Renting for the first time can be very exciting, but there are a lot of mistakes you can make that will turn a happy time into a time of stress and worry. MSN.com saves you from some of the worst mistakes first time renters make.
The first mistake many renters make is underestimating the cost. Your first step is to figure out how much you can afford to spend a month (no more than a third of your income is a good rule of thumb). But don't forget costs beyond rent, especially the ones that will pop up when you first move in. These include your apartment application fee, your security deposit, and your first month's rent, plus deposits to turn on electricity and gas, any fees to get cable and phone on, as well as pet deposit(s). Don't forget that you also will need stuff like shower curtains and towels for your space and you could be out as much as $4,000 in your first month at your new apartment! After you've calculated those start-up costs, don't forget to include how much the bills will cost you on a monthly basis.
When looking for a new apartment, make a list of what you would like in your new pad categorized by needs vs. wants. This will keep you from making a bad split decision like falling in love with an apartment that isn't near transit you need for your work. Don't forget, even if you don't find everything you want, you can upgrade when your lease is up.
Another mistake first time renters make is not seeing the unit they are going to rent before signing the lease. It's best to see the actual apartment you will be renting, not a model, which is made up to look as great as it possibly can. Plus no one lives in a model. When you tour the actual apartment, don't be afraid to test out the faucets, the toilet and all the appliances, (including the a/c and heat), if the electricity is on. Bring a measuring tape so you won't get stuck with an apartment your furniture doesn't fit in. Notice if it's especially noisy or if there are strange smells you can't live with. Finally, make sure your cell phone gets reception. Make note of any damage and ask, in writing, for the landlord to fix it before move-in. Then when you do move-in, write down any problems, make a copy, and give it to your landlord.
Before you sign the lease, go through it carefully and read every word. Feel free to take it home with you so you can really concentrate. Make a note of anything you don't understand and get clarification before signing. Place close attention to details like the policies for pets, what utilities the landlord pays for, and how you either renew or cancel your lease at the end of the term.
Don't forget to find out who turns the utilities on, you or the landlord. If it's you, get the contact information from the landlord a week before moving in and call and get utilities like gas, electric, phone, and even internet and cable set up. The last thing you want to do is move into a dark, unheated apartment or miss your favorite television show because there's no power or cable!
Renters often assume that they are covered by their landlord's insurance policy in the case of a disaster like flood or fire or a crime like theft. This is almost always not true. It is best to get renter's insurance so if an emergency happens, your belongings will be replaced.
Finally, don't forget the basics. There's furniture, of course, but what about the shower curtain, trash can and trash bags, lamps, plates, silverware, glasses, bookshelves, cleaning supplies, sponges, towels, bathroom rug, flashlight, vacuum, broom, and dustpan? Also, it's convenient to have a full-length mirror and a small toolbox so you can hang pictures and put together those IKEA purchases. If you're living with roommates, a great idea is for different people to buy different items (aka, I'll buy the couch, you buy the dining room table.) This is much better than chipping in for a single item because when you part ways, you can take the couch and your roommate can take the dining room table rather than splitting hairs over who owns what.