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Tips for First-Time Renters

The day you get the keys to your first apartment will be a day you’ll never forget. There’s nothing like the freedom of your very own place. That poster of your favorite band — want to hang it in the living room? Go right ahead! (Just be careful not to damage the walls.)

But heading out on your own is about more than decorations on the wall. It’s a pretty big step. And before you sign on the lease’s dotted line, there are a few things you should know. These tips will help you choose your place wisely.

Know your budget. First things first. Figure out what you can afford — you don’t want to stretch yourself too thin. Experts say your rent should never be more than 25-30% of your total income. If you stay within your limits, you’ll have the funds you need to get out and enjoy your new-found freedom.

Focus on the “needs”, not the “wants”. You’re sure to have a long list of things you’re looking for in an ideal apartment, but you’ll want to be realistic. Sure, brand new appliances and an in-unit washer/dryer would be nice, but are they must-haves? Focus on the things you truly can’t live without to keep the price in check. Don’t have a car? Make sure you’re near public transportation. Have a furry friend? Narrow your search to pet-friendly buildings. Focus on the needs for now. Someday you’ll be able to afford all the wants, too!

Consider the start-up costs. You’ve determined your monthly budget — great job! But don’t forget to factor in the costs of getting settled. Think application fees, security deposit, furniture, décor, etc. Moving in can be pricy at first, so if you can’t afford the start-up costs, you may want to put off moving out on your own until you can save up just a little bit more. It’ll be worth the wait!

Visit before you sign. Any landlord can make an apartment look appealing online, but seeing it in person is essential. It’s how you’ll get a feel for how much space you’d have, how clean they keep the building, the security measures in place, what type of tenants you can expect as neighbors and much more.

Read the Lease. That lease sure has a lot of words on it. But taking the time to read it all now could save you some headaches later on. Each landlord has different rules, and many of them aren’t very sympathetic if they’re broken, so this is a document you’ll actually want to read and keep as a reference.

Protect your stuff. You probably didn’t realize just how much stuff you owned until you had to move it. Clothes, books, bike, laptop — valuables you don’t want to think about living without. And odds are your landlord’s insurance won’t cover them in the event of a fire, theft or other accident. So consider getting your own renters insurance policy. It’s an affordable way to make sure your things will always be protected. Your American Family Insurance Agent can help you get the coverage you, and your stuff deserve.

Congratulations on your new-found independence! These steps should help you find a starter place your dreams can thrive in — even if it’s not exactly your dream place just yet.

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