If you’ve decided to move into an apartment, be sure to take the needed steps to find the right home for you. Considerations such as your commute, what you can afford, what amenities you want, whether you need a roommate, and what size apartment you seek are all decisions you’ll need to make prior to looking for a place.
Conducting Your Search
Begin by filling out The Apartment Features Worksheet. This checklist will guide you through choosing what features to look for during your search. Print the table and take it with you on your apartment hunt so you can make notes along the way.
Once you know what you want out of an apartment, start looking. You can do much of your research conveniently from home through the following outlets:
- Craigslist and newspapers: You can use Craigslist to find apartments for rent and also to find roommates, if you want to live with someone to split the costs. In addition, check your local newspaper’s website to search listings for available apartments.
- Real estate offices and rental agencies: If you'd like help with finding a rental, you can work with a rental agency or a local real estate agent. Look for an agent who charges fees to landlords, not to tenants. Ask friends for recommendations of someone they used successfully.
- Informal networks: Another way to find an apartment is to ask for leads from your network of contacts. Friends, family, and business associates may know of someone who is looking for a trustworthy renter, a place that is going to be available soon, or a great apartment that isn’t advertised.
- College networks: Call your campus housing office. Ask if it provides listings of off-campus rentals. Seek out print and online campus bulletin boards for postings, as well.
Signing a Lease
Once you find an apartment you love, you’ll need to negotiate and sign a lease with the landlord. Learn more about different lease options here. Be sure to discuss the following issues before signing:
- How much money you’ll need to put down as a deposit.
- How long your lease will be (most landlords offer yearlong leases that you must renew after 12 months).
- Whether your landlord allows pets and, if so, whether you need to pay any additional charges for your pet.
- How much your landlord charges for rent.
- What day of the month your landlord requires you to pay rent.
- If your landlord assesses late fees if you don’t pay rent on time.
- If your landlord charges any additional dues or fees to live in the building (for example, fees for parking or maintenance).
- Whether you can make physical changes to the apartment, such as painting rooms and changing wall- or ceiling-mounted light fixtures.
- What utilities, if any, are covered by your rent, and whether your landlord requires the services to be set up and charged in your name or his or her name.
- What conditions your landlord accepts for breaking a lease, such as an unexpected event that causes you to leave school, and your options for breaking a lease (i.e., would you be able to terminate the lease, or would your landlord require you to sublease the apartment)?
- Arrangements for repairs and maintenance. Do you call the landlord, or is there a handyman in the building to summon when issues arise in the apartment, such as a plumbing emergency in the middle of the night?
Moving into your first apartment is an exciting experience. Take the time to explore different neighborhoods and see a lot of apartments so that you can choose the best one to suit your needs. And make your life easy by choosing the right roommates!
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