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When I rented my first apartment many years ago, the only planning I did was to check the local paper each morning for listings of rental properties. While my relatively casual approach worked and I found an apartment in a nice neighborhood, I also learned some lessons about doing some research before looking for an apartment or signing a lease. If you are a young adult planning to rent your first apartment, here are a few tips, based on my experience, which may help to improve your chances of getting the apartment you want and to ensure a good experience when you do.
Talk to Other Tenants
If possible, talk to one or more other tenants before you sign a lease. Among other things, ask how long they have been there (high turnover is never a good sign), how well the facility is maintained (as I learned, you can't always tell by looking), how responsive the landlord is to tenant requests, and what they do and don't like about the apartment complex.
Visit the apartment several times at different hours of the day. I found that the activity and noise level in apartments where I lived varied widely depending on the time of day or day of the week. It is better to find out ahead of time if street traffic or raucous neighbors are going to be problems.
Take security into account. I did consider this when I rented my first apartment and only looked at units in secure buildings and in generally safe neighborhoods. I didn't do it then, but today I would probably ask about the possibility of having a burglar alarm in my apartment and would pay careful attention to fire alarms in the apartment and the building. I would also be sure to get renter's insurance to cover my belongings.
Know Your Credit Rating
When I rented my first apartment, credit ratings were not the issue they are today. Now many landlords check your credit score before they rent you an apartment. If your score is poor, it could be difficult to rent the apartment you want. If I was looking for an apartment today, I would check my credit score and, if I found that it was less than stellar, I would be prepared to provide information to show that I could pay the rent, such as proof of a good job,
Make a Good First Impression
I always treated meeting with a potential landlord for the first time like a low-key job interview in that I tried to dress and behave in ways that I hoped would make a good first impression.
Be Ready to Pay
Finally, when I rented my first apartment, I did some research to find out what a reasonable rent was for a one-bedroom unit in the neighborhood I targeted and then made sure that I had enough saved for at least the first (and possibly the last) month's rent and a security deposit, so that I was prepared to make the necessary up-front payment when offered an apartment.
It is also a good idea to read the apartment lease before signing it, including the fine print. Even better, have someone else with real estate experience look over it as well. Knowing what is in your lease before you sign it could save you a lot of aggravation later if you run into any problems.
- Real Estate