Whether you’re a student away from your hometown, or you’re just stepping out on your own, renting your first apartment is an exciting step—and often a confusing one. For personal, one-on-one help, call or email your Houston apartment locator, Houston Apartment Insiders. We’re here to guide your search, and to answer questions about apartments in general, and Houston-specific issues. The personal-finance magazine Kiplinger has tips on their web site, including the article, “Seven Sins of First-Time Renters.” While we don’t think any of these are reasons to feel guilty, they are great guidelines for getting your information together before you rent. Let’s look at each “sin” and add our tips for working around it:
1. Underestimating costs
Figuring out how much rent you can afford is important, but that’s only the beginning. To land your first apartment, you’ll probably need to pay an application fee and a security deposit on top of your first month’s rent. When comparing monthly rent prices from apartment to apartment, keep in mind that some will include utilities, parking, and storage spaces in the price of the rent, and some won’t. Make sure you know what you’re getting, and plan for all of your monthly expenses. Kiplinger’s wonderful calculator can help you figure everything in.
2. Mixing up wants with needs
When you’re getting your first place, money is likely to be tight. You may not be able to afford your dream home, but you can probably afford to get all of your genuine needs met. Review our post, “Questions to Ask Yourself about Your Houston Apartment Search” to help you get organized.
3. Not seeing the space before you sign the lease
Kiplinger’s points out that you must see (and measure) the space to be sure your furniture will fit through the door, and you must make sure everything is in working order before you sign a lease. It’s equally important to see, hear, smell, and feel the space before you can be sure you’ll feel at home there. Houston Apartment Insiders can help you set up showings. It’s important to see several apartments, and choose the one that feels best to you.
4. Not reading the lease
Your lease may be the first major legal contract you’ve ever signed. Read it, understand it, and if anything in it doesn’t look fair to you, be willing to walk away. Our post here will walk you through major issues to think about while reading over your lease.
5. Not considering utilities
As we said above, utilities costs can make a big difference in your monthly expenses. In most cases, you’ll be responsible for your own phone bill, be it mobile or landline, and cable TV if you want it. Some apartments include these utilities in the cost of your rent: gas, electricity, water, sewer, trash, and internet. Most include only a few of these, and some leave you responsible for all utilities. Find out which ones you’ll pay for before you sign the lease, and don’t forget to call the utility companies and set up service.
6. Not getting renter’s insurance
Your landlord is responsible for insuring and maintaining the building, itself, but not your possessions inside. In the case of any disaster, such as a flood, fire, or burglary, you could lose everything unless you’ve got your own insurance. Our post here will help you understand how renter’s insurance works.
7. Not planning for everything you’ll need to fill your apartment
When moving to your first apartment, you may not have the basics you need to make a home, such as furniture, dishes, flatware, cookware, bedding, and towels. Our furniture post has Houston-specific tips for finding great, inexpensive furniture, and you may also enjoy our beginner’s guide to houseplants. Be sure to factor the other basics into your budget, too.
Do you have more questions? Would you like expert help finding your first apartment? Houston Apartment Insiders is here for you. Call us at 713-581-1055 (866-918-4022 toll free) or contact us online.
Posted by Melanie Belasco Levy on 12/13/10