You’re fresh out of college, and now real life really begins. After you’ve landed yourself a great job thanks to your diploma or degree, your next step is to find a place of your own. Adjusting to a new life outside of college can be daunting and overwhelming, and having to find your first apartment to rent just adds to that stress. But with the right plan in place, the process doesn’t have to be as difficult as you may think.
Here are some tips to renting your first post-grad apartment.
Start Saving Immediately
This might sound like a no-brainer, but it’s definitely worth mentioning. The moment you land a job out of school, one of the first things you should do is start taking a certain percentage from your paychecks and tuck these funds away into a savings account.
Most lenders will require that you provide first month’s rent, a security deposit, and other fees associated with your apartment application. You will also need a chunk of money to buy all the furniture needed to fill the place, which can be pretty expensive.
As a general rule of thumb, it’s wise to save up at least a few months’ worth of rent to ensure you’ve got enough of a financial cushion to cover all the necessary expenses that come with moving into a new apartment.
Determine Your Budget
Before you even embark on an apartment hunt, it’s crucial to establish a budget first. There is no sense in looking at apartments that fall way outside of what you can comfortably afford. The best way to narrow down your search and only look at apartments that you can easily cover the rent for is to come up with a realistic budget.
Ideally, you don’t want to spend more than 40% of your monthly income on rent. If you do, you’ll find it very hard to pay for leisurely expenses or even set aside a small amount of cash each month to put towards a 401(k) if all your money is going towards rent and other monthly bills.
Start Building Credit
Your landlord will want to make sure your credit score is healthy before agreeing to rent out an apartment to you. That’s why it’s highly likely that a credit check will be performed on you. But when you’ve been in school for so long, it can be hard to have established any credit if you never really worked or had a credit card or loan during all that time.
As such, it’s in your best interests to start establishing credit right away in order to give your landlord something solid and positive to go on. One of the best ways to start building credit is to take out a secured credit card, which is backed by a deposit you provide upfront. The card can be used just like any regular credit card.
That said, you should make sure that you make your payments on time every month and at the very least pay off the minimum amount required. It’s also wise not to spend any more than 30% of your credit limit, as maxing out your card won’t look good to lenders or credit bureaus.
Once you’ve built up enough credit, you can then apply for a conventional credit card that does not require a cash deposit and comes with some perks too. As always, make sure your payments are made on time and your spending is capped at 30% of your credit limit.
Prove Your Income
Of course, the only way you’re going to get an apartment is if you have a job to support the rent payments (unless Mom and Dad are covering the rent for you in their name). It’s possible that you may be approved for an apartment rental even without credit if you can prove that your income is substantial enough to more than cover your rent. Just make sure that the rent amount is no more than 40% of your income, as stated earlier.
Offer to Pay a Few Months’ Rent Upfront
A security deposit and first month’s rent will likely be required, but you can sweeten the deal for your landlord by offering to pay a few months’ worth of rent. That way your landlord is at a reduced risk of being empty-handed if you skip out on rent for a couple of months (though you should ensure that you never miss a rent payment). You should be able to get that money back at the end of the lease; just make sure that the arrangement is specified in a written contract.
Provide Reference Letters
Your landlord will probably request reference letters anyway – or at least phone numbers of people who can vouch for you – but the more letters you can accumulate and submit, the better. These can be from people like a former or current employer, a professor, or anyone else who can explain how responsible you are.
Have Your Documents Ready to Go
Show your prospective landlord that you’re serious about renting and go in prepared with all the necessary documents ready for your landlord to review. This package should include things such as your paystubs, employment letter, credit report, application, and your criteria. Your landlord will be impressed with your proactive approach.
Ask to Start Off Month-to-Month
Rather than being dedicated to a potential deadbeat tenant, your landlord might be more willing to rent out an apartment to you if there is less commitment. If you go month-to-month, your landlord can choose not to renew your lease if you happen not to pay. This will also give you a chance to show the landlord that you’re able and responsible enough to make good on your rent payments.
Get a Co-Signer
If all else fails, get someone with a solid credit history to co-sign for you, such as your parents or a close relative. Just make sure that this person understands the responsibility they have to cover your rent payments should you fail to make them yourself.
Enlist the Help of a Real Estate Professional
Agents aren’t just in the business of helping people buy or sell homes; they also help renters and landlords as well. As a prospective renter, you typically won’t have to worry about compensating your real estate agent, as they’ll usually be paid by the landlord through the listing agency.
As such, you’re basically getting these services for free! A real estate agent will help zero in on places that match all your criteria, including rent amount and location, to help find you the perfect place to call home. Why go it alone when you can have experienced and professional service helping you every step of the way?
The Bottom Line
Finding your very first apartment following college graduation can be extremely exciting, but it can be challenging at the same time. By following these tips, you’ll be armed with the right tools to get your foot in the door of your search for the perfect apartment.