After what feels like spending eternity in apartment-hunting purgatory, you’ve finally found it: a beautiful, perfect first apartment. However, being released from searching now means you have a lot of work to do– after all, when you meet the right person, you lock it down!
You have to do the same with this apartment before someone else comes in and steals him– I mean her, I mean it– away. Because this is your first place, you may not know exactly how to go about sealing the deal. While it doesn’t require you to take a knee, it does entail a few important steps.
STEP 1: APPLY
Think of the application process as a marriage proposal: You can’t actually walk down the aisle until the other person says yes. The same goes for apartments. You have to fill out an application, which tells the property manager whether you’re a tenant he or she would like to work with. Once you get the OK, you can proceed to signing the lease.
Applications generally ask for financial information, such as pay stubs (to prove you have a steady income) and tax information. While you may be reluctant to release such sensitive information, the landlord merely wants it as assurance that you will pay your rent every month– that’s management 101.
What’s more, the application will have you list your current position, where you work and how long you’ve held that job. Additionally, you’ll have to provide your previous address and references, which may include past property managers. Of course, as this is your first apartment, you can skip this part of the application.
However, still include references. Your boss and co-workers are perfect because they can attest to both your responsibility and the fact that you do have a job. Finally, the landlord will get your social security number so he or she can check your credit report.
Sound like a lot of info? Consider bringing pay stubs or W2s (copies of each, not originals) with you when you apartment hunt. That way, you can fill out the application on the spot if you really love the place. However, most landlords will email you an application if you request it, and you can fill it out at home. Note that some apartment applications cost a small fee.
STEP 2: HOLD THE APARTMENT (OPTIONAL)
When you fill out an application, many landlords give you the option to hold the apartment. What this means is that you will pay a fee that will go toward your security deposit and the landlord will remove the listing– no one else can take the unit.
This is a good option if you meet certain conditions: You live in a competitive area in which apartments are snatched up quickly (I’m looking at you Houston), you are 100% sure you will sign this lease, and you have good credit.
Make sure you meet these conditions because if you pay the fee for holding the unit and don’t end up getting approved or don’t sign a lease, you forfeit that money. Weigh your options and situation before you go ahead with holding the unit.
STEP 3: FIND A COSIGNER (IF NECESSARY)
You found your first apartment and you’ve applied for it. Next you’ll hear back from the landlord. He or she will say one of several things: You got the apartment (bust open the sparkling wine!), someone else already took it (this can happen if you don’t hold the unit), or they can’t rent to you because of some problems with your application (which could mean your credit score is too low, you don’t have a secure job and so on).
If you were denied because of financial reasons, you have a few options. You can look for a less-expensive unit or find a cosigner, who is someone with a great credit score who agrees to pay rent if you can’t for whatever reason. No one likes the idea of being a cosigner, but close friends and family may be willing to help you out if they know you’re responsible.
Let the landlord know that you’d like to find a cosigner and see if that will make a difference in your application. If he or she says that would be OK, bring in your cosigner to fill out an application. That way, the property manager can see that this person’s finances are in order.
That brings us to signing the lease.
STEP 4: SIGNING THE LEASE
Signing the lease for your new apartment is like saying “I do.” All the messy parts are out of the way, and you can finally claim the space as yours– at least, yours for the next 12 months. The No. 1 thing to remember? Read everything!
Seriously. Just do it. If you have to, get a parent or experienced friend to sit down with you and figure out what all the jargon actually says.
The lease is a contract between you and your landlord or property manager, so it says what you can expect from the other party and what that person can expect from you. Follow the rules laid out in your lease, and you’ll have a smooth year.
Make sure you get a copy of the lease and any papers that go along with it (like pet agreements or lead paint debriefs) and keep them in a safe place. You’ll need to check the lease periodically to make sure you know all the rules, like when you have to send a notice of your plans to stay or leave.
Additionally, know who signs the lease. Typically, it will be you, your roommates, and the landlord. If you have a cosigner, that person will sign as well (hence the name co-signer).
STEP 5: PAY
Along with signing your lease, you have to pay a few fees, including a security deposit and some rent. Different landlords ask for different amounts. For instance, you might have to pay the first month’s rent or the first and last.
Sometimes, your credit score influences the amount the landlord picks– more deposit equals more security. Factor these amounts into your moving budget, as they can get pricey.
STEP 6: INSPECT THE APARTMENT
Oh? You thought you were done? Not quite. While you finally have your first apartment, you have a couple things left to do before you can move it and really make it feel like home. Apartment walkthroughs are one of the most important steps when locking down an apartment.
This is where you and your landlord walk around the space and make note of any damages or marks. That way, he or she will know what you’re responsible for when you move out. Anything you don’t clean or fix before you leave will come out of your security deposit.
Take pictures and make notes on your own in case your landlord missed something.
STEP 7: GET YOUR KEYS
Usually, a landlord will give you your keys at the conclusion of the inspection. He or she should tell you which key is for what. You’ll get apartment and mailbox keys, and some units have gate or exterior door and laundry room keys as well.
Keep track of which key does what. If memorizing the shape doesn’t help, color code your keys by painting them with nail polish.
STEP 8: ENJOY!
While putting a ring on it might seem like a long process, you’ll get through it with your first apartment, and that’s worth a little celebrating!