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Rent an Apartment in 9 Simple Steps

Finding an apartment to rent at the right price is no joke, it takes time, patience, and persistence. Also, there are a lot of scams on the internet that at first look like an amazing opportunity but they can become a nightmare if you don’t take extra precautions. Whether you are renting a place for the first time or you have been doing this for a while, you need to be prepared before starting your hunt for your next apartment. There are thousands of new rental listings every day in any city but you need to find the one that fits all your needs.

To help your apartment hunting go smoother, we have compiled a list of steps you can take to ease the burden and expedite the process.

Set a budget

In order to find the right apartment, you should start by determining your budget. Experts say that you should only spend between 25% to 35% of your after-tax income on rent. So for example, if your after-tax income is $2,000 a month, you should only be spending $500 to $700 on your monthly rent. Don’t forget to account for the cost of utilities which can range anywhere from $50, $100, or more based on the area and your lifestyle.

Make an apartment criteria checklist  

After you know your budget, you should start figuring out your needs/wants in an apartment. Do you want to rent a small house or a condo? How many bedrooms and bathrooms would you be comfortable with? Do you want it walking distance to work or a train station? Do you want bars and restaurants around? 

A good way to do this is by writing down whatever you like on a sheet of paper and start looking at apartments based on that checklist. It will help you narrow down all the listings. 

Run Credit Check 

Your credit score is everything as an adult. Most landlords will require a good credit score before renting you the apartment. Also, depending on the landlord you should expect a background check, the background check will search for any criminal records, evictions, and credit score. Most landlords do this prior to approving you as a tenant. It’s always great to know your credit score at all times but when you go out to find an apartment for rent, you definitely need to take it seriously and get a free credit report. That way, if you see any red flags in your credit report, you can fix it to avoid rejection. 

Apartment Hunting 

This is probably the most tedious yet exciting part of the process. There are so many options to look for apartments. For example: 

  1. Through a Real Estate Agent 
  2. Facebook Marketplace 
  3. Facebook Groups (Jersey City rooms for rent) 
  4. Craigslist 
  5. Word of Mouth 
  6. Zillow 

There are tons of new listings every day on these online platforms. Keep searching for apartments and narrow down the search by your preferred features. Once you have narrowed down your list to a few, reach out to the person who posted the rental and schedule a viewing. But again, if something looks too good to be true, most likely it is a scam! 

You should probably have set time aside from your week to do house tours so you get enough time to look around the neighborhood and check the house properly and make an informed decision. Some people also like to check if all the power outlets work or not, look for any existing damages so you are not charged for them. Take pictures! Before and after. Ask any and all questions you may have to the agent, the landlord, and if possible to the current tenant.

Talk to other tenants (if any)

If you are looking at an apartment that has other tenants/roommates, you should ask them about the place and if there are any issues you should be aware of. You should also ask questions about how responsive the landlord is in terms of maintenance? Is the landlord easy to work with? Is it a safe neighborhood? And any other questions you may personally have. 

Gather money for the deposit

People often think that they don’t need a lot of money to rent an apartment but technically you do. In the state of New Jersey, you normally have to pay the first month rent, and by law, landlords can’t ask for more than 1.5 months in security deposit. Also remember, if you need to use a real estate agent, in most cases, they charge the equivalent of one rent. But in a competitive market, sometimes the fee is paid by the landlord. You won’t need all the money until you sign the lease, but it’s always a good idea to plan ahead and save up for it.

Prepare Documents

Landlords always want to make sure they are getting a good tenant and for this reason, besides the background check they will probably ask you for these following documents:

  1. Letter of employment
  2. Paystubs 
  3. Tax Returns 
  4. Reference Letter

All of these documents are not mandatory, however, some landlords may ask for them. 

Do a Final Walk-Through 

Don’t sign the lease yet. Before you finalize the deal you should make sure everything works for you. Take a day to go and fully inspect the house for any damages, check if all the appliances are working properly, or any maintenance issues. Take pictures!!! If anything is not working properly, put in the lease or in an addendum that the landlord is aware of the situation and he or she will be repairing it as soon as possible.

Sign the lease 

Read over the lease properly, sign it, get the keys, and be ready to move into your new apartment. 


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Mark Trompeter

Jersey City's Unofficial Mayor! Mark offers over a decade of experience in luxury Jersey City and Hoboken real estate. He's been ranked Weichert, REALTORS® top 10 sales associates consistently for the past several years, and has generated approximately $75 million in real estate sales throughout the course of his career. With a degree in communications from Hofstra University, Mark instills in his team the values of communication, contact and total availability for clients. Born and raised in New York City, and a Jersey City resident for over a decade, Mark knows the city better than anyone and is often referred to as the "unofficial mayor" by many neighbors and locals with whom he's developed lasting relationships. His experience in premier residential real estate over the past 16 years, and expertise in marketing and sales for over 20 years, has given him the ability to understand and navigate the many complex transactions in real estate. From new construction, to high rise condominiums or multi-family homes Mark brings a unique real estate perspective with his long-time experience in the field, and passion for the communities outside his front door.

One Response to “Rent an Apartment in 9 Simple Steps”

  • I love what you said about doing apartment tours before renting. That makes sense since you need to envision yourself in the space first. I’ll have to find an apartment with 2 bedrooms.

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