Advice on Renting Your First Apartment after College

You’ve made it through four or more years of dorm life, and now you’re ready to spread your wings. All you need now is to find a place to land. Finding a suitable apartment can be a challenge depending on where you live. With the added stress of relocating for a new job, it can feel overwhelming. Here are some tips on how to find your new home quickly and affordably.

Figuring Out Your Finances

There are several factors to consider in order to determine what you can afford to spend on rent. Post-grad salaries aren’t usually stellar, and your job may be located in a city with a high cost of living. In order to stay afloat financially, you should spend no more than about 30% of your monthly income on rent. To qualify for a lease in some larger cities, your annual income may need to be as much as four times the amount of your monthly rent. You will also be required to give a renter’s deposit which may be as much as two month’s rent, in addition to your first month’s lease or rent payment.

Janet M. Nast provides additional financial advice in her book, Shifting to the Business of Life, A Survival Guide for Young Adults. She reminds young people to start building their credit history long before they graduate from college. Without an established and positive credit record, most property managers will not accept you as a renter and utility companies may require a hefty deposit to accept you as a customer. A cell phone payment or car payment in your own name can accomplish this, but making your payments on time, every time, is crucial to keeping your credit record a positive and not a negative strike against you.

If you need financial help or have not established that positive credit record, there are still some options available to you:


Dorm life has already provided you experience in sharing living quarters. Having a roommate, or several, can even help you adjust to the stress and loneliness of life in a new city. Pooling your finances together will not only aid in getting a better apartment, it will allow more room in your budget for other living expenses.


If a family member can provide their signature and be a guarantor, you can qualify for a better apartment than you could afford on your own. You may not gain more spending money from your income with this option, but you won’t have to screen for viable candidates or argue about whose turn it is to do the dishes either.

Stay with Family

This alternative may not be an option if your job has taken you away from family, but it’s an ideal arrangement to help you get started if it’s available to you. You’ll benefit from having time to get settled in your new job before having to deal with looking for an apartment.

Hire a Realtor

A realtor can not only help you find an apartment, but can negotiate a cheaper rent and help you through the leasing process. It may cost you a fee – which can be waived in some instances – but the advantages would more than offset the cost.

Read the Rental Agreement Before You Sign

In her book Nast also stresses the importance of reading and understanding the terms of your rental agreement or lease to avoid costly surprises. Here are some of the items to look for in these documents:

– Are deposits required (cleaning or pet or “security”) and how much?
– What are the requirements to get your deposits back when you move out?
– What is the requirement for giving notice when you want to move? Is it thirty days or sixty days? Does it have to be in writing?
– How many people can live in this apartment with you?
– What are the parking rules and regulations?
– Can you have pets (what kind and how many)?
– Are you required to obtain renter’s insurance?
– What type of amenities or utilities are included in the rent such as use of laundry facilities, a pool, tennis courts, cost of water, trash, Internet/Wi-Fi, cable TV, etc.?
– Do you need separate keys or door codes to access any of the facilities?
– Is there a charge for lost keys? If so, what is it?

There Is More to Life Than Rent

The other financial advice provided in Nast’s book relates to calculating the other living expenses that go beyond your monthly rent payment. Be careful not to under estimate what those ongoing living costs will be in each of these areas:

  • Utilities (water, electric, gas, trash pickup)
  • Renters insurance
  • Phone and internet
  • Cable TV
  • Groceries
  • Transportation (Car payment, insurance, fuel)
  • Groceries
  • Entertainment
  • Student loan payments

Renting your first apartment after college can be an exciting adventure or a disappointing and costly fiasco. Financial preparation and some knowledge about pitfalls to avoid will go a long way towards making it the former rather than the latter.

Kathleen Krueger

Kathleen is a full-time freelance writer and owner of Crafter of Words LLC. She specializes in providing high-quality blogs, website copy and email campaigns for businesses. She frequently writes on topics of interest to home owners such as remodeling, storage and moving.

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