Getting Your First Apartment--A Guide For Young Adults by a Young Adult

Updated on April 5, 2016
My apartment! :)
My apartment! :)

I've been out of my dad's house since I was seventeen. I lived with an old boyfriend, with my best friend, with a new boyfriend, and with my sister. After three years of having no place to really call my own, I decided I was tired of it and that I was going to get my first apartment. I was working at a Buffalo Wild Wings, not making more than $300 a paycheck and living with my wonderful boyfriend at his parent's house. As I sit here in my lovely, little two-bedroom, third-floor apartment I think about how overwhelming and stressful it was to get here. I had no guidance and no idea where to start, and that is why I am writing this article. I hope to shed some detailed light on how you, too, can accomplish the seemingly impossible feat of moving out on your own. I won't give you any unneccessary information and I'll try not to lecture. I just want you to know everything I know now in hopes that you will be fully prepared for what is to come.

Finding Your Apartment

When looking for an apartment, price is the first thing to consider. Most apartment complexes require you to make 3 to 3.5 times the cost of rent to be considered for approval. Just a little tip--find an apartment on the 2nd or 3rd floor. It will be cheaper than ground level because most people don't like the thought of hauling groceries up a flight of stairs. Next, consider location. An apartment with a lot of stores and conveniences around will be considerably more expensive than one a little further away from a main street. One other important thing to pay attention to is safety. I know that really cheap apartments seem like the perfect place for a broke, young adult, but you really don't want people breaking into your car all the time or even worse, breaking into your apartment. If a low budget apartment is all you can really afford, I suggest you either find a roommate and a better area or stay to yourself and park away from the complex. Also..invest in a deadbolt!


Who do you plan to live with? Is it with a friend or two? A boyfriend or girlfriend? Or even by yourself? Either way, you need to make sure that who ever you decide to take the plunge with is reliable, smart, and someone who isn't going to bail on you if things get tough. BOTH OF YOUR NAMES NEED TO BE ON THE LEASE! Seriously..this is a big one. If your roommates name is not on the lease, the can leave you high and dry with a rent you most likely can't afford by yourself. Also, a broken lease is really bad to have on your record. Here is my advice on each situation depending on who you are living with:

BOYFRIEND/GIRLFRIEND: Please, please, please make sure you're ready to spend 6-12 months under a contract with your lover. I know it's tempting to want to move in with your boyfriend or girlfriend when you've been going out for a few months and hate to be apart. No having to answer to parents' rules and the chance to create a little haven for just the two of you. Just think about what happens if the two of you sign a lease and 4 months down the line, the stress of bills, work, and who's gonna do the dishes finally gets to your relationship? I am personally very happy with my choice to live with Jake. By chance I got to test out the waters without a formal agreement at his parents house, but not everyone is so lucky. If you do decide that you and your mate have enough stamina to move out together, that's great! More power to you and good luck! Just make sure you come to an agreement on what happens if you do decide to break up before the lease is up.

FRIEND(S): This situation is not quite as risky as moving in with your significant other, but it still poses some possible problems. Living with too many people can get annoying. Sometimes my roommates want to have a party when all I want to do is watch tv in the living room. You both need to agree on how to deal with those situations, how you'll share the responsibilities, and whether or not you're going to buy food for the whole house or buy your own food. Make sure they are dependable!

JUST YOU!: Wow, it take's guts to move out on your own. Kudo's to that! Make sure you can do it on your own and stay safe. Not much advice I can give on that. Although sometimes it can be harder to get approved if you have no credit.


Once you've find your ideal apartment, the really stressful stuff begins. You need to be approved by the leasing agents. Here are a few things they look at and what you need to qualify for most apartments.

  • You need to have your last 3 pay stubs and you must have held your current job for at least 6 months.
  • Your monthly income must equal 3-3.5 times the amount you'll be paying in rent.
  • Credit! This is a big one for most apartment complexes, especially for first time renters. I personally have limited to no credit history seeing as I have never had a credit card, bought a car, paid bills, etc. And that almost cost me the apartment I have. Thankfully one of my roommates had some good credit history and that saved us. Before you move out you need to start building your credit. If you can't be approved for a credit card, get a prepaid credit card. They're really good for people our age and they don't allow you to go over what you can pay. Be responsible! I can't stress that enough. What you do now affects you for the rest of your life. Bad credit honestly makes life so much harder than it has to be. I posted a link on this paragraph to another site that gives you more on different options to build your credit.

