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How to Rent an Apartment For the First Time

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Guest Post

It’s finally that time. You’ve spent the two decades or so of your life (or more) cohabitating with your parents. Since then, you’ve got a job, started college or gotten a degree, and learned enough about yourself to realize one thing—it’s time to move out.

Moving out can provide the independence to spend your time exactly as you choose, as well as other freedoms. As a first-time apartment renter, you’re no longer responsible for other tasks and duties dictated by someone else, which can be tiring no matter how close or how much you might love your family. Living with parents can also be tough on your social life, as having your own space can make it much easier to entertain and have guests over.


But the decision to go out into the world and find your own apartment should never be taken lightly. We at McKinley Apartments recognize it’s one of the biggest steps any of us can take in life. It can be stressful, but the good news is that it doesn’t have to be. You can significantly reduce the amount of stress you experience during your first-ever apartment hunt by simply planning ahead and learning all there is to know.

In this guide, we’ll help walk you through the entire process of moving out, finding an apartment, and moving in as a first-time renter. From budgeting and managing costs to choosing the right place and getting roommates, you’ll have everything you need to get over the ‘renting first apartment jitters.’ 

So without further ado, why don’t we get started? It’s time to hunt down your first apartment and begin your independent life.


Setting Your Budget

First and foremost, we need to establish a budget. No one likes thinking or talking about money, but the more honest you are with yourself about your financial situation and where it needs to be, the less stressed you’ll be down the road.

In general, your safest bet when establishing a budget is to always assume everything will be more expensive than it should be. Because isn’t that always the way it goes? With that in mind, let’s start by looking at the recurring costs of renting an apartment and then move on to the one-time costs associated with a move.


Surprise! Renting an apartment requires you to, you know, pay rent. We can’t tell you how much you should be spending on rent—this will depend largely on your financial situation, where you live, and other factors. But in general it’s a good idea to keep your rent between one-quarter and one-third of your total monthly income.


That’s right, you’ll now be covering the cost of things like electricity, water, gas, and internet connection. While these costs aren’t as high as your rent, they can add up. Utility bills can reach anywhere from $50 to $200+ per month, not including wireless service.


Car Payments

This isn’t directly connected to your apartment, but it’s important to remember that any car payments you have won’t simply go away once you rent an apartment. Those costs have to be factored in.


Food and Groceries

You’ll need to eat at your new place, so be sure to factor in groceries when setting your budget and starting to save. The average person requires a grocery budget of around $200 per month.



This is a catch-all category that includes non-essentials, like going out to eat, seeing movies, attending events with friends. These things are an important, enjoyable part of life, so you don’t want to put yourself in a situation where you can’t afford them.


One-Time Costs

Moving to your first apartment also comes with its fair share of one-time costs, and these can add up. Here are some of the most common one-time costs associated with moving.


Your apartment deposit is due before move-in, and while you’ll get it back upon move-out assuming you haven’t caused major damage, it’s still a cost consideration in the short-term. Generally, your deposit can range from a few hundred dollars to the amount of your monthly rent or more.


Application Fee

Most apartments will require an application fee to ensure you’re serious about renting. This isn’t a major cost, usually between $25 to $50, but don’t forget it in your budgeting.


Pet Fee

Bringing a dog or cat along with you to the new place? Additional pet deposits are generally between $200 to $300. This is refundable as long as there is no pet-related damage at the end of your lease.


Moving Costs

Don’t forget about the actual costs of moving, including moving truck rental (usually less than $100 for a local move), the costs of boxes, and the cost of any time taken off work for the move.


Saving Up for Your Big Move

When it comes to saving for your move, do your best to be patient. Your first apartment is a big life change, and there’s no reason it needs to be rushed. If you wait until you have enough funds to cover all the costs of the move plus any unexpected costs that may arise, the entire experience will be much more fun and much less stressful when the time comes.


Apartment Hunting

Once you’ve saved up, it’s time for the fun to start. Now is the time to start apartment hunting. This might seem a little overwhelming, but take comfort in knowing that every person who now lives on their own was once in your exact same spot. If you have no idea what you’re doing, you’re not alone.

Fortunately, you don’t have to figure it out on your own. Here are some tips to get you started with the information you need.


What to Consider

There are a lot of things to think about when choosing an apartment, but it’s easy to get distracted by a great view or another killer amenity. Don’t forget to consider the quality of the construction, as well as online reviews of the complex and its management. You might think that a longer commute is worth a nice place, and that may be the case. But try to truly imagine what a longer commute will mean for your life and whether it’s worth the trouble.

Apartment complex amenities are another consideration. Some complexes come stocked with a pool, clubhouse, on-site gym, and other awesome features that can raise its overall value. 

Don’t forget safety. There are plenty of websites available online for a first-time renter that can help you determine whether a neighborhood is rated as relatively safe. You should also ask management what security measures they take to ensure the safety of residents.



Move-In Tips

Once you’ve picked an apartment and signed a lease, your next step is move-in. Don’t forget to budget for the costs we mentioned above, and be sure to ask for any moving help you need from friends and family well in advance.

Before move-in day, make sure you’ve set up utilities in your name as well as the internet. Nothing’s worse than moving in and being without a connection because the internet installer can’t make it out for another five days.

You should also take some time to meet your neighbors. Making a good first impression is vital. Why? Because if you do ever rub them the wrong way, with a party that runs a little longer or a movie that’s a bit too loud, they’re more likely to talk to you about it directly instead of going straight to management and getting you into trouble.

Getting your first apartment is a big commitment. But if you follow these tips and take your time during your search, you’re sure to land the perfect spot. If you’re feeling ready to make the move, get started on your apartment search today!



James Vuong

James Vuong

Associate Vice President of Marketing & Software Development

James Vuong is the Associate Vice President of Marketing & Software Development at McKinley. When he’s not tinkering with code and strategizing marketing initiatives, you can find him at the gym breaking PRs in Olympic weightlifting. Connect with him on LinkedIn

Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of, Inc, or its affiliates. Rental providers will not refuse to rent a rental unit to a person because the person will provide the rental payment, in whole or in part, through a voucher for rental housing assistance provided by the District or federal government.

How to Rent an Apartment For the First Time
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How to Rent an Apartment For the First Time
Getting ready to rent an apartment for the first time? Don't know where to start? Our guide covers everything you need to know!
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