You’re excited to move in to your new place! And who can blame you? It can be a real thrill to find, furnish, and decorate a new home. Whether it’s your first home or simply your newest one, moving in isn’t as simple as just grabbing the keys and hauling your boxes up the stairs. There’s some official paperwork, among other requirements, that you’ll no doubt have to tackle and get in good order before you can truly settle in.
Here’s a list of some things to prepare and be prepared for as you embark on your new living adventure.
- Check on the landlord’s terms before you make a move: Landlords have rules in place to govern their properties and these can vary widely from residence to residence. Don’t get caught off guard only to be disappointed late in the process. If, for instance, you absolutely can’t live without Fido at your side, you don’t want to sign a rental agreement only to later discover that your landlord won’t allow dogs on the premises. Does it matter that all of the units are non-smoking? Also, will the home come furnished or with any appliances such as a washer/dryer, a refrigerator, stove, dishwasher, or microwave? Of course, any reputable proprietor will tell you all of their policies upfront. But if, after the initial contact, you still have big, burning questions, make sure to ask them!
- A rental application: Your new potential landlord will want to know a bit about you. They’ll ask for the basics, of course, such as all of your contact information and other identity-related data. This material will be the launching pad that sets you off on the journey to your new home. The process may also include a fee to cover the cost of processing the application.
- Proof of employment and income: It’s nothing personal, of course, but the front office will likely need to see evidence, in black and white, that you’re employed and making enough money at your job to afford your rent and other expenses, such as utilities. This proof could come in the form of pay stubs showing that you’re earning sufficient income and getting paid on a regular basis. (Bank statements could be a serviceable stand-in for pay stubs if you normally get paid electronically.) Alternatively, an official letter from your employer stating your employment status and income can often suffice. Budget for your rent to be around 30 percent of your net income, keeping in mind that there are other recurring expenses, like utilities, that you will have to cover regularly.
- A review of your credit score: Now, to be frank, your creditworthiness isn’t something to start thinking about only just before your next move. You should always keep your credit score at the forefront of the financial part of your brain. In other words, you can’t just create good credit overnight. To an authority figure like a landlord, your credit score is a reflection of your overall capacity for financial responsibility. Know that the landlord you’re trying to rent from will request your credit score from a reporting agency and then weigh it heavily when determining whether to grant your request to live in your new home.
- A security deposit: Paying a security deposit will be a pretty standard part of starting your life in your new home. In addition to demonstrating financial solvency, this payment is a way to cover any future expenses that might arise as a consequence of you living in your new place. Accidents happen—to walls and floors, to kitchens and bathrooms—and the security deposit gives the landlord protection against collecting the costs of fixing these problems. Consider it a pre-payment against possible future damages. (The landlord shoulders the burden of normal wear and tear and deep cleaning units when they are between tenants.) The security deposit amount will vary depending on the landlord and your location. It may be anything from a token amount to a full month’s rent.
- Renters insurance: Renters insurance protects your investment in your belongings in the event of theft or damage due to a major disaster such as a fire. The landlord at your new place will likely require you to purchase some kind of renters insurance before you move in. If you already have this coverage at your current home, call your issuing office to learn about transferring the coverage to your new one.
- Utilities: Needless to say, water/sewer service and electricity are pretty essential. Depending upon the climate, central heating or air conditioning could be musts as well. Is the climate-control system powered by gas or electricity? Are utilities included in the rent? Or, does the landlord allow you to pay any of the utilities through their office, along with your rent payment? It’s likely that you’ll have to contact at least some of the utility companies directly and set up accounts with them in your name. You will then have to share this information with your landlord’s office. Since we’re deep into the 21st century now, you’ll also want to have internet service (and possibly satellite, cable, or landline service) in your new place. Ask the landlord’s office if they have any recommendations about providers in the area. They will likely be able to point you in the right direction.
- Signing on: When it comes time to sign your actual lease, be sure to read it over carefully, and in its entirety. Treat it just like you would any other legally-binding document. You may be given options about signing a lease for 6 months, 12 months, or possibly some other length of time. This agreement will let you know about your responsibilities when it comes to maintaining the home, as well as whether or not you’re allowed to alter the house in any way, for instance, by repainting its walls. The lease will also tell you how much leeway you get when it comes to hanging pictures and other decorative items in your new home.
- Furnishing and day to day: Once you finally get the chance to move in—congratulations, by the way!—now it’s time for you to personalize your new home. Make sure that you do this within the terms of your lease. It’s also probably a good idea to be mindful of any policies related to noise/quiet hours or any restrictions on the use of communal spaces if you live in a complex with conjoined units. And if you’re inclined to do a fair amount of online shopping, check if your complex has any special rules governing package delivery.
- Who are the people in your neighborhood? Perhaps the most important part of settling in to your new home is learning about the other people who live there. Be sure to introduce yourself to your neighbors. They may soon become your newest friends! There may also be an online community portal you can join that will allow you to further bond with other residents. If you’ve just arrived in town from far away, your neighbors can also point you to nightlife hangouts, farmers markets, thrift shops, or any other specialty establishments that might be of interest to you.
Moving into a new home can be both stressful and exciting. If you can make a solid plan for tackling some of these essentials at the outset, then you can greatly reduce the level of aggravation you’ll encounter during your transition. Happy moving!