Tips for First-Time Renters

Oct 21, 2013

Congratulations! You’re ready to shop for your first apartment.

While it’s exciting to think about the freedom this brings, it’s also important to remember your responsibilities, advises Niccole Schreck, the associate marketing manager at

  • Budget wisely—In a nationwide survey, 61% of renters said they spend more money than they make each month. Also, 56% of surveyed renters said that rent payments are their biggest required monthly expenses. advises that your rent should not exceed 30% of your income, and to protect your credit score pay on time. Explains Schreck: “Having good credit is important because some landlords will perform a credit check.”
  • List your priorities—It’s important to make a list of your priorities, ranked by what you would be willing to give up and what you’re not. In previous years where there was a bigger rental supply, renters may have been able to get a great deal or concessions, but those deals are very few and far between today. “Start the search online and look in different neighborhoods to see what’s available in a specific price range in terms of space and amenities and take it from there,” says Schreck.
  • Read and understand your lease—You need to understand your financial obligations for situations such as needing to move out early or the rules around customizing your apartment. Likewise, should issues arise you’ll have the facts and can seek resolution in a productive and professional manner.
  • Do a walkthrough—The goal is to identify all potential issues before signing the lease so that you can address these issues with the landlord. Says Schreck: “Best case scenario, the landlord is amenable to addressing your concerns and you are able to get modifications and improvements written into your lease agreement. Worst case, you discover that the landlord won’t resolve your concerns and you have the option to walk away from an apartment.”
  • Get renters insurance—A recent survey found that 60% of renters do not have an insurance policy even though, on average, it costs just $15.75 per month according to the National Association of Insurance Companies. “Even if you don’t think your personal belongings are worth enough money to warrant the purchase of renters insurance, it’s something to seriously consider. If some unforeseen disaster befalls you, like an apartment fire or roof collapse, you’ll be glad you have it,” Schreck advises. Just make sure you don’t over-insure! “Estimate the cost of replacing your personal property if it were damaged or stolen, and think about what you could financially withstand if something unexpected happened,” she adds.