buying your first home - what you should know

3 Tips For Finding Your First Ever Apartment

Moving into your first apartment is very exciting, but it's also a huge responsibility. Your name will be on a legal lease document and you will need to make sure you make timely payments each month for rent and utilities. You also must decide whether or not you'll have a roommate, which part of town you'll live in, and which amenities are must-haves. Here are a few tips for making this process easier:

Make an Honest Evaluation of Your Finances

When finally moving out of your parent's home or your dorm room, it's common to get so excited about the prospect of a sweet new apartment that you end up in one that is more expensive than you can actually afford. Before you even start looking at apartments, sit down and look over your finances.

Will you be paying rent from a full-time job, multiple part-time jobs, or will your parents be helping out? Make a list of all sources of income as well as all expenses per month. Factor in spending money, groceries, gas money, and a bit for savings and determine how much is left for rent each month. Aim to find an apartment that's a little less expensive than your budget just to be on the safe side.

Determine Your Must-Haves

Everyone has things they need in an apartment, as well as things that would be nice to have but aren't necessary. For example, you may need an apartment with secure access and plenty of parking, and prefer an apartment with a swimming pool and in-unit washer and dryer. Write down your must-haves as well as a few perks that you'd love to find but are willing to sacrifice if an apartment matches your actual requirements and budget. This approach can help narrow things down and eliminate options when you have too many choices.

Research Apartments in Your City

Now that you know what you can afford and which features you really need, begin your research. Craigslist and websites like Padmapper, which consolidate apartment listings from multiple sources onto a map, local neighborhood apps like Nextdoor, and word of mouth are all great ways to find out about new apartments.

The goal of your research should be to have a solid grasp of what apartments typically cost in the areas of town you're interested in, what the typical requirements are (application fee, credit check, deposit, first and last month's rent are common in most cities), and whether you will be able to live alone or need to live with roommates.

Finding that perfect first apartment can be challenging, but by following these tips in mind as you look at apartments for rent will help you find one that works best for you financially and personally.