How to Rent an Apartment for the First Time | Common
01 Set a budget

With apartment hunting, the first thing you want to do is set your budget. In addition to your monthly rent, you’ll need to think about the cost of utilities, furniture, moving costs, applications, pet, or parking fees. Also consider renters insurance, an application fee if the apartment complex has one, or even a broker’s fee as an apartment renter.

02 Rent

Many apartments will require that you make 40x your monthly rent to ensure you won’t miss payments.

When it comes to how much to spend on rent, a popular rule of thumb is the 30% rule. This means that your months rent should not exceed more than 30% of your net monthly income. So if you earn $5,000 per month, then your monthly rent payment shouldn’t exceed $1,500. Most financial experts recommend using this rule, however many argue this rule of thumb is outdated. We recommend setting your own fixed percentage, instead of blindly following the 30% rule. You’ll also need to meet basic rent requirements. Many apartments will require a potential tenant to make 40x the monthly rent to ensure they won’t miss payments. In addition, many landlords will ask for proof of employment, as it is important to show a stable job and steady income before signing a lease.

Common can save you more than $1,000 a month on your dream apartment in some cities.

Create a budget specific to your lifestyle, and any debt or loan payments you may have before committing to any lease. Common can save you more than $1,000 a month on your dream apartment in some cities. As a response to COVID-19 we are offering members:

Special Pricing
Short term and super flexible lease terms
Security deposit-free options
Bonus incentives for students and healthcare workers
03 Utilities

When you rent an apartment, you’re usually responsible for most of the utilities. This can include:




Trash Collection


Many landlords typically cover the water, sewage, and garbage, and this cost is usually included in your monthly rent. Your monthly utility bill will not always cost the same due to usage, inflation, and seasonality.

You can avoid fluctuating bills with Common’s all-inclusive rates, including free utilities. This allows members to save money no matter their usage or the season. Instead of spending hours researching the cable providers with the best packages and promotions, you can save time and money with access to smart TVs, and free high-speed, commercial-grade WiFi at Common.

04 Furniture

Do apartments come furnished? And if not, how much does it cost to furnish an apartment? The answer here will depend on the building and renter. Furnishing an apartment for the first time can be overwhelming. Your needs and budget will determine what is best for you.

The different levels of furnishing that some apartments offer are unfurnished, semi-furnished, and fully furnished. A few things to prioritize and add to your list of costs if you go with an unfurnished apartment:

Somewhere to sleep

A place to sit

Somewhere to eat and work



Every member has a private bedroom furnished with a bed, nightstand, and lamp.

You may have some pieces from living at home, but why not have a start fresh for your first place? A fully furnished apartment is a great way to save you time, energy, and upfront costs. It cuts moving fees, heavy lifting, and difficult furniture assembly. Common’s coliving homes are fully furnished with quality pieces from brands like Restoration Hardware and West Elm. Every member has a private bedroom furnished with a bed, nightstand, and lamp. Since you skip the hassle of furniture-hunting, it’s even easier to spend time making the space feel like your own!

05 Understand the requirements to rent a space
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Similar to a job application, an apartment application requires you to provide information and documentation to show that you’ll be a reliable tenant. Landlords may request additional paperwork, like references, to speak to your character and reliability. Below is everything you’ll need when applying to rent an apartment:

Personal information

Social Security Number


Current and previous address information

Job history

Proof of income

Emergency contacts

Cosigner application

After gathering all the necessary documents, now it’s time to apply! Here are the steps apart of the process:

Fill out the application

Most applications have a fee, usually ranging anywhere from $25 to $100. This fee is meant to cover the cost of a credit and background check.

Provide proof of income

One of the most important parts of completing a rental application is your proof of income. You will likely need to verify that your monthly income is at least three times the monthly rent. You may be asked for a credit card or bank statement, so it's best to have all your financial documents ready.

Approve a credit check

You will need to provide written consent allowing the landlord to run your credit report.

Approve a background check

The landlord will conduct a background check to ensure you are dependable.

