Your First Apartment Checklist

Moving into your first New York apartment is an adventure. This first apartment checklist covers everything you need to know — from leases to roommates to brokers — and will ensure your move goes as smoothly as possible.

Moving is an adventure, especially when it’s your first place in NYC! From roommates to decorating, there’s a lot to consider. This first apartment checklist covers everything you need to know.

Searching for the Perfect Place

Finding the perfect apartment in Manhattan can be daunting, so take it one step at a time.

  • Start by determining a realistic budget. It’s easy to be swayed toward the bigger, better apartment. But remember: You’re moving to New York! Don’t you want to have some money left over to experience the city?
  • Landlords typically expect their tenant’s income to be at least 40 times their monthly rent (e.g., if the rent is $2,000, your income should be $80,000). If your paychecks aren’t quite that big, you can have a guarantor to cosign your lease.
  • Check your credit score and address any credit problems, if necessary.
  • Gather recent pay stubs, job offer letters, and government IDs.
  • When selecting references, choose people who know you well and will attest that you’re responsible. Current and former employers, academic supervisors, or professional mentors are all great options. Do not pick friends, significant others, or family. Make sure to get permission before listing anyone as references.
  • Start your search at least one month prior to your desired move date.
  • You can do the hunting yourself, or you can work with a broker. A reputable broker has access to apartments you won’t find online, and they’ll work hard to find that perfect space. Just keep in mind that the broker’s fee is generally equal to 10–15 percent of the year’s rent.

First Apartment Checklist: Working with a Broker

Finding a Great Roommate

New York apartments are notoriously expensive, so many first-time renters choose to share costs with a roommate.

  • Create a list of what’s important to you in a roommate (nonsmoker, neat, etc.) and then start searching. You’ll find potential roommates online. Manhattan even has roommate-matching services.
  • Meeting possible roommates beforehand is a must. You’ll want to determine if your personalities mesh and if they seem trustworthy. Always choose a public meeting place.
  • Before moving in, create a signed agreement covering who pays what, who gets which room, and anything else that needs to be specified.

First Apartment Checklist: Finding a Great Roommate

Image Source: Flickr/Garry Knight

All About Leases

You’ve found the perfect space and roommate. Now it’s time to sign the lease.

  • Read the lease thoroughly. It should denote the monthly rent, security deposit, lease length, pet policies, and who pays the utilities.
  • Make sure everything in the lease is exactly as agreed upon.
  • Ask questions if you’re confused.
  • You never know what the year will bring, so understand lease termination policies.
  • Get any agreed-upon repairs in writing (and take a few pictures, too).
  • If you’ll have a roommate, both of your names should be on the lease. That way you’re covered if your roommate suddenly decides to move out in six months.

First Apartment Checklist: Signing the Lease

Image Source: Free Images

Decorating Your First Apartment

Now for the fun part: decorating your first place!

  • It’s possible to have a great-looking apartment without breaking the bank. Don’t purchase everything at once. Start with the basics (beds, couches, etc.) and add something new every month.
  • Save money and DIY. These 15 IKEA hacks will make your mass-market furniture stand out!
  • Keep the peace and consult your roommate before making common-area purchases. You might even want to shop together.

First Apartment Checklist: Decorating

Most importantly, have fun! You’re moving to NYC, and it can’t help but be a great experience! Refer to this first apartment checklist often, and everything should go as smoothly as possible.

Main Image Source: Flickr/Sarah Ackerman

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