A good general guideline is that housing should not exceed 32% of your gross salary. Your gross salary is the total amount of your paycheck before taxes and other deductions.
Look in the classified section of the local newspaper to find neighborhoods with apartments that fit your budget, plus meet your needs for safety, convenience, and amenities.
Get leads for apartments from friends, the Web, neighborhood bulletin boards, newspapers, apartment guides, and other publications.
The search is on
Set up appointments to view apartments that interest you.
Walkthrough each room. Note the positive and negative features. Look at closet space, kitchen appliances, bathrooms, and electrical outlets.
Check on safety and security features such as smoke detectors, door and window locks that are in good condition, and hallways and entryways that are well-lit.
Are there laundry facilities?
Fill out the application
Almost all landlords will ask you to fill out an application. Be ready to fill one out if you find an apartment you like: bring a folder containing documents you may need, such as a bank statement, most recent tax return, and personal references.
The application gives the landlord the information needed to do a credit check. The credit check shows them what your history has been as a money manager and if they can trust you to pay your rent on a steady basis.
If you don’t meet the income requirements or have credit problems, you may need your parents or guardians to sign a guarantor form. By signing this document, they take legal responsibility for the rent or property damage if you or your roommates fail to pay.
Before you sign a lease
If possible, give yourself a day to think before renting. In some cases, you can give the landlord a refundable deposit to hold the apartment until you’ve reached a decision.
Get the lease in writing! Never take an apartment on the basis of a handshake with the landlord.
Read and understand the lease. It may be written in “legalese,” so consider asking someone knowledgeable to help you read and understand the lease. If you don’t understand something, don’t sign!
As you review the lease, consider these items:
How long is the term of the lease?
When is the rent due?
What are the penalties for paying late?
How much is the security deposit?
Are utilities (electricity, water, etc.) included in the rent? Which ones?
Are pets allowed?
How much advance notice is required before moving?
What happens if you break the lease?
Can roommates co-sign the lease? This will ensure that they share responsibility along with you.
How are repairs handled? Do you need permission to make cosmetic changes such as painting or putting nails in the walls to hang pictures?
If repairs are needed now, ask the landlord or management company to put promised changes in writing
Rent a truck or hire movers. Arrange this with as much lead time as possible to ensure availability and the opportunity to comparison shop for a reasonable price.
Consider getting household contents insurance.
Contact the local utility companies to connect your electricity and water. Some utility companies may require a deposit.
Make appointments for cable, internet and telephone services. Remember, you’ll probably have to be there during installation.
Fill out a change of address form. You can pick up a form at the post office, or find it online!
Notify your bank, creditors, and others of your new address.