One of the first big milestones in adulthood is renting your first apartment. Whether you’re leaving home or moving out of a dorm room, this can be a daunting task that presents new challenges you may have never faced before.
While the real estate industry can be complex, finding the right apartment is a manageable task once you know the basics for navigating the rental market. Our detailed guide to renting your first apartment will help you take this big first step with confidence.
Determine Your Price Range
A general rule of thumb for determining how much rent you can afford is to calculate what one-third of your household income is. It’s important to factor in other expenses you may have, such as debts, monthly payments and obligations, and savings goals that could affect your budget.
Renting an apartment comes with a number of upfront costs, particularly in the Greater Boston area. Most leases require first month’s rent, last month’s rent, as well as a security deposit and broker’s fee equal to the monthly rent. This amounts to four months of rent you will likely have to pay as soon as you sign the lease. Keep this in mind as you begin to schedule apartment tours.
Check Your Credit
When applying for an apartment, the landlord will check your credit score. If you have a solid FICO score (675-850) then you shouldn’t run into any issues being approved. If there’s room for growth with your credit score, you may need a guarantor to sign onto the lease with you. It may also be helpful to have a plan for fixing your lower score to explain to potential landlords. Great references can also be helpful for easing any concerns a landlord may have.
4. Pick a Neighborhood
Now, the fun part begins. Choosing a neighborhood is an important first step in narrowing your search. If you’re new to the area, be sure to walk around as much as you can during the day and the evening. Talk to local residents to get a feel for the neighborhood’s character. You might consider how convenient the area would be for your potential commute, or how close it is to a grocery store or other important neighborhood feature. Some regions of Greater Boston have better access to public transportation and others are great for people with cars. It’s important to be realistic about cost. Browse online to see average listing prices for your desired neighborhood. The same rent can buy you very different apartments in each neighborhood of the same city. We suggest identifying a few locations you’re interested in for flexibility.
What Are Your Must-Haves or Deal Killers?
Next, you should start to think about what your priorities are for your apartment. Ask yourself questions like: is location more important than the quality of the finishes? Do you need off-street parking? Do you plan on getting pets? Would you like in-unit laundry, or is in the basement okay? Make a list of features you’d like your apartment to have, a list of must-have features, and a list of absolute deal killers. This will be helpful once you begin showings. When making these lists, it’s important to keep your desired neighborhood and budget in mind.
Start Your Search
Working with an experienced agent is the easiest way to find your dream apartment — especially when it’s your first time. A Senné Associate is knowledgeable in the local market and can help you determine how far your budget will go in your neighborhood of choice. They can also guide you through every step of the apartment search process. We recommend having a checkbook, photo ID, recent pay stubs or an offer letter, and contact information for your references ready to go once you start touring apartments. Review this list of questions to ask on each of your showings.
Submit Your Application
If you think you’ve found the apartment for you, it’s time to fill out the application. The faster you get your application in, the better. Quality apartments get taken off the market quickly in Greater Boston. Your Senné Associate can work with you to put together an offer that gives you the best chance of getting approved.
Sign the Lease
Once your offer is approved, you’ll receive a lease to sign. This is also when the rest of your move-in deposits will be due. A lease is a binding contract so it’s important to use this time to make sure you understand what you are signing. Don’t hesitate to ask as many questions as you need. Some things to look for include: penalties for breaking the lease, subletting policies, what utilities are included, pet policies, maintenance request processes, where to send your rent, move-out notice, and any rules for getting your security deposit back.
Contact any utility providers, including the electric company, gas company, and a cable and internet provider to let them know what date you’ll be moving in to set up your service. Leave buffer time in case you need to schedule appointments for installation. Set up a change of addresses with USPS so you receive your mail. This is also a good time to set up renter’s insurance.
Conduct a Walkthrough
Before moving in, ask your landlord for a final walkthrough of the property. This is your time to ensure all the appliances, lights, and water fixtures are functioning properly. Be sure to check the apartment for any existing damage in the flooring and walls. Document anything that needs fixing, fill out your apartment condition statement, and send it to your landlord within 15 days to ensure you aren’t left to blame for any previous damage.
Make the Move
The big day has arrived! Schedule movers or moving trucks if necessary. Try to pack up everything as organized as possible. Using labels will make your life easier when unpacking. Be sure to move in with basics like hand soap, paper towels, cleaning supplies, and toilet paper so your first days go smoothly. Now all that’s left is to enjoy your new home!
If you’re looking to move into your first apartment, contact us at 617.314.9400 to get matched with a helpful Senné Associate who can guide you through every step of the process. Start browsing future apartments here.
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