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How To Prepare For Renting An Apartment

Updated: Apr 10

If you are renting an apartment on your own for the first time, start by figuring out how much rent you can afford. This exercise is a really good way to get a clear understanding of how far your income will stretch for all your expenses, including rent, utilities, insurance, food, gas and any other debt payments you need to cover.

Determine How Much Rent You Can Afford:

Most financial experts recommend that you spend no more than 30 percent of your gross (before tax) monthly income on housing. Many landlords state on rental applications that they want an applicant’s gross income to be three times greater than the rent.

50-20-30 Rule:

The 50-20-30 rule is not just for renters. This is an overall budgeting recommendation for spending your after-tax income on specific expenses. According to this rule, 50 percent of your net income should go toward "needs" like rent and bills (such as utilities and insurance, car expenses, etc.), 20 percent towards savings and 30 percent towards "wants" like shopping, eating out, entertainment, hobbies and vacations.

How Much Space Do You Need:

Would a studio, one-bedroom or two-bedroom be best for you? If you are planning on living by yourself, can you manage a studio? Living in a little less space will typically cost you less with everything, including rent, utilities and furnishings. Saving a couple hundred dollars a month can help keep your budget on track. If you are planning on having a roommate, the additional expense of a larger place can be offset by sharing the cost of rent as well as expenses like utilities and groceries.

Consider Where You Want To Live:

When picking a location to live, think about these five things:

  • Proximity to work or school. If it’s close, you may be able to walk. If it’s further away, you’ll have to drive or take public transportation which could be an extra cost.

  • Transportation options. Scope out the subway, train or bus options.

  • Neighborhoods. Get a feel for the vibe of the neighborhood as well as local restaurants, stores and businesses.

  • Safety. Pay attention to things like parking and lighting. Neighborhood apps are great investigation tools as well to get the skinny on crime or other safety issues.

  • Convenience to neighborhood attractions. Whether it’s bar hopping, dancing, sports or chess club, make sure the fun in your life is convenient and accessible.

Although renting your first apartment takes some effort, doing your homework ahead of time can help simplify and shorten your search and smooth out the process one you are ready to apply. If you are renting in a major city, Apartment Guide can help prioritize your search to get to your shortlist fast with search tools. Also, be sure to read first-hand reviews from other renters to get the real pros and cons of an apartment community from a renters’ perspective.

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