10 Apartment Hunting Tips For First Time Renters

By: ROS Team

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Renting an apartment for the first time is an exciting milestone, but it can turn into a nightmare for newbie tenants who don’t know how to navigate the apartment hunting process. To aid you in this regard, we’ve prepared a list of renting tips and everything else you need to know while renting an apartment with first-time renters in mind.

Tip #1: Set Your Budget

It’s normal for novice renters to underestimate or overestimate how much they will be spending on rent.  A popular rule of thumb is that you shouldn’t spend more than 30% of your gross income on rent payments. However, that may be difficult in cities with higher costs of living like New York City. Remember to include all monthly expenses when setting your budget to allow for all unexpected costs as well.

Tip #2: Decide on a Location

Once you figure out what you can afford, it’s time to decide where you want to live. If you don’t want to commute and want to be close to your workplace, look for an apartment nearby. But if you prefer driving or don’t mind taking public transportation, you might find cheap rentals in more suburban areas.

Tip #3: Make A List of Desired Amenities

Everyone wants unique features in their first apartment, that’s why there are so many choices. Ask yourself the following questions before you start hunting for your first rental:

  • Do I want a one bedroom apartment or one with multiple bedrooms?
  • Do I want hardwood floors or carpet?
  • Do I need access to parking?
  • Do I need a large kitchen?
  • Do I want one or two bathrooms?


Think of any other amenities that you might want in your apartment and then start your search accordingly.

Tip #4: Visit the Apartment

Virtual tours have made the apartment search process a lot easier. You can tour your desired rental no matter where you are. However, don’t rely solely on online ads or virtual tours. Make the time to have a good old-fashioned walk-through of the apartment even if you don’t think you’ll rent in that particular place. This will give you a better idea of the apartments in that area.

While you are on a tour with the property manager, ask yourself these questions:

  • How are amenities kept on a daily basis?
  • How does mail service provide?
  • Do I feel this neighborhood is safe?
  • When are the neighborhood quiet hours?


You may also be able to talk to other residents while you’re on-site to get a sense of the community’s vibe.

Tip #5: Know the Rental Application Requirements

To rent an apartment for the first time in New York, you need:

  1. A credit score of 620 or more;
  2. To be at least 18 years old unless you’re receiving government assistance (for apartment complex), and
  3. To earn 40X of your monthly rent. If you are a student, you will need a guarantor or co-signer.

Tip #6: Understand the Apartment Lease

An apartment lease is a legal document that is signed by the landlord and the tenant. Normally, a lease summarizes what you will be responsible for. It will identify how much rent you would be paying, how much rent the landlord may increase, whether you can have pets or not, and the length of the rental agreement.  As a first-time renter, you’ll need to read and understand the terms and conditions of the lease.

Tip #7: Buy Renter’s Insurance

As a first-time renter, buying insurance is one of the best ways to protect yourself from unexpected and unwanted losses. While we know accidents are usually infrequent, it’s not wise to risk losing your property in the event one should occur.

Before buying a renter’s insurance policy, find out what all it covers. Some policies don’t cover certain events like flood damage. Also, most policies don’t cover damage caused by the policyholder, be it intentional or unintentional.

Tip #8: Consider the Time of Year

In NYC, weather influences rental cycles and rent rates. For example, apartments located near a beach will be more expensive to rent during the summer months (usually at the start of May). Keep this in mind as you start your search; you may want to look for apartments that will cost less based on the time of the year.

Tip #9: Have Your Documents Ready

Landlords like to rent apartments to the first qualified tenant. Therefore, to increase your chances of being selected, have the following documents on hand when you visit the apartment:

  • Current employment and income verification letters—these can usually be obtained from your employer’s HR department;
  • At least two months of pay-stubs or, if you’re self-employed, financial documents such as a recent tax return, and a CPA letter;
  • A pdf file of your most recent bank statement; and
  • A copy of your ID. If you have a visa it needs to be valid for the lease term.

Tip #10: Make Your First Impression Count

Making a positive first impression matters the most. Whether it’s a first conversation with the landlord or an online property inquiry, communicate well and put thought into your words. Read listings carefully and give your landlord the impression that you’re a serious candidate.


Every day new renters enter the rental market. If you’ve never rented an apartment, don’t panic! You’ve got to start somewhere. Just research the housing options that are most affordable for you in the area where you want to live and put forth some effort.

One final piece of advice: once you’ve found a rental, make sure to read the lease agreement carefully. Understand the terms and conditions to which you will be agreeing. Don’t sign a lease that you can’t afford; otherwise, you might face costly consequences.

Read Also:

Tips for the First Time Landlords in New York City
Major Problems Faced by First Time Flat Renters