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Class of 2014: Tips for Renting Your First Post-Grad Apartment

05/16/2014 01:32 pm ET | Updated Jul 16, 2014

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You've got your diploma and a killer new job, now all you need to do is find a place to live! Relocating and landing your first apartment can be stressful, but we're here to help. We've rounded up some of the best advice geared towards young, first-time renters to make the process of finding and landing your new home entirely stress free.

TIP #1: FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU CAN AFFORD & HOW TO QUALIFY FINANCIALLY

One of the most important qualifications in the eyes of landlords is your income level. Landlords want to know that no matter what, you'll be able to pay your way. However, as a recent college grad, your paycheck probably isn't breaking the bank. Here's what you need to know:

Determine if you qualify financially. Get together with your roommates and add up your combined gross pre-tax income. Divide this value by 12 to figure out your monthly gross income. In most cities, landlords will require that this combined value is 3 to 4 times the monthly rent. It can be challenging for younger renters to financially qualify alone, so living with at least one roommate helps position you for better income qualifications. Want more perks of living with at least one roommate? In some cities you're able to save up to 40% on your monthly rent.

What do you do if you don't qualify? This scenario is very common for younger renters. If you don't qualify on your own or with roommates for the basic income qualifications, there are certainly ways around this. The first, of course, is to figure out what you can afford and filter your search accordingly. Setting alerts on Lovely with your renting criteria, including price range, location and bed count, can help you find the best listings that fit your needs as soon as they hit the market!

Another alternative is having a co-signor or guarantor on your lease. This is typically a family member that is willing to submit an additional application to the rental on your behalf. The guarantor will also sign the lease guaranteeing funds if you cannot provide. This is very common, and attractive to landlords, for recent college grads.

TIP #2: GET A LAY OF THE LAND

It's time to decide where to live. Many of you are probably looking to move away from home to begin your professional career, so it's important important to check out different neighborhoods in your new city prior to the big move. After all, in most cases you'll be committing to a one or two year lease. Here are some tips for vetting out your new city:

Visit a few weeks prior to moving. Whether you're looking for a large party pad with friends or a quiet apartment in a quaint neighborhood, you should do your best to plan a trip to your new city 2-4 weeks prior to moving. Read up on the city with some popular local blogs (some of my picks in San Francisco include Curbed, SFist and 7×7) to get the inside scoop on news, neighborhoods, and social happenings.

This 2-4 week time frame to view apartments prior to moving is ideal for apartment hunting. Take advantage of being in town and set aside some time for private viewings and open houses. Get a feel for what you like and if you're lucky, you might even leave an open house as a proud new renter! As a best practice for apartment hunting, we advise that you should always view an apartment before you commit to it. In addition, you should never wire money, pay a security deposit or make a rent payment prior to signing a lease.

Stay with family or friends initially. If you have the luxury of staying with family or friends during the first few weeks in your new city, take full advantage of this opportunity! Not only will you save some money, but this will allow you to ease into your transition and take more time to decide what neighborhood makes most sense for you socially, financially and for your commute. Not to mention, you can take more time to find that dream rental that actually fits your price range.

TIP #3: CREATE A RENTER PROFILE

Coordinating all of the materials to position yourself as the best possible rental applicant can be overwhelming. Organizing a renter packet that you can bring with you to an open house will provide immense value - especially as a first time renter. Showing you are proactive and transparent with a prospective landlord will go a long way. We've outlined some of the materials you'll need to present to landlords to help you stand out amongst a crowd:

Lovely Renter Card. When you use Lovely to search for your rental, we suggest filling out your renter card and application profile at the start of your search. You can attach your Renter Card, featuring your contact information, employer, self reported income and credit score, and more, to your initial correspondence with a prospective landlord. This gives the landlord upfront visibility into your qualifications as a renter. You can also attach a note to this email where you might alert a landlord of your ability to meet financial requirements with a co-signor despite how your financials might appear.

Renter Packet Checklist. Not sure what you need to include in your renter packet? Use this checklist to make sure you're ready to be the best version of you once you find that perfect rental.

Renter Cover Sheet:

- Include photograph with complete contact information underneath

- Write a short blurb about yourself - topics might include employment, why you're a good tenant, reasons for moving, when you plan to move, explanation of potential drawbacks on your application and end with a sentence indicating you interest in discussing the property further

- Qualifications: credit score, annual household income, occupation, move in date, date of
birth, # of roommates, # of pets, eviction history, criminal history

- Criteria: desired bed count, neighborhood, additional amenities (reference Lovely's search
filters)

- Offer letter from your employer indicating proof of salary and/or two months worth of pay stubs

- Generic application

- Credit report

Class of 2014, these tips and insights into the rental market will give you the tools you need to conquer your apartment hunt and the big move ahead of you!

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