How To Rent An Apartment

By in Personal Finance, Real Estate, Saving, Tips | 16 comments

3 Steps to Rent an Apartment

how to rent an apartment

how to rent an apartment

I’ve rented many apartments over the years, some really nice, and a few real dumps (when cash was really low). Before you begin, remember his fact; appearances matter. When visiting potential apartments, look neat, well groomed, and behave professionally. You increase the likelihood of getting the apartment you want by looking like an attractive tenant!

Plan well, know what you want, and get a great apartment within your budget. And, if you’re hoping to save up to buy real estate later on, take on a room mate or two and look for an affordable place.

Step 1; Prepare

  1. Prioritize your preferences regarding the apartment. Consider the number of bedrooms and bathrooms you need as well as size, amenities, and location. Be prepared to compromise, you may not get everything you want at a price you can afford.
  2. Gather documents that support your ability to pay for the apartment. Paycheck stubs and a verification of employment and earnings from your employer are a good start. Prepare an employment summary with contact phone numbers in advance and bring it with you to show the potential property owner that you are responsible.
  3. Prepare a rental history. Give the names and addresses of your previous three to five landlords. If this is your first time attempting to rent an apartment, provide three to four references that can vouch for your dependability and character. Include at least one professional reference.
  4. Check your credit report. This can be done at no charge through, Many property owners check your credit before letting you rent an apartment and some might make a decision based solely on your credit history. If you have less than stellar credit, bring proof of on-time payments from at least one company you do business with. Utility companies are a good option. In the event you don’t have any positive credit references, ask the property owner if you can pay a higher deposit in lieu of a good credit score.

Step 2; Scout Apartments

  1. Visit Craigslist and keep an eye on the classified section of the local newspaper (online or print). Drive around your desired neighborhood looking for “For Rent” signs. Visit complexes that appeal to you and speak with the leasing agent. Look for rental brochures or magazines in your area. Spread the word among your friends that you are looking for an apartment.
  2. Tour the apartment with the property owner or the agent. Keep an eye out for damages or defects. If there are any damages, be sure to have them included in the rental contract. You definitely don’t want pay for those later.
  3. Bring a pen and paper,or tablet, to every apartment you visit to make a list of pros and cons. You can also ask the property owner if you can take pictures to compare apartments when you get home.
  4. Contact the property owner as soon as you decide what apartment you want to rent. Procrastination may cost you the apartment you really want.
  5. Rents are negotiable. If you offer good credit and rental history, discuss the possibility of lowering the rent. Bring comparable rents in the area to support your request.

Step 3; Sign the Lease

  1. Read the entire lease before signing. Make sure all terms and conditions are exactly as you agreed upon. If you are unsure about anything, ask for clarification or take the lease to an attorney or trusted friend to review.
  2. Walk through the apartment immediately after you sign the lease to check again for damage and defects. If you notice any, contact the property owner immediately.
  3. Arrange for your move. In some areas, you may have to coordinate the use of parking spaces or service elevators to get your belongings into the apartment. Allow several days to prepare before and to get settled after.
  4. Check out these 8 Things to Know and Do Before Renting an Apartment at Moneycrashers.

Live beneath your means and build long term wealth.

And for more great tips on basic Wealth Building Strategies, don’t click on the link. After all, you don’t want to get too money smart.

What are your tips for renting? Share your secrets!

A version of this article was previously published & comments remain intact


  1. Barb, I’d like to suggest to use PadMapper! It’s an awesome website that lets updates its listings from Craigslist and displays them on the map. No more copy and pasting the address to see where it’s located 🙂 Although, last time I remember reading about them getting sued by Craigslist – not sure what of that yet.

    Veronica @ Pelican on Money

    October 12, 2012

  2. Hi Veronica, sounds like a great solution!!! Hope they are still around!


    October 12, 2012

  3. Good points! I would add to find the area you want to live and you can usually find “for rent” signs to check out the apartments. The internet is fine to screen the locations, but it helps to check ou the neighborhood.


    October 12, 2012

  4. @Krantc-Agreed, nothing beats a walk or drive around the area. I also like to talk to residents in the area and the apartment complexes to gain more information.


