A Guide to Renting Your First Apartment

7 Steps to Finding an Affordable Apartment

Giving their new home a touch of modern flair with stylish furniture
••• kupicoo / Getty Images

Once you start your first real job, you will be looking for a new place to live. You need to know how to rent your first apartment. This is an exciting time, and you may be considering getting your own place. This allows you greater freedom and flexibility. Before you make this decision you need to make sure you carefully consider how much you really can afford.

1. Determine How Much You Can Afford to Pay 

Before you go out to begin looking for your first apartment, you should determine how much rent you can comfortably pay. Generally, your rent should be about 25 percent of your income. You may be approved for up to 30 percent of your income. However, you need to consider your other expenses and debt payments. You should be able to cover most of your daily living expenses (groceries, utilities, eating out, and entertainment) on about 25 percent of your income. Take time to look at your budget before you start looking for your apartment.

You should be focusing a lot on getting out of debt and saving money.

2. Find the Area Where You Want to Live

You need to determine the best place for you to live in relation to where you work. The farther away you are from work, the higher your transportation costs will be. If you work in a major metropolitan area you will find that the housing costs decrease the farther away you live. The trick is to find a balance between the two. You may save money by moving close to a train line. You can begin by searching online to get a general idea of the pricing in the area.

3. Consider Getting a Roommate

After you have determined the general prices and what you can afford, you should decide whether or not you need a roommate. You need to take into consideration that you will be paying for all of the utilities yourself, and these may cost more than you realize. You should also determine the size of the place that you need. Generally, your first apartment will likely be on the smaller side.

4. Consider Both Large Complexes and Private Rentals

Once you have decided on one or two areas that you want to live in you should look online as well as in the newspaper. You may be surprised at the deals that you can find there. Landlords with smaller properties often only advertise in the paper, though Craigslist has become another viable option. You may also want to call a few property management companies to find out what they have available.

5. Start By Looking at 5 Properties

Choose up to five properties to look at. If you do more than this all at once, you will be exhausted and the properties start to blur together. Consider taking pictures of the exterior and interior so that you can remember the apartments. You should also consider safety if you are going to be living alone — a second story apartment is safer than one on the first story. You may also want to look for a gated community, depending on where you are living.

6. Take Your Time to Make a Decision

Although you may feel pressured to make an immediate choice, generally you should be okay thinking about it for 24 hours. You should go with your general feelings about the place when you make a decision. If you simply go for the apartment with the cheapest rent but feel that the building is rundown or unsafe, then that's not a wise decision. You should feel good about both the price and the apartment. 

Don’t forget to consider the amenities offered by the apartment community. The more amenities offered generally means higher rent. However, if you find a good deal, you may end up saving money if you were to purchase cable, a gym membership, and a phone line.

7. Fill Out Your Application

Finally, you will need to fill out the application, and pay the application fee. Some apartments may require a co-signer if you are just starting your first job. They may waive this for a larger deposit. Generally, you will pay your deposit along with your first and last month’s rent when you sign your lease. This usually happens on the day that you move into the apartment.