Approval can take 3 days to 3 weeks depending upon how fast you get all the information needed to the leasing agents and how quickly they complete it. For us, it took about 3 weeks because we were not prepared and the four of us did not coordinate as well as we should have. You will normally have to pay an 'administraion fee' as they like to call it. It's basically paying them for the time spent trying to get you approved. Ours was $45 per couple.

After you are approved, you'll need to pay the deposit. It is refunded in part when you move out. We had a deposit of $250 due to our lack of credit.


When you are approved for your apartment, you will be required to have electricity set up by the date you are scheduled to move in. A good website to go to when choosing your electricity company is or Don't wait until last minute to set this up because there is normally a 3-5 business day wait period until they can get out there and turn it on. My electricity bill ranges from $125-$180. I have a two bedroom and we rarely run the a/c, although we have been using the heater more often due to winter. I try to turn off the lights when no one is using them, but my roommates are not as adament.

Utilities (Water/Trash)

Apartments normally charge for water and trash pick-up. It can range anywhere from $15-$50 a month. I pay roughly $25-$50 for water and trash. It is a little higher than most due to the fact that my complex uses allocated water. That means my water bill is dependant on how much water the entire complex uses. I don't think it's fair, but it doesn't bother me much because we got a great deal on our apartment, so it makes up for it in a way. A lot of apartments will charge a set fee which may be better for those who will be living on a very strct budget. Side note: I am by no means rich. It's just that having three roommates softens the blow of these expenses. I end up paying $15 for my share of the water bill :)


Now to furnish your lovely new apartment! There are many ways to save money and still have all the functional furniture you need. Try garage sales, flea markets, friends and family who have a couch or end table they don't want anymore. Never underestimate the power of Febreze and a couch cover to revitalize that nasty old couch on the curb. Look hard and you might come across some awesome finds. You can also try places like Rooms To Go that offer package deals that may even include a tv with a living room set. They offer financing programs that allow you to pay monthly installments. I was fortunate enough to have a roommate that had inherited a large sum of money and paid for our furniture in full.

Additional Expenses

Don't forget about everything else you need to allow money for in your budget. Here are the things I can think of that you will also be spending money on:

  • Food
  • Gas
  • Extra activities
  • Personal hygiene products
  • Kitchen utensils
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Detergents and dish soaps
  • Plates/Bowls/Pans

Set a realistic budget and get all the things you need before moving in. I suggest collecting them slowly over a few paychecks so the cost isn't so heavy when you're trying to pay for the deposit.

I may have missed a few things, or perhaps you want to ask specific questions. I'll try to answer as best I can and please leave me some feedback on whether or not this article was helpful in any way. Thanks for reading and good luck!


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      Aaliyah 7 months ago

      Hey i'm 17, 18 in april and want to get an apartment by that time because of some domestic violince stuf in my home. Only problem is i dont an credit history, and they job have is though a program that isnt like a normal job and wont sustain me for living on my own. Help?

    • profile image

      Destiny 7 months ago

      Hey im 15 years old im be 16 its dec. Im trying to get my own apartment how can I get my own apartment should'int I be able to get a apartment some how I have a job

    • profile image

      Jaquanna 15 months ago

      Hey Dalton, I work at Chick-fil-A, too! And I'm in the exact same boat. Financing can be a major pain.

    • profile image

      Dalton 16 months ago

      I'm 17 and plan on leaving as soon as I can. But I work at chick-fil-a making roughly $270 a check twice a month. All that sounds expensive, how do you do it only making $300

    • profile image

      Ashley 17 months ago

      I am 16 and I have a lot planned for my future. I'll be 18 before I graduate and I am going to be moving.. to a different state. Well, if I get an apartment there, or at least try to get approved, will it be more difficult since I will have just moved there and will have just started my job or be applying?

    • profile image

      Tatyana Gordon 17 months ago

      I'm 25 and with my first job, I work as a cashier at a wholesale club. I am pretty much homeless, had to move back in with an abuser I had left some six years ago. She is a available hoarder and I am literally sleeping on garbage, surrounded by more garbage. Since the job is seasonal, I can't really count on it as a steady income just yet. My shoes are falling apart, and it is just as cold inside this place as it is outside. Aside from sleeping in what feels like a tomb of garbage, I sleep on the floor. I can't use anything in the kitchen because it is inaccessible. I don't have good credit, but I'd be willing to live with roommates. I live in NYC, rent here is grossly expensive.

