Looking to rent your own apartment? Welcome to the freedom and independence of living on your own. Maybe it’s your first apartment. Perhaps you’re tired of your old apartment rental and are looking for someplace new. Maybe you’ve landed a new job in Cleveland and need to rent an apartment in Middleburg Heights.
Either way, finding an apartment to rent is a big step. For the next few years, where you’ll live sets the stage of your life — it affects your commute, the people you meet, weekend fun — the majority of your daily experiences.
There’s a lot to figure out in finding that perfect apartment rental: budgeting how much rent you can afford, understanding and signing the lease, hooking up the utilities. Our guide on how to find your own apartment walks you through every step.
Where to Find Apartment Rentals?
Your first step in finding the perfect apartment to rent is knowing where to look. You can try the standard apartment-hunting sites like Craigslist, Trulia, HotPads.com, Apartments.com, and RentJungle. Or you can visit apartment rental sites directly and check out their listings.
You can find great apartment rentals on these sites, but be on the lookout for scams. Not every deal is as good as it sounds. Don’t be tricked into becoming a victim.
How Much Rent Can You Afford for an Apartment?
Find an apartment to rent that you can afford. The U.S. Census Bureau recommends spending no more than 20% of your monthly income on rent — 30% at most. Say you bring home $4,000 per month. It’s best to cap your search at $1,200.
Start with a budget of all fixed expenses. Determine what you spend on gas, food, and other essentials. Make a list of expenses for Netflix, your iPhone, your entertainment budget. Don’t forget any student loans, car payments, and other regular expenses. Come up with a spreadsheet. If your budget is tight, look for costs you can cut. Do you really need that Spotify subscription? Consider lowering your grocery bill by clipping coupons. Skip the Starbucks and make coffee at home.
Do You Need a Roommate?
If you’re just out on your own and working a $10 to $15 an hour job, it can be hard to rent an apartment in Cleveland without stressing over every cent. Consider moving in with a roommate to split the rent and utility bills. You can also share Netflix subscriptions, furniture, and kitchen supplies.
Don’t have anyone lined up to share the rent on an apartment? Sites like Craigslist and Roommates.com can help. Your social network is also a great resource — friends can vouch for other friends who need a place to live. Of course, you want someone who’s respectful, responsible, and clean. Bonus points if you share the same interests and friends.
Read the Lease Carefully
Before you commit to renting an apartment, go through every detail in that lease with a microscope. It’s best to know what you’re committing to — what your responsibilities are, whether the apartment is smoking or non-smoking, what you’ll be required to pay as a deposit, and if there are any late fees. If you’ve got any questions, ask. Any verbal agreements should be confirmed in writing and added to the lease.
Turning on the Utilities
Even before you sign the lease, determine which utilities are your responsibility. Sometimes garbage and water is included in the rent. Sometimes the bill is all you.
You’ll need to call all relevant utility agencies and get them turned on. Things like heat and electricity will likely already be turned on, but you’ll need to get them put in your name. You don’t want to find the heat out or the lights off because you forgot the switch. And if Internet is a priority from day one for you, arrange to have it hooked up before you move in.
Having your own apartment is a great step in independence. It’s exciting and fun. Your life is finally yours. But it’s also a lot of responsibility. You need to hold up your end of the deal. The good news is once you get in the swing of things, playing the adult game is actually easier than you think. When you live in your own apartment, you can always eat ice cream for dinner. No one’s here to judge.