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Last updated: September 11, 2019 • Homes in the City

Renter’s Guide: Everything You Need to Know About Your First Apartment

We all picture the moment of leaving a very familiar home and stepping into the unknown. Renting your first apartment is an exciting challenge, and as with every adventure, it needs some planning ahead. 

When you start thinking about everything you need to do, you might feel overwhelmed, so take it one step at a time. We took the liberty of putting together this guide to take you through everything you need to worry about before, during, and after moving into your first apartment.

Before Moving

house for rent
  • Research & inspection

Everything starts with thorough research. With the advancement of technology, you now have everything you need to find the perfect apartment. Find a real estate agent or go on a listing website that you can trust, find your location, and add filters for everything you need: specific amenities, square footage, price range, etc. Make a list of the things you want, the necessary items, and the deal-breakers. It’s best to be prepared and know your priorities going in. 

After you find some places you like online, make and follow a checklist for inspecting the apartment, which will take you through the most important aspects of your potential home. If you’ve found the apartment you want to live in, next comes the rental application process

  • Rental application process

For this, you’ll have to start with filling out the paperwork. Make sure you have all the documents you need and that you provide all the information required, including pets, background information, and emergency contacts. You will have to pay the application fee, maybe even processing fees, so make sure to ask beforehand how much is expected of you and for what purpose. 

You will most likely be subject to background checks and credit checks, so be prepared for that as well as it is a normal part of the process. Rental applications are very similar to mortgage applications, so renting is almost like buying. However, you must be aware of the benefits of owning vs renting – a topic that will always generate an endless debate. You will also have to prove you can pay the asking rent, so information about your income and employment may be required. Have it all prepared in advance to limit the amount of things you need to do on the spot and to reduce stress. 

If you’re looking for student accommodation, you may have no way of providing the employment information and you have no landlord references. Since this is your first apartment, you can ask someone to be a co-signer. That person will be legally responsible for paying the rent if you can’t. 

  • Signing the lease

The most important step is to sign the lease. Here, you’ll have to be ready to discuss security deposits and fees and ask all the questions you need before moving in. Make sure you get receipts for all the payments and written confirmation for the issues you agree upon, such as what you are allowed to modify in the apartment and what not. Read the agreement very carefully and ask for clarifications wherever you need them. 

Moving Day

renting their first apartment
  • Packing & preparing

Now that you have the apartment, it’s time to get ready for moving. This is a very exciting part, but you need to be ready for challenges along the way. Start with packing the essentials for your new home. This is where a checklist is very important, since you’ll be caught up in the moment and most likely forget something or even over-pack. 

Get some help for the moving day. You can either hire a professional company to help with furniture or ask your friends for assistance. Make sure to put some money aside and get pizza and drinks for your first unofficial guests.  

After you have everything in your apartment, don’t give in to procrastination. It’s going to be tough, but arrange your furniture and unpack, you’ll be thankful in the morning. Sometimes, unopened boxes stay like that for weeks, so avoid clutter from the very beginning by finding a place for everything. 

After Moving

Now that you’re settled, there are some tips and tricks that will help you with being a renter. 

  • Style & personalization

First of all, it’s important to make the place your own.  Arrange the furniture in a layout that supports your lifestyle. Lend your personality to the apartment with trinkets, artworks, plants, or whatever else you might like. There are plenty of interior design styles to choose from, and you can adapt each to a rental. However, make sure to stay within the limitations imposed by your lease. 

  • Money matters

When you’re living on your own you can enjoy the added freedom, but you also have to become more responsible, especially when it comes to money. Financial awareness is a must-have skill, and this is an amazing opportunity to start learning correctly. Try to keep track of your expenses and income by creating a budget and updating it daily. To save money, try to employ the old golden rule: 50% of income goes towards necessities, such as rent, utilities, food; 30% goes towards wants and unexpected costs; 20% goes into savings. 

You can cut down on costs by being efficient with your electricity and water consumption as well as food. Try not to fall into the trap of ordering food every two days or going out to eat too often. It’s nice to do it every now and then because it also involves a social component, however, you could also have your friends over and cook together, splitting the costs. Stack a drawer with granola bars and healthy snacks to have ready to go, so you’re less likely to stop and get a pastry every morning. These seem like little things—and they are—but they pile up, and you’ll be surprised at how much money you can save by cutting these little corners. 

  • Being a good tenant

Remember the simplest way to enjoy your time is not to get into conflicts with your neighbors and landlord. Respect the quiet intervals and the rules of the building, keeping the common areas clean. If you run into trouble with anything in the apartment or building, talk to your landlord and see what you can do about it. With the right attitude, everything can be solved, and it will lead to mutual respect. This is great, since you’ll probably need your landlord’s reference for when you decide to move into a new rental. It’s never too early to think about the next step.

  • Discover the neighborhood & have fun

After you’ve settled in, go out and explore. You’ll spend a lot of time there, so go for walks with no destination. You’ll surely find some hidden gems, and this will help you feel like you belong there. The final piece of advice is to enjoy this exciting time. Moving into your first rental is a milestone and you should make the most of it. Have your friends over, enjoy being by yourself, and grow with every new adventure you embark upon.

Moving is not only desirable but also a step we should all look forward to. Every stage of our life will probably find us in a different house. Whether we rent or buy, the biggest challenge remains the same: to turn the space between the walls into a heartwarming home.  


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