    • profile image

      Christina S Phomsouvanh 17 months ago

      Hi im trying get my own place and never understood if i get approve i was looking at a 2 bedroom and they have a special saying 399 move you in. My credit is a 517 i dont own a car nor do i got a credit card i make roughly around 3000+ a month but how can i get in to any apt if my score 517 with no rent history

    • profile image

      Jacquerria McDonald 18 months ago

      Hi I'm Jacquerria and me and my boyfriend we have been together for 3 years and 5 months decided to move in together and I was wondering with the application does he need to fill it out with me or can i fill it out and then add him to the lease ? what should I do ?

    • profile image

      Arianna 20 months ago

      Hi Hannah! Currently I am 17, but I plan to move in with a friend or with my boyfriend by my birthday, which is in March. I wanted to know, when you're looking for a home where do you search? I've been using Zillow for the past 6 months. So do you get a realtor, search online? I am really looking forward to an answer!! Thank you??

    • hannahxdee profile image

      hannahxdee 2 years ago

      Hi Lexi! I completely understand where you are coming from. It sounds like you and your boyfriend are pretty serious, which is good when you’re looking at making such a big commitment by moving in together. One word of advice though, girl-to-girl, if there is ANY doubt in your mind as to whether you two will break up during your lease, I seriously advise against moving in together. It happened to me and I ended up having a broken lease because of it. Believe do NOT want that. It truly sucks and makes renting again a million times harder.

      Anyway, now that I’m done with the warnings let’s jump right in!

      Looking at your situation, it seems like it might be pretty tough for you two. I don’t think it’s impossible, but your best chance at renting your own apartment would be to get someone with good credit to cosign on your lease. This can be a family member, friend, etc. and would make the whole process a LOAD easier. If that is absolutely NOT an option, my second suggestion would be roommates. Especially someone with good credit.

      Since you don’t make very much, you can also try looking for low-income apartments in your area. I have seen some very nice ones near me! Go in and actually speak with someone. They can explain everything they’ll need from you and most will try and work with you.

      If the fact that you two have no credit and minimal job history ends up ruining your chances of renting in a complex right now, my last suggestion would be to try searching through craigslist for people who need roommates. They may not check your credit. In the meantime...get a SECURED credit card. You deposit your own money onto the card and it acts like a real credit card..Google it. It helped me IMMENSELY.

      I hope this helped a little! Let me know if you have any more questions 

    • profile image

      Lexi 2 years ago


      I have wanted to move out for quite some time now; however, I am only eighteen & this is my first year of college. My boyfriend & I have been together for four & a half years & are seriously looking to move out of our parents' houses & make a life of our own. He works for his Dad and has no credit while I just currently became employed in retail last month with no credit as well. We don't make much, but are willing to do whatever it may take to make this work! We have no clue where to begin - especially where getting approved is concerned. I've spent many hours researching my options, but not many people know what it is like to move out at such a young age with no guidance. I am hoping that your situation may shed some light on our own! I would love to know what advice you could give us - anything would be helpful! Thanks so much.

    • Caleb Hart profile image

      Caleb Hart 3 years ago from Provo, Utah

      I am just setting out on my own, and am going to be needing some help. I'm living with a brother, so I guess I'm not living with my parents anymore, but I'm still living with family. It's harder than it seems to make it on your own these days. I think it would be cool if I could room with my friends though.

    • profile image

      Nora Moore 3 years ago

      That's true that apartments are usually cheaper if they aren't on the first floor. Figuring out roommates can be difficult, but if you can find someone reliable that will help keep things much more pleasant. My daughter is starting out on her own now, so I should tell her to make sure that her name as well as her roommate's need to be on the lease. I'm pretty sure that she will room with a friend, so at least that isn't as risky. I should show her this article.

    • profile image

      Ashley 4 years ago

      So my fiancée and I are both in our early/mid twenties and want to get our own apartment. We've been looking, but finding the right person to rent out is the problem. I worked for 6 months and left my job for a better opportunity closer to home. I have been at my current job for about a month. My fiancée was working at a recruiting agency, but since you have to make sales and it is not a secure job, he found a better opportunity elsewhere and left after 3 months. Our credit score combined isn't that high, but it is fair. Mines is bad because of student loans and check system. I've done some research on how to get approved, but the answers I am getting are 50/50 chance we will get approved. Also, we want a safe environment and somewhere between $550-850. The higher the price, I am hoping some utilities are included. Also, both our jobs are sorta under the table so I know that a note from employers will be great. I just need some answers to know what to expect. We haven't gotten denied from any renters, but I want to prepare for the worse. Any advice on what to do?

