Financial Help With Getting My First Apartment

by A. Elizabeth Freeman, Demand Media

    Your first apartment is a milestone in your life because it means you are moving out of your parent's house or out of the dorms and onto your own. The cost of renting an apartment can be shockingly high, depending on where you live. In addition to the monthly rent, you have to pay for utilities, put down a security deposit and pay an application fee. In some cities, you might need to pay a fee to a broker, too. If you need financial help getting your first apartment, several options are available.

    Save on Utilities

    Utility bills can add a considerable amount to your monthly expenses. When looking for your first place, one of your best options is to look for an apartment that includes as many utilities as possible, such as gas, electric and water. Utilities included in the cost of the rent help ease your financial burden because you pay a fixed amount each month, no matter how the price of the actual utilities fluctuates.

    Set Up a Budget

    Don't go in the apartment search blind. Create a budget so that you have an idea of your maximum rent amount. As a general rule, your rent should not be more than 30 percent of your monthly net income. That might be tough to accomplish if you live in a particularly expensive city like New York or San Francisco, which means you might have to look further out into more affordable areas for your first apartment.

    Look for Roommates

    Roommates help ease the financial burden of your first apartment considerably. For example, you will spend less sharing a $1,500 two-bedroom apartment than you would renting a $1,000 one-bedroom. Your safest option is to choose a roommate you know. If you cannot find someone you know, do a roommate search online. Ask the potential roommate for references. The landlord will do a credit check on both of you, which might raise some red flags. Make sure both of you sign the lease, so that you both have responsibility for the apartment.

    Consider a Co-Signer

    Your parents or another family member might be willing and able to co-sign a lease for you. Just bear in mind that asking someone to co-sign with you can be risky for the co-signer. If you fail to pay the rent, the responsibility falls to the other person. Getting a co-signer is only a good idea if you know you are able to pay the rent but don't qualify for your own apartment. For example, if you earn $2,500 a month and are able to budget $900 for rent, you may need a co-signer, since $900 is more than 30 percent of your income.

    About the Author

    Based in Pennsylvania, A. Elizabeth Freeman has been writing professionally since 2007, when she started writing theater reviews for OffOffOnline.com and Theater Talk's New Theater Corps blog. Since then, she has written for Phillyist, TheNest, ModernMom and "Rhode Island Home and Design" magazine, among others. Freeman has an Master of Fine Arts in dramaturgy/theater criticism from CUNY/Brooklyn College.