Find a cosigner (if needed)

In the case that your credit score or income isn’t high enough for you to secure the apartment, you will need a cosigner. You want to ask someone that is financially stable and that you trust. If you ever fail to pay your rent, this person is agreeing to cover your missing payment as well as any other late fee.

Provide personal references

References may be required if you have a low credit score or a limited rental history. As a first time renter, you will not have previous landlords to provide a reference, so you may need personal references. Consider asking your employer or professors for a recommendation letter to speak to your character.

Pay the security deposit

After you have been approved, you will need to pay a security deposit for your new apartment. The security deposit is protection for the landlord if the tenant breaks or violates the terms of the agreement. Prepare to pay one up to three month’s rent for this deposit. If there are no damages to the apartment, this deposit will be refunded when your lease ends.
06 Choose a location/neighborhood
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The location you think you want to live in will control the rest of your search for an apartment listing. When narrowing down the selection of apartments in an area, it is important to keep in mind logistics, such as the distance to your job and public transportation. When narrowing down a neighborhood, you will also want to think about your proximity to the following:

Restaurants and bars

Grocery Store

Shopping and retail stores


Hiking/ Walking trails

If you need help choosing a space in your dream location, check out Common’s homes across all major U.S. cities:

07 Different types of apartments
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Rental apartments come in all shapes and sizes. Some types may be familiar to you, and some may be new. As you look for your first apartment, consider these different types of apartments:



Traditional Apartment

Think about these 4 things when deciding the best option for you:





If you are looking for a more attainable option, Common offers a wide range of units, from coliving suites to microunits, private studios, and 1 and 2-bedroom apartments. No matter what you’re looking for, we can help you find the perfect apartment!


Common offers coliving apartments in 9 major cities across the country. Members live in a shared suite and have their own private fully furnished bedroom. At all-inclusive rates, members are able to create a community and enjoy incredible free amenities.


Microunits are perfect for those looking to save money. At Common, microunits are small studio apartments, typically with a living/kitchen area, a private bathroom, and a sleeping loft. These buildings also include onsite laundry and are pet-friendly.

Traditional apartments

A traditional apartment can be a studio, or 1 or more bedrooms – not coliving. At Common, we offer both studios, 1-and 2-bedroom units.

Check out our traditional units:


At Common, rent for traditional units is not all-inclusive. Depending on the building, members must pay for WiFi, utilities, laundry, furniture — all the bonuses that come with coliving. However, all members will have access to onsite laundry, community events, convenient amenities, and more!

08 Know when to look for an apartment
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The most important part before you begin your apartment hunt is knowing when to start. Setting a timeframe for when you want to move in is key. Many people make the mistake of looking either too early or too late. It is recommended that you start your search somewhere between 30 to 60 days before your desired move-in date. You don’t want to look too far in advance because an apartment that is available now, will likely no longer be available in 3 months. To help you with your search for an apartment, check out this guide on the best apartment listing sites!

09 Create an amenities wishlist/checklist

Looking for your first apartment will include considering an apartment building’s amenities and making sure they meet all your needs. There are a variety of amenities buildings will offer that are designed to make your experience better. Amenities are typically services that are included in the total cost of rent.

Not sure where to start? Here are some amenities you might want to add to your wishlist/checklist:

Gym/Fitness Center

Swimming Pool

Rooftop Space

Media Room

In-unit laundry

Storage Space


Pet-Friendly Units


Parking Spaces

Many of Common’s homes give you access to all the amenities listed above, and all of them include:

High-end Kitchen

Free Cleanings of Shared Spaces

On-site Laundry

Speedy Property Services

Common’s Connect by App

Discounts to Local and National Brands

Exclusive Common curated community events around their city

10 Find a roommate (if living with one)

Living in a city can be pretty expensive, so finding a roommate may be the perfect solution! Having a roommate can be especially great for those new to a city.

