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If you’re a young person getting out on your own for the first time, the idea of renting your first apartment no doubt brings a lot of excitement.

Your own apartment means independence, privacy, and autonomy — but there are some things you should be aware of before you sign that lease and start paying rent.

We’ve compiled a brief guide to renting your first property and how to make the most of your newfound freedom.

It’s All About Location

One of the first things you’ll no doubt discover as you start looking for a place: not all locations are created equal. More affluent neighborhoods will be nearer to amenities and entertainment but are also likely to be quite a bit more expensive.

By contrast, more run-down areas might be cheaper to live in, but could involve longer commutes, fewer conveniences, or even dealing with crime.

In short, the neighborhood you choose to live in could have a big impact on your lifestyle and budget. You’ll have to try to find a balance between your preferences and what you’re capable of financially.

Things like proximity to work, amenities, public transportation, and other factors that contribute to your quality of life should all be taken into consideration.

The Deposit Dilemma

One of the biggest cases of “sticker shock” you ever experience may come with finding out how much you have to pay up front to secure an apartment.

Most landlords require a security deposit, usually equal to about one month’s rent, to cover possible damages once you move out.

Others may ask for first and last month’s rent, in order to safeguard against vacating without notification or paying your rent.

It’s growing ever more common for landlords to ask for both, meaning you could be shelling out three or four month’s rent up front — and that could add up to even more if you have a pet, as a lot of landlords require an additional deposit against pet damage.

Knowing and understanding these financial commitments up front is crucial to keeping your budget intact.

Image: Deposit Photos

Renters Insurance

Another possible requirement you may have to take into account is renter’s insurance. Much like homeowners insurance, renter’s insurance safeguards your possessions against disaster or theft, and also provides liability protection in case someone is hurt while in your rental unit.

Although many landlords are now requiring renter’s insurance as part of the lease agreement, it’s a wise investment even if it’s not strictly required. There are also instances that the landlord already has building insurance so all you have to do is to secure a renter’s insurance. 

Renter’s insurance can provide peace of mind for a very small fee — an average of a mere $19 per month, according to Ross Martin at insurance comparison site The Zebra. 

What’s Included in the Rent

It’s always smart to read the fine print before you sign your name to a document, and a lease agreement is no exception.

Some rental properties will include certain utilities and amenities with the rent, such as electricity, water, and heating — but that’s not universally true, and you don’t want to get hit with any unexpected fees after you’re already committed to the lease.

Make sure you understand the full scope of your financial obligations before you sign.

Furnished or Unfurnished

While the image of cinderblock coffee tables and second-hand couches might hold a certain charm (or dread), it’s not the only option for a first-time renter.

Some apartments come pre-furnished, saving you the trouble of shopping and moving furniture yourself — but may have fewer opportunities to customize your space and make it your own. Furnished apartments might also be more expensive.

Solo or Roommates?

To live alone or with others is possibly the biggest question on any renter’s mind, and the pros and cons are fairly self-evident.

Living alone means you can entirely control your own living space, enjoy total privacy, and generally do as you please — but it can be difficult to afford an apartment on a single income, and having roommates will spread out the financial burden, possibly allowing for larger and better living quarters.

But you will almost certainly have to compromise as you learn to live with others.

Annual Rent Increases

Tragically, no matter how affordable the rent, it isn’t likely to stay the same for long.

The days of rent-controlled apartments are largely behind, and landlords will often raise the rent on an annual basis to keep up with expenses and cost of living.

If the neighborhood is booming, that rent might go up by an exorbitant amount, potentially pricing you out of your living arrangement.

It’s best to try to maintain a transparent, healthy tenant-landlord relationship so you can be ready for any possible changes.

Renting an apartment for the first time can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be scary. The most important thing is to carefully read and review the lease agreement carefully before you sign, and bring up any questions or concerns as they arise.

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