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Building A Budget To Rent Your First Apartment

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Sarah Wuenscher
Mar 22, 2023

Renting your first apartment is equal parts exciting and nerve-wracking. We know lots of the stress of the process of finding your first place boils down to the finances, so we’ve squashed some of the mystery by breaking down the fees and costs to take into consideration during the apartment hunting process.

Calculating your budget

First things first — let’s figure out how much base rent you can afford. The rule of thumb that properties follow is that your monthly income should be at least 3 times your monthly rent. For example, if you’re signing a lease at an apartment that rents at $1,400/mo, your gross monthly income (aka, the number before taxes) needs to be at least $4,200 to get approved. Properties have income requirements in order to assume the least amount of risk possible when taking on tenants — by using this equation, they’re ensuring you’re likely to have the funds to pay rent each month.

If you don’t make three times the monthly rent, don’t worry! That doesn’t mean your application will be automatically denied, it just means the property might reach back out with a few options that can help you get approved for the unit. They could require a higher initial deposit, request more banking information, or suggest leveraging a co-signer on your lease. If this is your first-ever lease agreement, these things are very normal — and if you’re working with an Apartment Locator, they will serve as a great resource should you have any questions.


Upfront fees to expect

Once you’ve had a chance to pretend you’re on your own personal episode of House Hunters and have decided on the one that you’re going to spend the next 12 or so months of your life with, it’s time to apply for your first apartment! Once your application has been processed, you’ll be approved to go ahead and officially sign your first lease. But first, fees.

When applying for an apartment, you’ll almost always pay application and admin fees. These one-time fees typically range from around $200-$300 total depending on the property and cover the background/credit checks they’ll run to approve you for your apartment.  Some properties may also require a deposit upfront to secure your unit, but we usually see that due at move-in. PRO TIP: Sometimes properties run specials that either reduce or completely waive your application and admin fees! When you’re out touring, it never hurts to ask.

If you’re renting with a pet, you’ll most likely pay an additional deposit and pet fee prior to move-in. Your cat may need to take on a few extra shifts at the biscuit-making factory — pet fees can run you anywhere from $200-$500 upfront (but of course, it’s all worth it to have your furry friend by your side!)


Additional monthly fees

While your base rent will be your main payment, you’ll also see some additional fees in your resident portal each month. Taking all of these extras into account when building your budget to rent is essential, and it’s important to keep in mind that every property handles its fees a little differently. We’ll do our very best to give you a good idea of what to expect based on what we generally see at the places we work with, but asking the property for their fee sheet will be the best way to ensure you have all of the info you need to build your budget.

  • Utilities: Your electric, gas, and water bills will vary significantly based on where you live, how big your apartment is, and how much of everything you’re using. Our Connect Team can help you compare providers if you live in a city with multiple utility options to secure you the best deal!
  • Internet: Like utilities, internet costs will also vary based on your provider. If your apartment complex doesn’t already have internet pre-wired for you, our team can help you compare rates for that, too.
  • Trash: If your apartment complex has valet trash services, this will typically cost around $25-$30/mo.
  • Package services: If the property works with a parcel service company, that fee will typically range from around $3-$15/mo.
  • Pest: Pest control  will run you around $3-$5/mo.
  • Pet rent: Expect to pay an additional $25-$30/mo if your roommate has four legs and a tail.
  • Parking: Parking fees are super dependent on the city you live in — in Texas, you usually only pay a parking fee if you’d like a reserved or covered spot (which can cost you at or around $100/mo). In cities like Denver, however, monthly parking fees can easily be $100-$200+.
  • Amenity fees: If your complex comes with sweet amenities like a pool, co-working lounge, or fully-stocked fitness center, there may be a flat monthly fee associated with those perks.

See how it can all add up pretty quickly? Kudos to you for avoiding a jumpscare in your bank account by doing your research ahead of time!


Renters Insurance

While renters insurance isn’t something you pay for through your apartment complex, you’ll be required to show proof of having your own policy before you move into your new place. We recommend Lemonade to our clients — it’s super easy to use, and some manage to pay as little as $5/mo for coverage!

Get a free quote from Lemonade!
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