Mark Roemer image of a small apartment

How to Get an Apartment for the First Time

I, Mark Roemer, understand how difficult it can be to get a new apartment. A bunch of questions flood your mind. Everything from the neighborhood to amenities, down payment, expenses, and paperwork start plaguing you. However, fret not because you will learn everything to help you prepare for buying your new apartment.

How to begin your journey toward getting a new apartment?

Here is a checklist of everything you need to consider while getting a new apartment:

1. Set a budget – As a rule of thumb, you should never spend more than 30% of your income on rent/loan payments. Create a budget around your income after you’ve calculated the essential costs, such as food, water, and anything other than rent.

2. Pick a neighborhood – Picking the right neighborhood depends on your needs. List your preferences, such as picking a place close to work, in the middle of a quiet and safe neighborhood, or one that has nice restaurants nearby.

3. Choose a roommate if you need one – Decide early on if you can’t afford the rent and need a roommate. Here are a few questions you should get clarified before moving in with someone:

  • Does your roommate agree with guests coming over?
  • Are they OK with pets?
  • Does your roommate like to maintain a clean and healthy living environment?
  • Who buys furniture and who gets to keep it when you move out?

4. Pick a floor – Ground floors are relatively cheaper, while the middle floors have a more moderate temperature. The top floors are usually the hottest, so it’s best to avoid them. It’s best if you can visit the apartment and have a look around before picking one as your residence.

5. See if they have parking space – If you have a car, check if your apartment has a dedicated parking space. It can be pretty difficult to park your car a few blocks away and walk back to your apartment. If you don’t own a car, check if there are other public transport options nearby.

6. Check the amenities – Check for amenities, such as a swimming pool, a dedicated gym, a nice bathroom, a well-sized bedroom, or a properly equipped kitchen. Make a list of priorities and pick an apartment accordingly.

7. Pick the right time to hunt for apartments – Apartments are less competitive at certain times of the year. For instance, prices are usually lower during the winter season. So, if you have some flexibility regarding this, do some research beforehand and pick a time to move in when the rent is at its lowest.

8. Make a list of questions to ask during the tour – Don’t be shy and ask as many questions as you want. If possible, take someone with apartment hunting experience with you. Here are a few questions to help you out:

  • Ask about the rent, application fees, security deposit, pet rules, etc.
  • Do you have to pay for utilities such as electricity and gas or is it covered in the rent?
  • Which amenities are available to you?

9. Moving budget – In addition to the security deposit, rent, and application fee, there is the cost of moving belongings from your old residence to the new apartment. Here is a list of miscellaneous fees that you need to worry about other than the necessities:

  • Renting storage containers
  • Cost of hiring movers and renters’ insurance policy
  • New furniture and pet expenses

10. Talk it over with your partner – Agree to something only if you both agree to it. Biased opinion can lead to trouble if you face difficulties with said item a few months down the line. For instance, your significant other might rebuke you if you decided to pay for a swimming pool that you never use.

11. Keep the necessary paperwork at the ready – Landlords can ask for different paperwork, so it’s best to keep everything with you when you’re out apartment hunting. Here is a list of documents most landlords ask to see:

  • Credit score
  • Rental history
  • Proof of income (bank statements, tax returns, etc.)
  • Apartment application
  • Identification documents (social security card, driver’s license, passport, etc.)
  • References

12. Plan your move – Moving can be stressful, so it’s better to plan out everything beforehand to ensure a hassle-free transition. Here are a few things you need to keep in mind:

  • Pick the date you’re planning to move. See if it’s possible to move in earlier if the previous tenants decide to move out sooner than expected.
  • Ask your friends and family to help you with the move.
  • Get moving boxes for cheap from Craigslist and the Facebook Marketplace. Consider your friends for spare moving boxes, as almost everyone has some stashed in their household.
  • Using OR codes to mark your boxes will save you a lot of time and quicken the packing and unpacking process.
  • Arrange utilities such as the internet and cable beforehand so that you have a functional working environment as soon as you move in.

13. Update the mailing address – Don’t forget to change your mailing address. And if you’re unsure about the current address and on the move, remember to forward the mail to your family or friend’s address.

14. Clean the apartment before moving – Moving is a time-consuming process, so it’s best to clean your apartment so that you can live there without issues. Hire a cleaning company to deep clean the apartment before you move in.

You can even have a talk with the landlord and arrange for cleaning services, albeit for a bit cheaper.

15. Be careful of rental scams – Rental scams victimize over 5.2 million renters every year. Ask several questions, and always take someone experienced with you during apartment hunting. Here is a list of questions:

  • Rent amount
  • Security deposit
  • Utility cost and how you pay it
  • Pet policy and pet deposit
  • Amenities
  • Renters Insurance
  • Application process and fee
  • Income requirements and rant raise in the future
  • Lease length
  • How to put in maintenance requests
  • Need for a cosigner


I, Mark Roemer, am familiar with the troubles associated with the move to a new apartment. Do not settle for the first apartment you stumble upon. Look through at least 3-6 options before settling on one. And if you’re new to the scene, ask for help or hire a professional so that you don’t get swindled out of your money.