The rental market can be intimidating. Below is some guidance on basics for house/apartment renting prep so you can have your best foot forward, thought it would be helpful to share!
(Meg’s Note: This post was written by guest blogger Karen H. Robertson. Karen is a sanctions compliance program manager at a major technology company in Silicon Valley, and took three years to find her perfect rental apartment there after a lifetime of moving around. Additional contributors to this content include her best friend, a longtime veteran of the San Francisco Bay Area rental market who is happily nesting in her first solo apartment, and members of the Wellesley College Alumnae Ladies’ Financial Salon.)
Apartment hunting is always a stressful experience. It helps to have all the financial and logistical ducks in a row so you’re ready to pounce as soon as possible to lock in a place! It will also keep you from being subject to the whims of potentially unscrupulous landlords or property managers out there.
- Write up a self introduction paragraph as a prospective tenant, including full contact information, previous addresses going back 5 years, and list of references both professional and personal. Keep this document in email and PDF format so it is easily accessible to send to landlords or property management companies.
- Have checks on hand and ensure you have funds available to put down first month’s rent plus a security deposit (this is standard) if want to lock down a place immediately. Some landlords may want to see your current account balance, last pay stub, or W-2/W-4, if you have it, to show you have the cash.It depends on the place, but they may ask for first and last month’s rent plus security deposit. So it’s good practice to have the monthly rent amount x 3 in your checking account to draw off of. (If you don’t have the funds and you need urgent assistance, set up a GoFundMe.)
- Get a credit report. Your bank’s online services should have this available to you; you are legally entitled to one free credit report per year. For example, both my bank and my credit card company now show and track my credit score in their mobile apps, so it’s very easy for me to see any changes.Print this credit report out in hard copy and save as a PDF on your computer, and take it with you as part of your rental application packet. This will save you and the landlord/property management time and effort to run a credit report every single time. Multiple credit checks can also lower your credit score so best for you to do it once and keep that as a valid document for the next six months to use when you need it.
- Include in your packet, as applicable: photocopy of driver’s license, business card, guarantor information, roommate information.
- Set up auto bill-pay through your checking account to pay rent, set to deposit a couple of days before the end of every month on a recurring schedule, to make sure the rent gets paid and the check clears on time so you don’t incur any late charges.
- Ask for prorated rent for the partial month based on move-in date.
- Furniture: get thee to a mattress store, buy a mattress and a box spring and it will be delivered by the end of the next day. Focus on the must-have Basics only for now, you will inevitably accumulate Wants slowly over time.Honest to goodness, the best pieces of furniture I own are not the custom upholstered monsters in my living room but the $100 industrial brushed metal kitchen table I scored at a consignment shop and the bedside table I picked up FOR FREE off of the street and painted black, like my heart. Apps to browse and sell used furniture near you while you’re on the go: Trove Marketplace, AllModern, Saily, Move Loot, HipVan.
- If you need help moving, organizing, cleaning, assembling furniture, etc., there are two apps that will be lifesavers: Taskrabbit and Handy. Taskrabbit you can get to deliver things for you, assemble furniture, whatever. Handy has cleaners, electricians, plumbers, painters, and handyman services at the ready.
[More of Meg’s notes: A couple of landlords in the same Ladies Financial Salon that Karen mentions gave a few complementary notes:
Recognize that many landlords don’t accept checks for initial payments and also don’t accept tenant provided credit reports. I only accept cashier’s checks or money orders for first and deposit and last, if I require it. I also don’t accept tenant provided credit reports; they’re too easy to alter.
When possible, initiate contact with potential landlords by phone or in person, not text or email. If they prefer a different form of communication, they’ll let you know. It is too easy for tone to get lost, and most landlords want to feel like they like you as a person, which they can’t do in text.
Along those lines, when looking at apartments, show up with a car you have cleaned out and looking groomed.]
Once you have tackled housing, do you want to ride that momentum into a better understood, more organized, simpler financial life? Reach out to me at or schedule a free 30-minute consultation.
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Disclaimer: This article is provided for general information and illustration purposes only. Nothing contained in the material constitutes tax advice, a recommendation for purchase or sale of any security, or investment advisory services. I encourage you to consult a financial planner and/or an accountant for advice specific to your situation. Reproduction of this material is prohibited without written permission from Meg Bartelt, and all rights are reserved. Read the full Disclaimer.