    October 12, 2012

  5. Barb,
    My wife is an apartment manager so I have a few to add.
    1) Impress the manager. They’ll advocate for you even if you have a few blemishes. Be on time for appointments and be respectful. There are many applicants for an apartment and only 1 chosen–the one the manager believes will pay on time, keep it clean, and not bother them.
    2) Contact units you like that aren’t advertising. Get on the call list for when a unit opens up or before the open unit gets posted. Remember managers (hopefully) know 30 days ahead of time before a unit opens up.
    3) Watch out for scams on Craigslist–lots going on in Los Angles. Use Westside Rental (Los Angeles) or other local services that require landlords to pay to post.
    4) If you can’t bargain the price down, try bargaining improvements before moving handles, carpet, etc.
    5) ALWAYS request new locks, you don’t what crazies lived there before.
    O.k. So sorry I wrote a mini post! I hope it helps some of your readers!

    Brent Pittman

    October 12, 2012

  6. I hope I never have to rent again, but I wish I’d known that everything is negotiable. Maybe I could have paid less for the place that always smelled like cat pee!


    October 14, 2012

  7. @Kim, I understand. Our current condo which we bought as a short sale smelled like cat pee. (Even after we removed all the carpeting). It’s better now 🙂


    October 14, 2012

  8. I just went through months of this process. @Barb your 1.1 Prioritize your preferences is something my boyfriend and I began with and had to continually modify as we made compromises.

    I made sure to have a folder with ALL of the necessary paperwork (and a couple of extra documents just for back up). I completely agree with @Brent to impress/connect with the rental manager! In my case, he actually did put in a good word and advocate for us even though the building owner had a few issues with our credit. We also had contacted the building about any openings before they had shown (or even posted on Craigslist) the unit, so being the first to view it and put in an application helped a lot. 🙂

    Kira @Planwise

    October 23, 2012

  9. I wanted my first apartment to near work. I scouted all the available apartments and checked the local police blotter. It seemed like all the close apartments had a lot of troublemakers that the police were continually dealing with. I asked a few of my co-workers if they had any recommendations. They pointed me to a few places to consider that were near their homes (a consideration for Monday night football parties.) The apartment I rented was reasonable in price and amenities. It was easy to get into since I now had professional stature. I stayed there for over 6 years while saving the 20% down payment for my first house.

    Bryce @ Save and Conquer

    March 27, 2014

  10. In scouting for places, I like to check out reviews of any nearby businesses and get a vibe for the sorts of things that will be available for me if I move there. I also try to talk to anyone I can living in the neighborhood. Sometimes a conversation is the best way to get insight. Great post!

  11. @Bryce, You made an awesome decision. Staying in it for 6 years shows that your research paid off! And living below your means in order to save for a down payment on a home is true smart money management.
    @Leonard, I used to talk with the residents as well before choosing an apartment. It’s also a great strategy when buying a home, to talk with the neighborhood residents. Also, living near services is so helpful. We can walk to the grocery and restaurants from our condo.

    Barbara Friedberg

    March 30, 2014

  12. Taking notes is a big one. I know after looking at a few places, I couldn’t remember what features went with which apartment I was looking at. I then had to go look again just to remember, which wasted everyone’s time.

    Jon @ Money Smart Guides

    March 31, 2014

  13. @Jon,
    That is so true. Our memories are not reliable after looking at several places. Notes and even taking pictures helps.

    Barbara Friedberg

    March 31, 2014

  14. Great tips for renting an apartment. My husband and I will be moving again this year and we’re going to have to rent again because our jobs have changed too much recently for banks to find us worthy of a loan, lol!

    One thing that I did when we were trying to get the apartment we’re living in now was I wrote an email letter to the landlord just after meeting him and seeing the apartment (because he said there were other people in the running to get the apartment). I told him how we once bought a house, fixed it up, and sold it, so we’re familiar with almost any problems a house could have, so if he chose us we’d be able to fix most problems that went wrong and possibly even just raise the value of the property while we live here (which we definitely did). Right now we are paying $750/month (a block from the beach in southern san diego) and he’ll be able to rent this place out for $1000-$1200 once we move out!

    We did try negotiating the price too, but he didn’t want to go any lower (and it was already a great price anyway, so that was fine).

    Sharing this on twitter 🙂


    April 8, 2014

  15. @Lisha, This is a fantastic story. First off, $750 and close to the beach???? What a great deal! And a savvy strategy to ensure the landlord chooses you!

    Barbara Friedberg

    April 9, 2014


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