Coliving with roommates can help you save a ton of money on your rent and utilities. Finding a roommate who will respect your boundaries and shared space is also essential to an enjoyable experience! To help find a reliable roommate, check out these sites:

Common makes it easy for you to find a roommate and save money. Our coliving spaces are designed to simplify the moving process and eliminate the roommate hunt simultaneously.

11 How to tour

When it comes to looking for an apartment, touring has never been easier. Now, Common offers virtual tours so that you can fully experience a space from the safety of your own home. Additionally, these tours are perfect for renters looking to move to a new city from out of the country or state. Seeing a place in person is no longer necessary in order to get the most realistic view of where you might be living. During a tour, prepare a checklist to make sure you don’t miss anything. Here are some things to keep an eye out for:


Secure door locks and windows, smoke and monoxide detectors


Check for working appliances, light switches, water pressure, and outlets

Building Amenities

Security, mail/package delivery, and parking


Storage, closet, and pantry size

Here are a few questions you may want to ask:

How are trash and recycling handled?

Are there any sirens or loud noises in the neighborhood?

Will the apartment be cleaned before you move in?

Is it pet-friendly?

12 How to spot scams

While looking online for an apartment, it’s important to be mindful of rental scams. Typically rental property scams will try to get you to send a security deposit with no intention of renting it to you. Before providing your personal information or sending any payments, watch out for these warning signs to prevent being scammed:

They don’t want to meet you in person

They ask you to pay money to see the property

The rent seems too good to be true

The listing is very vague or has typos/poor grammar

They want to make a deal without a screening process

They are out of the country

They ask you to wire money

The best way to avoid falling victim to these kinds of scams is to meet the landlord or property manager and see the property in person or take a video tour!

13 How to negotiate rent and lease agreement terms

Most people think rent is a fixed cost with no room for flexibility, however, there’s always room to negotiate. If you are going to negotiate rent, make sure you have done your homework and have a desired outcome in mind.

Offering to prepay your rent

Comparing prices in the nearby area

Extending your lease

Sending referrals

Wondering how to find short term rentals at an affordable price? At Common, we offer short term and flexible lease terms, starting at 3 months.

14 Create a checklist for household items

When moving into your first apartment you will have so many things to think about that you might forget about all the household essentials you’re going to need. It’s time to go shopping!

Here is a checklist of all the household items you’ll need for your first apartment:


Duvet, comforter, and sheet set

Mattress topper


Clothes Hangers

Shower Curtain

Bath and hand towels

Bath and hand towels


Shower curtain liner and hooks



Light bulbs

Broom or vacuum

Cleaning supplies

Paper Towels

Trash Bags

Toilet scrubber


An anti-inflammatory such as Tylenol

No need to stress over whose turn it is to clean the bathroom or buy toilet paper at Common. We provide coliving members with free cleanings of shared spaces and free household essentials, including toilet paper, paper towels, dishwashing soap, laundry detergent, hand soap, and kitchen utensils.

15 Organize your move-in day

Move-in day can be one of the most stressful parts of moving into your first apartment. Once you’ve taken care of all the details, it’s time for move-in day! Making sure you are organized is key.

Follow these ideas to streamline the process:

Create a checklist

Plan ahead with management

Label boxes and items as much as you can

Hire movers or ask a friend to help

Check stairs or elevator availability

Document move-in condition

Congratulations! You will have successfully rented and moved into your first apartment rental. Next, you’ll celebrate with a toast and order takeout, because you’ll probably be too tired to cook!

16 How to settle in post-move-in day

Before that “My first apartment!!” Instagram story post or apartment-warming gathering, here are some things to check off the list post-move-in day:

Make sure all utilities are turned on and working

Organize and file all your paperwork

Figure out how to pay all your bills

Unpack any items you’ll need right away

Arrange your furniture

Register to vote at your new address

Coliving spaces are fully furnished, so you’ll have more time and energy to enjoy your new space. Post-move-in day at Common looks like an exclusive group brunch curated by the member experience team or watching tv and relaxing in one of our lounge areas. After all your hard work, it’s finally time to chill out, make new friends, and have fun. You earned it!