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A Guide to Shopping for Your First Apartment

Shopping for your first apartment can be both exciting and stressful. While finding the perfect place to call home is a thrill, the sheer number of apartments on the market, along with the impact such a decision can have on your life, can make the apartment shopping process overwhelming.

This step-by-step guide will simplify your search. Follow this outline and you’ll be worrying more about how you should decorate your living room and throw the perfect housewarming party, than whether or not you’ve made the right decision and thought everything through.
  1. Put Together a Monthly Budget.
Establishing a monthly budget is your first step when searching for a new apartment. It should immediately clear up some of the fog around this milestone of a decision, and it can reduce anxiety and stress in a number of other areas of your life as well. On the hunt for the perfect apartment, the last thing you want is to get stuck with an apartment you can’t afford. So here’s the rule. Your housing budget—including your utility, internet and cable bills—should not exceed 30% of your take home pay. If finding an apartment in your budget is difficult, you can always find a roommate and split the costs.  

2. Separate Your Wants From Your Needs
After coming up with an idea of what you can spend, make a list of amenities that your apartment absolutely must have in order for you to be happy with your new space.  Separate these items from the features that are more wants than needs. Do you need a garage or will a parking space suffice? If you need an in-unit washer and dryer, be sure to write that down. How do you feel about a dishwasher or a fitness center and pool? This list, combined with your budget, will help you narrow down your search and make your list of apartments to tour more manageable.     

3. Pick your Neighborhood
Next, you’ll want to sort through what neighborhoods are the best fit for you. What conveniences would you like nearby: your office, the gym, the grocery store, public transportation, entertainment? For some, neighborhood is all about style. Balance your ideal lifestyle with your commute times and your budget to zero in on a few different locations that would work well for you. 


4. Start Your Search
Now that you have a picture of what your ideal apartment looks like, identify a few in your budget and desired neighborhood that include all of the amenities that you need. Contact these properties to set up a tour. Lloyd Companies employs leasing agents that can help you at this stage of the process. Simply call 334-RENT to speak with an agent who will be your tour guide through apartments or townhomes that might be a good fit for you.  Access thousands of apartments with this one easy phone number.


5. Tour Apartments
First things first, show up to your tour on time and looking presentable. You’re making a first impression on your potential landlord.  They need to know that they can depend on you to take care of their property and pay your rent.

Treat each apartment tour like an inspection. Be detailed as you walk through by investigating everything from water pressure to closet size, and feel free to take notes. Make sure you know the ins and outs of every space you tour so that you can easily compare them after you’ve seen them all.

6. Begin the Application Process
After you’ve made your decision, contact the property to let them know that you’d like to begin the application process. Be prepared to submit a small application fee, your photo ID, and past paystubs along with an application form. The application process might differ from property to property, but most will need this information at a minimum. Some may perform a more thorough background and credit check as well.


7. Read and Understand Your Lease Before Signing
After you’re approved, you’ll more than likely be tempted to quickly sign on the dotted line so that you can move in to your new place.  Be sure to read through the entire lease so that you understand all of its terms and conditions. If you have any questions about your responsibilities as a renter now is the time to ask. Can you customize your apartment by painting walls or hanging shelves? Are pets allowed, and if so, are there any breed restrictions? Must you pay a larger deposit or pet rent? How many roommates can you have? Do they have to sign a lease? What utilities are your responsibility? Asking these types of questions will ensure that you and your landlord are on the same page, but they'll also make you look like a responsible and trustworthy resident. 


8. Make Note of Any Existing Damages
As you move in, be sure to take time-stamped photos of any pre-existing damages to your apartment. You don’t want to be held responsible for anything that is not a result of your stay in the space. Submitting your notes to your property manager as soon as possible after your move in will ensure that you’re not held liable and that your security deposit is returned to you at the conclusion of your lease.

9. Have Fun
Enjoy your apartment shopping experience. While the process can stressful and overwhelming, you will never again have the opportunity to hunt for your very own first place. Follow these steps, have fun, and start planning your first get together with friends.