Getting your first student apartment signifies the commencement of adulthood. It gives you a sense of self-sufficiency and independence. However, before you start picking out furniture and changing your mailing address, make sure you understand how to rent an apartment.

A lot goes into finding that “perfect” apartment, and in some cases, it can get overwhelming. The benefits of finding a happy abode outweigh the work it takes to get there.

To help with your apartment search, check out these 8 tips in our student guide to renting an apartment:

1. Set Your Rental Standards

Setting standards and expectations should be done before you begin your search for an apartment rental. Finding your dream apartment can be difficult when you don’t have a clear picture of what you’re looking for. Understanding your needs and wants will make the search for your first apartment significantly easier. To set a standard, list every aspect of your lifestyle that you would like your new apartment to meet.

Some factors you should consider for your student rentals include how long your new commute be and how close you need to be to public transportation routes.

Furthermore, how close is the apartment to campus? What is the crime rate? What amenities are nearby? (Gyms, libraries, community pools and parks). Does the apartment allow pets, and are there restrictions in terms of the breed or species? If you have a car, will you have access to a safe parking space?

Finally, what square footage or how many bedrooms are you looking for? After answering these questions, confidently begin your search in a neighbourhood that meets your criteria.

2. Determine Your Rental Budget

Creating and sticking to a budget can be challenging when renting your first student apartment. The budget must account for both move-in and monthly living expenses. The initial move-in costs may include background check fees, application fees, utility set-up fees, and a security deposit.

When creating your budget, committing only 30% of your monthly income for housing is recommended. This may be challenging because it limits the number of apartments one can comfortably afford, but paying a higher percentage will lead to financial distress.

You may find that living alone isn’t affordable for you, but it shouldn’t be a cause for concern. Recruiting a roommate will cut your living expenses by half or more depending on how many roommates you need.

3. Finding a Roommate

When looking for a roommate to share your student apartment, don’t be in a rush. Considering you’ll be living with them long term, it’s important to find someone you are compatible with. You don’t want to spend a whole year with someone you can’t stand.

To increase your chances of finding a compatible roommate, search within your social media network or utilize roommate finding services. Make sure they can afford their half of the bills. Ask about their lifestyle (job, recreation, pets, smoking, partying). Discuss hygiene and cleaning. Tell them about yourself and what you expect. Finally, draw up a roommate contract. This may seem intensive, but it’s necessary.

4. Go on Apartment Tours

Apartment tours allow prospective renters to thoroughly explore an apartment they are interested in. You can use a tour to check for necessary repairs, review the layout, and take measurements. Such an exercise determines whether the space will work for you before proceeding with the renting process.

Apartment tours are typically done in person, but renting sight-unseen is also an option. Thanks to virtual reality, a potential renter can take a 3D-tour and navigate through as they would in person. Regardless of the apartment tour method, do due diligence to ensure the unit is as described.

5. Submit Your Application

When you find an apartment that piques your interest and meets your criteria, grab an application form to begin the process of renting it. To increase your chances of getting the apartment, be 100% honest in your answers. Fill out the application completely.

Landlords and property managers use rental applications to weed out tenants who don’t fit their criteria. In this quest, they look at a tenant’s rental or income history.

6. Renting Without Credit or With Bad Credit

When renting, a great credit score paired with a solid credit history can amplify a rental application. The problem with this approach is that as a first-time renter, you probably won’t have an established rental history or a high credit score.

Renting on bad or no credit demands proof that you can afford the rent and can pay on time. Since not every renter has great credit, some landlords are willing to make exceptions based on individual circumstances.

7. Read the Apartment Lease Carefully

Never sign a lease agreement you haven’t read thoroughly. It is a legally binding contract. If you don’t read through before signing, you may face legal consequences for not complying, even if you may not be aware. Read the agreement and record your questions or concerns. Make amendments prior to signing the lease agreement.

8. Consider a Renters Insurance Policy

Renters insurance is especially useful for first-time renters. It protects a renter from liability in case an injury happens in the apartment. It also covers the costs of replacing stolen or lost items.

Renters insurance is a safety net for the unexpected. However, it does not cover natural disasters like floods or earthquakes.

Renting your first apartment can be an exciting and fulfilling experience, but only if you approach it right. Perfecting your apartment search strategy will take a lot of work, but it’s the first step towards finding your dream apartment.