    • hannahxdee profile image

      hannahxdee 4 years ago

      Hi Ambria! That's exciting that you are taking the first steps to moving out, and doing so responsibly! I would save up at least 3 months rent as an emergency fund in case someone loses their job. If there are three of the four people working, I would stick to a rent price of $900 or less. I'm not sure where you live, so that may be a good amount to work with or not. Problems might come up if there is one person not pulling their weight in the household.

      Is it going to be all four of you sharing a car? It's possible, but probably not ideal. I would buy the car first (definitely) though.

      While you are saving up, I also HIGHLY recommend all of you start buying household supplies (toilet paper, laundry/dish detergent, toothpaste, shampoo, etc.) and other items like pots and pans, oven mitts, etc. Look for deals and coupons and keep a nice little stock of those items so you don't need to shell out the money before you move out.

      My only caution is to be COMPLETELY sure everyone will abide by the rules of the house. Some good ones to start with will be: Will food be shared or separate? (I suggest separate..makes things much simpler). What's the rule on leaving out dirty dishes? Who buys toilet paper?

      Don't feel weird about setting rules and boundaries! It's a lot easier to figure everything out BEFORE everyone has signed a contract and someone decides they don't like the way someone wants these things to go. A broken lease will make it SO SO SO hard to rent again. Trust me!

      I wish you a lot of luck in this, and let me know if you have any questions at all! Thanks for reading and I hope I could help :)

    • profile image

      Ambria 4 years ago

      Hey, I'm Ambria. I'm 18 years old and plan to move into an apartment with my boyfriend, his best friend and my best friend. We just made this decision and we are also saving up for a car. I was wondering how many months we should save up before actually making that step to move out. (We make about 900 a month each) as we are young college students. with 3 of us working and saving. should we wait until we get a certain amount or get the car first. just seeking advice. thanks!

    • hannahxdee profile image

      hannahxdee 4 years ago

      Jill - that sounds pretty stressful! Let me know if you have any questions or situations you need help with. Good luck!

    • hannahxdee profile image

      hannahxdee 4 years ago

      Weston, I'm sorry! I didn't see your comment until today. Let me know if you need any help with moving out still!

    • profile image

      jill 4 years ago

      I have been on the verge of panic getting my first apartment, im signing the lease and starting the move tomorrow. Unfortunately this is way sooner then I planned, its all going to be last minute because he needs his stuff (stuff we need) out by tommorrow. We don't even have electricity on. My bf's pissed because hes helping and has to stay the night. I bought candles n stuff... I guess we'll have pizza tommorrow night. Haha sitting at work stressing about all this is driving me crazy. I wish I cold have done this more perfectly. Im already annoyed with my roommate, but Im gonna have to learn that not everything can go my way! Still the feeling of independence will be worth it all. A place that is my own.

    • profile image

      weston 4 years ago

      hi im 17 and im thinking of moving out but i have no clue what im doing and i moved around to much so i don't have anyone that would be my roommate i am thinking about moving out to where my girlfriend lives but i don't know if ill be able to get an apartment and if i could make it on miniamum wag. my mom has us moving around a lot and i just want to settle down in my own place close to my love but she cant move in till she is 18 so im on my own for a couple months what do u thing i should do

    • profile image

      princess 5 years ago

      Very helpful!!!!!

    • profile image

      Andrew 6 years ago

      Hello again Hannah. I can't believe it's been around a month and a half since I started to take moving out seriously. So many things have changed at such a rapid rate. Believe it or not, I'm actually closing 'my' condo on Monday - July 4th! Insane isn't it? I'm still very nervous and scared, but this time, it's accompanied with a sense of excitement and even a bit of pride---something that means more to me than others. I think I may actually come out okay. Once again, I'm so grateful to have come across your article. Of all the items I've read and the professionals (Lawyer, Realtor, Mortgage Specialist, etc.) who I've worked with, you have been the most helpful. Thank you once again for sharing your advice and insights! You are awesome ;)

    • hannahxdee profile image

      hannahxdee 7 years ago

      Andrew! Thanks a lot for the feedback. I'm glad my article gave your more confidence to be out on your own. How is that going by the way? I know it's hard moving out on your own, especially if you have no one who will give you a specific or honest answer. So, honestly..feel free to ask me anything if your need it and good luck!

    • profile image

      Andrew 7 years ago

      Hi Hannah. Thank you very much for writing this article. It's the first one that I've actually come across that really 'connected'. I've had low self esteem my whole life and I'm finally at a place where I have enough courage to venture out on my own and be independent. The thought of being independent scares the living hell out of me but your article gave me a bit more confidence to move on. Thank you once again.