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    12 Essential Tips I Wish I’d Known Before I Signed My First Lease

    * looks up Hunger Games survival skills *

    1. Be prepared to provide your prospective landlord proof that you can actually afford the rent.

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    This can be something like pay stubs or a bank statement. They'll probably want to see that your yearly income is 40 times the amount of the monthly rent.

    2. Or ask a friend or family member if they would be willing to co-sign on your behalf.


    If your income isn't up to par, you'll need to find someone to co-sign on your behalf. This is kind of a big ask — they are basically signing an agreement to cover the rent you owe if you can't afford to do it yourself. So ask nicely.

    3. Look at places to rent that are comfortably within your budget — which should be around 30% of your income.


    That estimate probably won't cover your rent if you live in a big city so shoot for 35% if you can manage. 😪

    4. And remember to factor utilities into that number.

    Me, desperately trying to stay warm this winter without running up the electricity bill.

    Ask for a ballpark figure of what you'll be paying every month for the utilities that aren't included. If you are able to speak to current or previous tenants, check with them that the estimate is accurate.

    5. You'll probably want to find a roommate unless you have a gazillion dollars to spare.

    Or don't live in New York. I'm not bitter.

    But still, remember that you aren't just splitting rent, you're splitting utilities as well.

    6. Sign your lease in the winter to avoid peak moving season — and avoid the sweaty business of hauling your crap up several flights of stairs.


    If you can pull this off, you are going to save a hell of a lot of money in the long run — most people sign in the summer so there will be better deals and less competition for the good spots during the off-season.

    7. Check out all of the cupboards and closets for signs of wear and tear or... vermin.


    And if you do find mice poop or dead roaches, ask the landlord what he’s doing to remedy the situation.

    8. And run the faucets and shower when you're checking out the place because nothing is more of a letdown than crappy water pressure.

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    Or, you know, brown water.

    9. Visit the spot in the afternoon or evening to find out what it's like when people are actually home.

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    Find out if you're going to be dealing with noisy neighbors or if the walls are just really, really thin.

    10. Check out your landlord and apartment building beforehand.


    Ask for references so that you can learn what to expect from previous tenants. If they aren't into that, do some research online. If they're a problem landlord, it'll be easy to find out. And make sure that any verbal promises they make are added to the lease.

    11. Make sure you have enough cash stashed for the first month because the one-time fees can be hefty.


    You'll probably need to throw down around one to two times your monthly rent for a security deposit. You'll (hopefully) get that back at the end of your lease, but you still need to be prepared to hand over that cash for a year or more. Besides the security deposit, you may need to pay any broker's fees, application fees, application deposits, and/or moving costs (to name a few).

    12. Read your lease front to back so you aren't paying for any oversights later.


    You want to make sure you are absolutely clear on what you are or are not allowed to do. Or else, you'll be paying for even really small things — like a hole in the wall — could come out of your security deposit at the end. If there are any terms you are uncomfortable with or find unfair, you'll need to negotiate before you sign. And again, make sure everything you and your landlord agree to is included in the contract.

    Once you sign the lease, read this for the next steps: Just 15 Really Smart Things To Do The Next Time You Move