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How to Rent a Place: From Start to Finish

So you're ready to rent a new place. Whether you're looking for an apartment, a house, or somewhere in between, there are certain steps that you can follow to make the process a whole lot easier.

This post is made in conjunction with our financial readiness post, "How to Put More Money Back in Your Pocket".

1. Get a lead on an apartment/home/etc.

The first step in looking to rent a new place is to get a lead on a property that looks good to you. This step can be the most time consuming, as you have to perform a significant amount of research to find a place that works for you. There are a few different ways that you can go about this:


This first way can be good for connecting with private landlords and looking for individual rooms to rent. Keep an eye out for scams though, as sometimes they can slip through this platform's filter. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Newspaper Ads:

This can be another good way to find private landlords and individual rooms, but the selection here is usually a bit more sparse. It's something to keep an eye on though, because sometimes you can find some really good deals.

Online Services (Zillow,,

There are a huge number of different online services you can go to when searching for a place. Dealer's choice on whichever one you'd like to start with. You can look up all kinds of properties around your area, and with the different filters that you can apply to the searches, it makes it easier for you to find exactly what you're looking for. The downside with these services is that you might not always get a reply to a viewing request, and it can be a pretty competitive market at times. This can make getting your ideal place more difficult than it is with other methods.

2. Arrange to see the property

After you've found a place that you'd like to get more information on, the next step is to arrange to see the property. Sometimes, like with apartment complexes, you can just drop by and view during regular business hours. But with private landlords and house viewings it's probably best to set up an appointment to come by with the landlord.

This is the point where you can usually tell if it's for you or if it isn't. Make sure to ask as many relevant questions as you can think of. Once you sign the lease you're stuck with the place as it is, so make sure to get the info you need beforehand.

A few relevant questions to bring up could be:

  • Are utilities included in rent?

  • Is the heating gas or electric?

  • What's the cost of the deposit and application fee?

  • How old is the building?

  • What kind of maintenance would be the renter's responsibility?

You'll know what information you're going to need for your individual family, so use your best judgement during this step.

3. Fill out an application and pay the application fee

Congratulations! You've found a place that you viewed and really like. The next step in the process is to fill out an application and pay the application fee.

Before you do anything else, take a look at their approval requirements. Most leasing agencies have their guidelines posted on the website to help you make the right decision before submitting an application. The last thing you want is to pay the application fee and submit, and then get declined because of something they had already stated would not be allowed.

What info will you need to apply?

  • Government issued I.D

  • Social Security Number

  • Proof of Income (Pay stubs, bank statements, W2's, letter of employment)

  • Current and previous employment information

  • Current and previous address information

  • Emergency Contact Info

  • More might be needed if credit, rental, or criminal history are an issue

For proof of income, most places will require at least 2 months of your most recent pay stubs, if you just started a new job though that's where the letter of employment would come in. Basically just a letter from your employer stating when you started working for them, how many hours a week you will be working, and what hourly/salaried wage you would be making.

What is the application fee for?

The application fee covers the cost of the tenant screening, which checks: