social network is also helpful. If a friend of a friend is looking for a roommate or moving out of a cute apartment, you’ve just found an apartment. And if you don’t have the credit or references to land an apartment yourself, team up with other tenants Subletting a departing tenant’s room may be an alternative option.

Have your application information ready

When it comes to renting an apartment, most states have one simple rule: the first qualified applicant gets the apartment. This means that you need to have your application information on hand so that you can fill out everything on the spot.

For a new first time tenant on the market, it means you have your basic information on hand, as well as any written references you might want to add. Bank statements and pay slips are two more weapons you must have in your arsenal to prove you can pay for the place. And having a savings account with enough cash to pay the rent if you lose your job helps too.

When you find your dream home, fill out the application and write a check right away.

References can go a long way

Oh yes, references – since this is your first apartment you may not have one yet. This can be a problem, especially with large company apartments. In larger buildings, rental decisions in an office somewhere are made by people you will never meet. Your chances are better with private landlords to whom you can explain your situation personally.

Still, references help in both directions. Even if you’ve lived in the dormitories for four years, you can still get a reference letter from your former assistant confirming your reputation as a good neighbor. If you’ve rented in the past, you will receive written references from your landlord. Your prospective new landlord will still be calling to inquire, but when you have this letter your foot in the door will get in the door.

Do you know the neighborhood

Increasingly, young people who have just graduated from college are living in cities. This can be a lot of fun, but make sure you pick the right neighborhood.

Security can be an issue, so check your neighborhood during the day – and check back after 10 a.m. at night. Walk around to see how it is and if it fits your lifestyle. Are there bars, restaurants, cafes and other nightlife? Is that a plus for you or would you prefer quiet at night to drunken singalongs on the sidewalk? Walking around is the best way to get the feel of what you are getting into.

And even if you visit the apartment on a weekend, don’t forget to take your weekday commute into account. Is it near a train or a subway station? When you drive to work, what is the rush hour traffic like? With the desktop version of Google Maps you can draw a route and see how long it would take at different times of the day or week. Try to estimate your commute during Monday morning traffic and make sure you can live with it.

Money talks

We mentioned above that having the ability to write a check on site can go a long way in helping you get the home of your dreams. You can also have a little more money.

Landlords can check your creditworthiness and deny you an apartment if it’s not very good. If you have poor credit, or none at all, the option of offering two months’ advance rent or a double down payment can make it easier for your potential new landlord to rent out to you.

This is a card that you should play before mentioning a co-signer. It shows that you are trying to take responsibility for yourself rather than relying on someone else to give gravitas to your situation.

Good credit or not, you need a fair bit of cash on hand. Landlords often ask for your first month’s rent, the last month’s rent and a deposit (up to a full month’s rent) in advance. If you do not break the rental agreement (or the apartment) you will get your money back. But for a $ 1,000 a month apartment, that’s $ 3,000 a month. So save up.

Read the rental agreement carefully

Once you have received the apartment, you need to read your rental agreement carefully. Laws vary from state to state, but some clauses can be illegal and invalidate the entire rental agreement. This is good to know in case you ever have problems with your landlord.

Other clauses may be perfectly legal but can be easily or unknowingly broken, such as: B. No smoking clauses. You don’t want to be fined or evicted for having your buddy lit a cigarette on the porch on the way home. In any case, you should know the basic rules so that you can stay in your apartment.

Turn on your utilities

Find out which utilities you are responsible for – heat, electricity, phone, internet, hot water – and call the appropriate authorities to get them involved. Even if the heat and electricity are working when you move in, you have to have them registered in your name. If you don’t, you won’t have to pay the bill – you’ll just have a very bad start with your new landlord or run out of electricity once the former tenants get it.

Having your first adult apartment is really exciting, but to get it and keep it you have to act like an adult. The good news is that this is a lot easier than you might think. And either way, you can still have cereal for dinner if you want.

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