Your first apartment: Tips for living on your own (at last!)

Getting your first apartment is an exciting but stressful time. Now you have to deal with real world issues like paying rent and living on a budget. But when college students share a space, there are other things to consider such as a roommate agreement where everyone agrees on things like chores and sharing expenses.

Here's what you need to know about your first apartment. (Credit: Apartment Guide)

Here’s what you need to know about your first apartment. (Credit: Apartment Guide)

Let’s look at some more tips and ideas to consider when you set yourself up in your own apartment or house.

Getting an apartment

It’s very likely that there are several apartments near your campus where the landlords typically rent to students. The good news is that they won’t hold it against you that you’re a student. The bad news is that they can be choosy because there are so many students shopping around for housing.
Here are a few things you can do to make a landlord want to rent to you:

  • When apartment hunting be sure to keep track of each location’s details and the landlord’s contact information. Also track deadlines for submitting your application, deposits, etc.
  • Always be honest when filling out your paperwork and double-check for any errors.
  • Check with references ahead of time to make sure that their contact information is up to date.

You want to avoid looking flaky or irresponsible. Right from your first contact, make sure that the landlord sees you as someone who will be a hassle-free tenant. To help you know what to expect and how best to deal with it, be sure to check with your campus services. They might offer a workshop or counseling on how to rent off-campus.

Things to expect

Renting is going be expensive, especially your first month. Just to get into a place you have to pay several fees up-front. Typical deposits include:

  • First and last month’s rent
  • Damage deposit
  • Pet deposit
  • Utilities deposits (could include phone, cable, Internet fees)

That’s just the beginning. You have to make sure that you and your roommates can afford the rent and utilities every month that you live there. By the way, if one of your roommates can’t come up with his or her share of the rent, your landlord will expect all of the other roommates to make up the deficit.

The landlord may ask for your parents to co-sign on the lease so that they have guaranteed payment of the rent. While there may be several roommates, typically you only need one parent to co-sign. Just be sure to ask before you fall in love with a place. To get an idea of what you’ll be dealing with, check out Elizabeth Hoyt’s article, “A College Student’s Complete Guide to Finding & Leasing Off-Campus Housing,” for

Other tips on things to consider before renting can be found in the “Student Renter’s Guide,” from

Plan ahead for the day you leave

When you finally settle on your place, you’ll want to do a walk-through with the landlord. This is where you both document any damage to the property so that you don’t get blamed for it when your lease ends. Be sure to take photos and keep them stored until you move out and get your security deposit back.

University of California Santa Cruz offered students a “Condition of Property Checklist” that they can use when renting. It’s pretty thorough.

Protect your valuables

One last thing, get rental insurance. If you own a car then your insurance agent might be able to work a deal for you on a policy. Rental insurance will cover you if your property is damaged or stolen. Consider checking with several agents to get an idea of types of coverage and the costs.

Have you rented housing off-campus? Tell us about your experiences in the comments.

1 reply
  1. Derek dewitt says:

    I am planning on living in an apartment for school next year, but I’ve never had to live on my own before. I like that you mention how there are several fees upfront to pay like first and last month’s rent. I’ll be sure to have enough set aside for that and the deposit when I am ready to sign. Thanks for the tips!


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