Apartment The average American has moved 11 times during their lifetime, with the average move costing between $2,000 to $4,300. Preparing way ahead of time may help reduce some of the stress that usually comes with moving.
Renting your next apartment can be a much easier process with some advance financial and logistical preparation. If you’re within six months of your lease ending or are considering moving after your lease is up, here are seven smart tips to help ease your apartment hunting.
1. Create a budget
Budgeting is essential for financial stability. Not only does it help you create a plan for managing your finances, but it also allows you to keep track of your income and expenses. However, budgeting for finding a new apartment offers several unique benefits.
First, you’ll get a better grasp of how much you can spend on rent, the move and other costs. Rent is often the most expensive bill you need to pay every single month, so keeping it relatively low so you can have more wiggle room to put more money away is important.
Second, creating a plan helps you understand how much money needs to go out and how much you can save. This includes making up for the costs of the move, months after you’ve arrived at your new address.
Third, by preparing ahead of time, you won’t have to use the funds in your emergency savings or go into debt in order to move.
2. Open an online savings account
After you’ve created your budget and know how much you’ll need, it’s time to start saving. If you’re currently saving (at a traditional bank) but don’t have an online savings account, consider opening one. Not only do many online savings accounts have higher interest rates, but they’re often free to open. Digital banks such as Ally Bank and Capital One make it easy to sign up online.
They also allow you to create sub-savings accounts that you can label specifically for a goal, such as moving or traveling. Set up automatic deposits from your checking to online savings can also make the process even easier.
3. Fully research where you want to live
One way to approach this is to think about what you like and don’t like about your current place. Use that as a criterion for your research. For instance, if you enjoy all the recreational areas close to your current apartment, then you’ll likely want to live near a park or gym.
Narrow down your options and then drive by or take public transportation and visit during different times of the day and on weekends to see what the area is like.
Also, ask yourself things such as:
- How far away is work?
- How close is public transportation?
- Is it a safe area?
- What is the walkability score?
- How are the schools?
If you want to find cheaper alternatives to the city, just do a quick search for nearby suburbs. These may not only give you less expensive options but also offer amenities such as parking.
4. Raise your credit score
Many landlords check your credit score if you apply for an apartment in their building. If you have a low credit score, it may indicate that you are not financially responsible. In the case of landlords, it may tell them that you’re a high risk of not paying rent on time.
Start raising your score now to improve your odds of getting accepted for your future apartment. You’ll need between three and six months to do this, so starting now is key.
Here are simple ways to raise your score:
- Pay off credit cards in full each month
- Never pay your bills late
- Keep your debt-to-income ratio less than 10 percent
- Don’t apply for any new credit cards
Don’t submit too many applications for apartments at once. A landlord credit check may count as a so-called hard inquiry. Having too many hard inquiries in a short timespan hurts your credit score.
5. Prepare your documents
Gathering your paperwork all at once can prove challenging. Start with the list below and get one document into a folder each week — both on your computer and in a physical one. For example, snap photos on your smartphone of your driver’s license, then print a copy and put it into your manilla folder.
When you’re ready to start applying for apartments, have a simple lease agreement filled out ahead of time, and print copies so you can hand them to the building manager or landlord. Many agreements ask for similar information anyway, so having this filled out can be a big time saver.
Here are some documents you’ll need:
- Photo ID
- Proof of income
- Letter of employment
- Tax returns
- Bank statements
- Vehicle information
- Contact information
- Pet information
6. Prepare your references
Landlords generally look for responsible renters who will pay rent on time and won’t damage their property. References could make the difference with an application, so be sure to include previous landlords, your employer or colleagues. Try to list people that can speak to your financial responsibility, accountability, and professionalism.
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7. Get renters insurance
Also known as tenant’s insurance, renters insurance keeps you protected in your new apartment. Most renters insurance plans include:
- Personal liability: If your personal items are damaged or stolen, you may be covered for either a replacement or the cash value of your property
- Liability: In the event that you accidentally damage someone else’s property or someone is injured in your apartment, it may cover both medical and legal expenses
- Other living expenses: If your apartment becomes uninhabitable or damaged, you may be covered for hotel bills and other related costs
What do you want from your next rental unit?
Creating a budget and figuring out how much you want to pay in your next rental, saving for moving costs and gathering important documents can help make apartment hunting less of a drag. Save an extra $50 each month and throw it into your emergency fund, pay off credit card debt and make moves to raise your credit score.