Whether you’re a recent graduate or are moving out of your parents’ house, getting your first apartment is an exciting and huge milestone. But beginning your first apartment search can feel overwhelming. Where do you even start? What steps do you need to take before renting an apartment?

To help, we’ve compiled a list of tips for renting your first apartment.

First Apartment Tips

  1. Identify Your Must-Haves
  2. Make a Budget
  3. Find Out What’s Included
  4. Make a First Apartment Checklist
  5. Thoroughly Read Your Lease
  6. Plan Your Move

1.    Identify Your Must-Haves

It’s important to prioritize what you need (and what you want) before you begin searching for your first apartment. This includes not only apartment unit amenities, like a washer and dryer or an updated kitchen, but also community and neighborhood amenities.

For example, will you be using public transportation or driving to work or school? If you are using public transportation, you’ll want to be close to bus stops or metro stations. If you are driving, you’ll want to make sure you have on-site parking and easy access to highways.

Also, what kind of apartment building do you see yourself in? Are you more comfortable living in a high-rise with controlled access and on-site management, or do you prefer the more residential, pet-friendly garden-style apartments?

Here are some factors to consider:

  • Location
  • Amenities
  • Size
  • Parking
  • Access to public transportation
  • On-site management
  • 24-hour emergency maintenance
  • Pet-friendly
  • Lease length

Keep in mind that your first apartment might not check all of the boxes on your list, but it’s still a constructive exercise to itemize and rank the factors that are most important to you when getting your first apartment.

2.    Make a Budget

Establishing your budget, and, specifically, knowing how much of your income should go towards rent, will help narrow down your apartment options and guide your research. You don’t want to get in over your head as a first-time renter and get something you can’t afford, or that can lead to damaged credit in the future.

Ideally, you want to put 30% of your gross income towards rent, that way you’ll have enough left over for monthly expenses including rent, food, utilities, transportation, and entertainment, as well as putting money aside for savings and retirement.

Some unexpected expenses to take into account when moving into your first apartment include:

  • Moving expenses such as truck rental and supplies
  • First month’s rent
  • Utility transfer or set up fees
  • Application fees
  • Security or pet deposit
  • New furniture or other items you need (Read our first apartment checklist post to get some ideas).

If you can’t find something within your budget, consider finding a roommate or two to split the rent with.

3.    Find Out What’s Included

A big part of knowing your budget is understanding what’s included with your apartment. For example, you can save money on going to the gym if your new apartment has an on-site fitness center or swimming pool. An in-unit washer and dryer can save you money compared to a communal or offsite laundry option. For a first-time renter, renting a furnished apartment might be more affordable than buying all new furniture.

Some typical amenities included in an apartment are:

  • Parking
  • Laundry (either in-unit or communal)
  • Cable
  • Internet or WiFi
  • Fitness center
  • Pool
  • Community room or resident lounge
  • Onsite management
  • 24-hour emergency maintenance
  • Recycling program
  • Bike share
  • Grilling stations

4.    Make a First Apartment Checklist

Having a first apartment checklist can help you stay organized as you take inventory of what you already have and note what new apartment essentials you still need.

Essentials you might need for your first apartment:

  • Living Room – Seating, tables, entertainment, lamps, window treatments, decor
  • Bedroom – Bed, bedding, storage options, hamper and hangers.
  • Kitchen – Cooking and baking tools, dining and serving items, small appliances, food storage and organization items.
  • Bathroom – Linens, storage, and cleaning items.
  • Laundry – Detergent, softener or dryer sheets, laundry basket, steamer or iron and ironing board.
  • Cleaning supplies – Vacuum, broom, dustpan, mop, bucket, sponges, and cleaning rags, all-purpose cleaner, dusting spray, bathtub/shower cleaner, toilet bowl cleaner, bleach, disinfectant spray, air freshener.
  • Miscellaneous – Toolkit, flashlight, batteries, scissors, lightbulbs, extension cords, damage free hooks, tape, first aid kit.

This post outlines everything you need for your first apartment.

5.    Thoroughly Read Your Lease

Reading and understanding your lease and what you’re agreeing to by signing it is an important part of renting your first apartment.

Read the contract entirely, make notes of any concerns, and don’t hesitate to talk with the property manager about your questions. Request a copy of your lease to keep for your records, so you always have it to refer back to.

Things to look for in your apartment lease:

Check out our post on six things to look for in a rental agreement before you sign a lease and get a move-in date.

6.    Plan Your Move

With a lease in hand and a move-in date set, it’s time to start preparing for your move. Luckily, since this is your first apartment, you might not have that much to move!

Here are some moving tips for renting your first apartment:

  • Schedule movers or rent a moving truck.
  • Recruit friends and family to help.
  • Sort and purge your belongings.
  • Purchase moving supplies, including boxes, bubble wrap, packing tape, markers and box cutters.
  • Pack your belongings.
  • Update your address.
  • Unpack and decorate.

This post has additional tips on how to move into a new apartment on a budget.

Be sure to do a walk-through of your new apartment upon move-in and make note of any issues that still need to be resolved, things like doors that open and close completely, lights that turn on and off, working faucets, blinds that move smoothly and aren’t broken. Here’s an apartment walkthrough checklist to remind you of what to look for when moving into your first apartment.

Find Your First Apartment with Southern Management

With these first apartment tips in hand, you’ll be ready to take on one of the biggest and most exciting rites of adulthood: renting your first apartment. As you begin your apartment search, don’t underestimate the importance of finding a trustworthy residential property manager. At Southern Management, customer care is our number one priority.

Browse through our 75 apartment communities and more than 25,000 apartment homes, and reach out to us for more tips and advice on getting your first apartment.

If you’re on the hunt for your first apartment, we’d love to tell you about the Southern Management difference and answer all of your questions about availability, amenities, pricing, lease options, and more.