Deep Dives

Renting an Apartment

You’re doing it. Making the big move into your own place. Maybe you’ve just graduated from college, or just outgrown your parents’ house (now you don’t have to pick up your socks!). Whatever the case may be, we’ll walk you through the steps for renting a new place.

July 11, 2022

You’re doing it. Making the big move into your own place. Maybe you’ve just graduated from college, or just outgrown your parents’ house (now you don’t have to pick up your socks!). Whatever the case may be, we’ll walk you through the steps for renting a new place.

How Much Rent Can You Afford?

Ok, so this is the downside of moving out- you've gotta pay. If you haven’t already, create your budget so you know how much you can spend for rent. We recommend you spend no more than 28-30% of your income on rent so you have enough leftover for savings and other expenses. Once you figure that amount, decide what your living arrangements will be. Will you have a roommate? Maybe two?

Where to Live

Because rent is partly based upon location, your budget may dictate where you can look. Check out local guides to find areas that have the amenities you’re looking for. Are there restaurants and stores located conveniently around? Research commute times and/or transportation options if applicable. Look up crime rates and statistics in various areas to get an idea of how safe the neighborhoods are. If you can, take a walk around to get a feel for the area. Keep in mind the terrain - if you’ll be walking and/or driving in inclement weather, will you want to live on a hill?

Looking for a Place

Now that you’ve narrowed down some areas of interest, you've gotta find a place. Combine online and offline efforts. Maybe you know someone who lives in a great building. Or you know someone who knows someone (Kevin Bacon-style) who has an opening in their area. Ask around. In large cities like San Francisco or New York, hitting the pavement is a good way to find buildings with availability. Head to the areas you’re interested in and dial up the for “For Rent” signs.

The Application Process

The application process to renting an apartment
  • A completed application
  • Application/processing fee: Most applications require an application/processing fee. Sometimes it is charged for each person applying and generally is for the cost of credit/background checks and the time to process your application.
  • Proof of income: You will need to provide evidence that you will be able to pay the rent. This can be copies of paystubs. If you’re just starting a new job, an offer letter may suffice.
  • Credit check: The landlord/property manager will want to make sure you are a financially responsible tenant. Low credit scores imply poor dependability, which is not something the landlord wants when expecting a regular (and on-time) rent payment. If you don’t have credit history, you may need a co-signer.
  • Background check: As with the credit check, the landlord will use a background check as an indicator of how responsible and dependable you are. If anything will raise a flag in either check, you may want to provide an explanation beforehand.
  • References: If you have rental history, your potential landlord will want to speak to them. If you don’t have past landlords, you could use employers, professors, fellow volunteers. Try to avoid giving family member names as references.
  • Pay the deposit: the deposit amount varies, but it could be as much as 2-3 months rent and a cleaning deposit. If you take care of your place, you’ll get the cleaning deposit back and the rent deposit will apply to your last month.

Make sure to purchase renters insurance when you move in to protect your things. It’s cheap and usually required by your lease. That’s about it! You’re on your way to living on your own!

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