How Much Money Do I Need To Get My First Apartment?

Moving into your first apartment can be a super exciting thing.  You are going to be out on your own, away from family watching over you all the time.  You can spread your wings and relax a little bit.   

But don’t relax too much because, at the start of your lease, you are going to have to pony up some cash just to get everything going.  And many times, the amount of money is a huge shock to the old checkbook. 

A Good Rule Of Thumb is that you will need about 3x the first month’s rent when you are moving into your new apartment. 

Why are you going to need so much JUST to move in??  Well, I am going to show you EXACTLY why below. 

How Much Does It Cost To Move Into My First Apartment?

Exactly how much you are going to be expected to come up with on day 1, or even before day 1, maybe the day you are signing the lease agreement even… is all going to depend on the exact policies for your apartment complex, and the utilities and services that provide for them.  

In general, expect to spend between 1x-3x your monthly rent to cover all move-in costs. 

Why is it so much?  I’ll list the most common culprits below and you can see for yourself and be prepared if nothing else.  Also, when you call your landlord, you can ask them about move-in costs and what a typical person has to pay to move in.  They will be more than happy to help you out in that regard. 

But first, let’s go over WHY it costs so much just to move in. 

Utilities – To set up an account with most utility providers, you are going to have to be able to put a deposit down on the account when you open one with them.  They do this for much the same reason that landlords ask for a security deposit be placed with them as well.  They know that many people decided just not to make their last payment for whatever reason, and the security deposit or downpayment is there to make sure everyone pays until they stop using the services.   

This is going to cost you between $50-$100 depending on what city you live in and how much your utilities decide to charge you for this. 

Tv/Internet/Streaming – So this isn’t a NECESSITY per se, but at least internet is something that most people are incapable of living without for even short periods of time.  Even if you are looking at getting a budget plan, expect to spend at least $30 per month on internet.  So, figure $30 at minimum to get internet to your apartment and hooked up and ready to go.  If you want TV on top of that, figure another $100 or so at MINIMUM to get everything ready to go.  

Application Fees – Some places have a cost just for processing the application fee itself.  But the two main sources of expenses during an apartment application are the Credit Checks and the Background Checks. 

As most apartment complexes are going towards fully online application and approval processes instead of doing everything in person, it has become much easier for a landlord to run a background and credit check on applicants as a way to do their due diligence on the applicant.  

Both of these checks cost money to run, however, and usually they will run about $35 apiece or about $50 altogether.  So, you need to be prepared to put some money down for a background check or credit check before you ever even think about applying at a complex. 

Move-In Fees – Move-in Fees are a cost that the landlord puts on every single person that moves in to get their apartment ready to go so it is as brand new as possible before you move in.  This includes making sure everything is working, and doing any repairs before your move-in date. 

Now, you are probably thinking Why these move-in fees when they charge a security deposit to tenants?  Well, to be bluntly honest, many times the security deposit doesn’t even come CLOSE to the cost a tenant will incur on the landlord because they treated their apartment so terribly.  

For the landlord to keep their rent prices down, they attach a fee that allows them to keep your apartment as good as it can be, keeping the quality of the facility up for both you and the other tenants that live there, doing something they wouldn’t otherwise would have been able to do, because there wasn’t money for it. 

HOWEVER, there is no guarantee that your landlord or the complex will have these fees.  If they do, they will be applicable to everyone at the complex, not just you.  But it is up to the apartment complex to determine whether or not they should implement these fees or not.  

When they DO, expect somewhere between a $250-$500 Move-In Fee. 

This is something you really want to be aware of before you put your application in.  Make sure you know EXACTLY what the process is, and what all of the expenses are before throwing money away on something unnecessarily. 

Renter’s Insurance – Some apartment complexes are moving towards making their tenants purchase their own Renter’s Insurance.  

Landlords do this because many tenants wrongly assume that if something terrible happens to their apartment or the building they are in, that the landlord’s insurance policy will cover all of their personal stuff along with the damage to the units. 


The landlord has insurance for themselves and their property.  They do not take out insurance on the property of the tenants, that is their responsibility. 

Luckily, renter’s insurance isn’t very expensive.  With many companies, you can get good coverage for under $1 a day.  This is a very inexpensive peace of mind for everything you have in your apartment.  Now, even if someone breaks in and steals something of yours, you are covered.   

Apartment School recommends all tenants get covered under Renter’s Insurance. 

First Month’s Rent/Security Deposit – This usually winds up being the biggest expense with moving in.  Even if your rent is only $700, that means that you are going to have to pony up somewhere between $1,000-1,400.  And that’s only if the complex asks for one month’s rent ahead of time.  Many complexes ask for two months upfront.  

For a basic rule of thumb, you should expect to pay twice your normal rent for both the rent payment and the security deposit. 

Moving Costs – If you are coming from out of town or out of state, more than likely you are having some company help you move.  At the very least, you are renting a truck or U-Haul, any of which options are going to cost you money. 

Tack on at least another $100 if you are renting a truck yourself, and several hundred dollars if you are having someone help you do it. 

In the end, after hooking up everything you need to live and function, paying the first month’s rent and security deposit, the application fees, the move-in costs, and other deposits put down for utilities, be prepared to have $2,000 in cash on hand to make all of those upfront payments. 

How Much Do You Have To Put Down On An Apartment?

Typically, giving the landlord their first month’s rent, along with a security deposit is all you have to put down with them to rent an apartment. 

You aren’t BUYING the place, just renting.  Any money above and beyond the rent, which would be dealing with a security deposit and move-in fees, is to keep the property in good shape and attracting good tenants, something you really want the complex to do.  

There should be warning bells ringing in your head if the application process was just a bit too easy, and a bit too cheap.  You WANT there to be some hoops to jump through to weed out those people you probably don’t want being your long-term neighbors. 

Also, if the landlord seems super eager and willing to get you to sign a lease today, that is probably a warning sign as well.   

YOU need to be interviewing THEM as much as they are interviewing YOU.  

The main thing to keep in mind when renting a new apartment is that there are a ton of other fees and expenses, some of which have nothing to do with the landlord themselves but have to do with outside services that require these fees for everyone no matter where you live. 

Keep these costs in mind so you are not blindsided when it comes time to sign a lease and move in that the expenses to get everything going are more than you can handle.

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John Boettcher

Co-Founder of Apartment School and a previous renter turned owner of many multi-family properties across the United States, with many years of experience in all aspects of the apartment, real estate, and investing world.

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