If you are interested in renting an apartment in Raleigh, NC, there are some steps to take and some things to consider first.
1. Figure out your housing budget.
Knowing your bottom-line rental costs is a good jumping-off point for your hunt. It will help you determine the type of place you should look for.
You shouldn't spend more than one-third of your take-home pay on rent. But if you live in a high-cost area, housing might have to occupy a bigger slice of your budget.
Also, be sure to budget for utilities. You can check with your area's utility companies to get cost estimates based on zip code. And while you're shopping, ask the landlord if utilities are included in the rent. If not, ask how much you can expect to pay for them each month.
Don't forget to factor in the price of renter's insurance, which can help protect your belongings in the event of theft, fire or other disaster. While your landlord likely will have insured the property itself, your belongings, as the tenant, are not covered under that policy. In most cases, renter's insurance can also help you with the cost of temporary housing if something bad happens. In most states, you can get renter's insurance for less than $200 a year. Buying your renter's policy from the same company as your car insurance policy can cut down on costs in some cases, too.
2. Separate must-haves from nice-to-haves.
When considering your new home, make a list of what you really need versus what you simply want, and figure out how each item will affect your bottom line. Some things that might fall in the "must have" category: safety of the neighborhood, extra living space, parking or accessibility to public transportation and major roads. (Try your commute during your regular travel times to figure out if it's something you can put up with on a regular basis).
The list will be different for everyone, of course, and you'll have to prioritize what you're willing to pay more for and what you're willing to sacrifice.
3. Start your search online.
Now that you know how much you can afford and what you're looking for in a home, where should you start your search? Many major cities have apartment-finder services. You can also get started by utilizing friends, friends-of-friends, alumni networks and social media, by putting the message out there that you are on the lookout for a new place.