Renter Tips: The Ins and Outs of Apt Hunting

AptsReady to move from Dad’s couch to one of your own? Consider the following tips as you look for an apartment.

? Set a budget
To stay in control of your finances, spend no more than 30 percent of your monthly take-home pay. Your landlord will probably ask for the first month’s rent and a security deposit upfront. Don’t forget to factor in utilities, cable, Internet, phone service and renter’s insurance. If utilities aren’t included in the rent, ask for an estimate. Also inquire about extra fees for parking or pets, for example. Consider doubling up with a roommate to share expenses.

? Do your homework
Narrow down the neighborhoods that appeal to you using your budget as a guide. Check websites like, and to compare rent. Prioritize amenities. If you have children, you may want on-premise laundry, a playground or pool. If you own a car, you’ll want convenient parking. Other perks to look for include gyms, tennis courts, dog walks and roof decks. When you visit a complex, ask residents for their opinions. They likely will give an honest assessment.

? Get it for less
It’s getting harder to find deals, but new developments often offer incentives such as one to two months rent-free for new tenants. Other landlords will reduce the monthly rent if you sign a 2- or 3-year lease. Ask about any manager’s specials and bring advertisements from nearby apartments if they offer lower rents. Some landlords may try to match the rent.

? Put it in writing
Landlords likely will run a criminal background check and a credit check before you sign a lease. So be prepared to provide identification and your Social Security number. Other apartment owners may want proof of employment like a letter from your employer or pay stubs.

Make sure to read the entire lease before signing. Are the terms correct? Is the rent accurate?

Understand the rules regarding apartment improvements, pets, subletting, security deposits, noise violations and common areas. Note any penalties for terminating the lease early or leaving the apartment in bad condition. Include any repairs that need to be done in the lease and document damage that is already present.

If you read something that doesn’t make sense, it’s better to ask than to assume.

Source: The Associated Press.