Guide to Getting Your First Apartment

By Denver Regine Lark

Denver is a part of the TLC College Ambassador Program and attends North Carolina A&T University.

It’s finally time! Either you're moving out of those despicable dorms on campus or moving into your very own humble abode after graduation. Either way it’s all yours, free to come and go as you please. If you’re in the beginning stage of choosing where to live, or if you’ve already made that decision and are now picking out decorative pillows for your couch and need just a tad guidance, then look no further.

The first thing is to establish your budget! Nothing is worse than falling in love with your dream home and you can’t afford it. Keep in mind that you never want to pay more than 30% of your take-home pay on utilities, internet, cable and housing. If you realize that you may be paying more than 30 percent, then consider finding a roommate to share the expenses.

Now that you know your budget, you must determine which neighborhoods best suit you. Always consider safety first, then convenience. How far is the local police department? Maybe even take a tour of the neighborhood at night. Think about what you need in terms of groceries, public transportation, gym, etc. and how far you are willing to travel. Another major thing to consider is how far work and/or school is from your new home. Will this new move be convenient or inconvenient?

Your home should be everything you dream of including utilities and amenities. This means deciding your must-haves, and which things you can live without. Think about how you feel about lugging your laundry to an off-site laundry facility or not having a designated parking space, and having to park on the street. Is it pet-friendly? Visitor parking? These are things you want to consider ahead of time so that it never becomes an issue for you or your guests.

Finances aren’t going to be the most fun aspect of your very first apartment, but they are a necessary one especially in today’s competitive rental market.

Once you have an area in mind of where you would like to live and your budget, it’s now time to begin the hunt! Location is everything. Take along a veteran like a parent, guardian or friend who has been through this before to make the process as easy as possible. Don’t forget your walking shoes and energy to read those lengthy rental agreements.

Don’t forget this is your potential home so treat your first visit like an inspection. Turn on faucets, flick lights and flush toilets. These may seem like simple, trivial things but this is your potential home and hard-earned money being put into it. Also, remember that you are making a first impression on a potential landlord so come looking presentable and ready with your questions.

Bring your ID, paycheck stub, and possibly your checkbook or any other form of acceptable payment for your application fee. Before you sign anything, read your lease and understand it. Bring along someone who will understand it if you think you may not.

Many first-time apartment renters tend to live with friends who they met in college. Sometimes, this situation works out great. However, hanging out with a good friend and living with him or her are two different things. What if you find out a couple of months down the road that your college friend might not be so great at keeping up with his or her finances?. If asking your friend how they will pay their half of the rent is uncomfortable, then that’s not the roommate for you.

If you have unanswered questions, ask your landlord to put the answers in writing before you sign the lease. Questions may include are you allowed to make any customizations, like hanging shelves or painting walls? What is the apartment maintenance process? Which utilities are you responsible for paying? What are the consequences of breaking your lease before the term is up?

Don’t forget to save for the little things. You should definitely still make time for girls’ night out or whatever you like to do. Enjoy your life to the fullest but never forget your priorities of your first apartment. Happy apartment hunting!