You think you've found THE perfect first apartment on the apps!

But what do they mean by a “cozy, rustic, garden-level” studio?

Spoiler alert: It’s a tiny, old, basement apartment. 

Apartment hunting can be overwhelming, even for those who’ve done it before. But it’s necessary if you ever want to move out from under your parents’ roof. 

The silver lining: these tips will prepare you to navigate the real estate jungle and find your first place.

Boy lost in jungle with text

Step 1: Budgeting

Start with figuring out your rental budget. One popular rule-of-thumb is to spend no more than one-third of your income on rent. There also are many one-time costs that can add up:

  • Application fees to cover the cost of screening the tenant, like background checks

  • Broker fees paid to the realtor for showing the apartment

  • Moving costs for supplies (boxes, tape, bubble wrap), movers, and a vehicle

You'll also have to factor in monthly utilities, such as heat, hot water, cable, and internet. Some may be included in the rent, but be sure to double check.

A Spongebob character typing on a calculator.

And wait...there's more...

Most apartments require some combination of first month's rent, last month's rent, and a security deposit — which you'll get back if you don't trash the place!

Step 2: Hunting

Make a list of your absolute must-haves and dealbreakers in an apartment.

List of must-haves: pet friendly, outdoor space, garbage disposal & dealbreakers: pests, dark alleyway, smelly garbage chutes

No one apartment will have it all, so it's important to manage your expectations.

Next, create a timeline. Depending on the city, you may need to look between 30 - 60 days ahead of your desired move-in.

Do your research and find some online apartment listing sites near your area. Check the ratings!

Step 3: Vetting

Two women looking at a small apartment with a rental agent. They ask,

Arrange a tour of the apartment with the real estate agent. Consider the space and layout: will granny's hand-me-down rocking chair fit?

Don't forget to check:

  • the water pressure of the shower

  • the toilets flush properly

  • all of the outlets work

Check out your potential new digs in the neighborhood. Do you feel safe?

How close is it to a laundromat, grocery store, and public transportation?

Watch out for these red flags:

  • Deals that seem too good to be true

  • Extreme lease clauses (ex: pay rent 6 months ahead)

  • "Bait and switch" scenarios where the apartment is not as advertised

Desus & Mero saying,

Trust your gut and make sure it feels right — if something feels off, it probably is.


Which of these is concerning when vetting an apartment?

Step 4: Planning

Good planning can save you some major headaches down the road.

  1. Compare price quotes from moving companies. Read their reviews!

  2. Set up internet and cable beforehand so you're not forced to WFH at the coffee shop.

  3. Get renter's insurance — it's cheap and can save you thousands of dollars in an emergency.

  4. Measure your furniture. Don't forget to check that it will fit through doorways. Order what else you'll need in advance. Delivery can take months!

Three characters from the show Friends push a couch up the stairs of an apartment building.

Step 5: Moving

Moving is going to be one of the most stressful days of your life, so be prepared to make the best of it.

Types of headaches meme (migraine, hypertension, stress, moving day)

  • Pack everything up carefully. Bubble wrap will be your best friend.

  • Keep a list or label each box directly.

  • Have some basic tools handy. Command strips for the win!

Take Action

Your final step is LIVING.

Develop a good relationship with the landlord, super, and your neighbors. Explore the neighborhood and all it has to offer! And if nothing else — PAY YOUR RENT on time.

Mr. Rodgers saying,

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