First Apartment Checklist

Published: September 29, 2023

Apartment Hunting 101: A Comprehensive Checklist for First-Timers

Apartment hunting can be an exciting but overwhelming experience, especially for first-time renters. There are so many factors to consider, from location to amenities to budget, that it can be difficult to know where to begin. That's why we've compiled a checklist of essential things to remember when searching for your first apartment. Following these tips can make the process smoother and find the perfect place to call home. Let's dive in!

Determine Your Budget

When building a first apartment checklist, first things first: determining your budget. Consider your monthly income and expenses and decide on a comfortable monthly rent payment. A popular rule of thumb regarding how much to pay in rent is the 30% rule. This means spending 30% (or less) of your monthly gross income on rent.

All Upfront Costs

Before renting your first apartment, you must understand all upfront costs, including application fees, security deposit, and first month's rent. Know the amount of the security deposit required and when it is due. Always read the lease agreement carefully to understand how the security deposit will be used.

Monthly Fees

Ask about utilities and if any are included in the price of rent. You will also need to budget for internet and cable if desired. Many apartment buildings will also require a pet fee if you have animals. This can be a month-to-month add-on to your rent charge or an upfront cost before moving into the suite.

Renters Insurance

Unlike car insurance, renters insurance is not required by law. However, many property-managed buildings and private landlords require their residents to purchase renters insurance. Renters insurance is used to protect residents and their belongings in case of theft, fire, or other disasters. You can often find a deal on renters insurance when renting through a property management company.

Furniture and First Apartment Essentials 

When moving into your first apartment, there are a lot of purchases you will have to make. The good thing is that most of these purchases will last you many, many years. Your first apartment checklist needs to include pieces of furniture that you need, like a bed frame, mattress, and sofa, to get you started.

First apartment essentials also include kitchen and bathroom items, such as cutlery, dinnerware, pots and pans, cleaning supplies, towels, and a shower curtain.

Do you need a furnished apartment? Sometimes, this can be an excellent option for those new to Canada, students, or those looking for a short-term rental. Adding a furnished apartment to your first apartment checklist would help narrow down your options and help guide you to your perfect rental quickly.

Choose a Location

Now that you have your budget, it's time to decide where you would like to live in your city. When compiling your first apartment checklist, think about whether you need to be close to work or school. Do you want to live downtown or in a suburb? How close is the nearest grocery store? Is there green space or walking paths nearby?

We suggest selecting a location that offers you a smooth commute to school or work but also somewhere that you can picture yourself enjoying in your downtime. Here at Boardwalk, we offer rental buildings all over Canada in city centers and suburban communities - something for everyone.

Building and Facility Amenities

Determine what amenities you need and what amenities you want for your first apartment, and make sure to add your required ones to your first apartment checklist. Some amenities are 'nice-to-haves' while others are deemed as first apartment essentials. For example, laundry facilities, fitness rooms, shared social spaces, parking, storage, and more.


Underground parkades in the Canadian winter are an awesome perk, but that could be seen as nice to have; having an assigned parking stall could be deemed a requirement for most Canadians. Having available visitor parking is also super convenient if you live in a busy downtown center and want to make parking easier for friends and family who visit.

Storage and Bike Lockers

Some apartment buildings offer a storage unit with the rent, others offer it as an add-on expense, and some offer no additional storage options at all. Bike lockers or secure bike rooms are also sometimes available.

Best Time to Search

Consider seasonality when moving. The best time to search varies by location, but generally, spring and summer is the most popular time for moving in Canada.

Be sure to begin your search before the last minute. Buildings will often fill vacancies before a tenant moves out to secure new residents. Start searching 1-2 months before your required move-in date. For students who only need accommodation throughout the school year, you should begin looking throughout the summer months to secure a place well before September. 

Schedule a Viewing

Schedule a viewing to see the apartment in person. This is one of the best ways to ensure the suite will work for you and your life. This is also one of the best ways to avoid a rental scam, by seeing the unit in person and speaking to a property manager or landlord face-to-face. 

During your walk-through, ask about utilities, building maintenance, parking, pet allowance, smoking rules, security, storage, and anything else you need to know before deciding.

Avoid Rental Scams

Unfortunately, you might encounter rental scams when searching for your first apartment. The best piece of advice to follow is that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. 

Use reputable websites, and never send money before you've confirmed the legitimacy of the listing. No landlord or rental company should be asking you to send money before you've reviewed the terms of the rental agreement and had a showing of the suite. 

When using, you can browse our listings and rental buildings across Canada without worrying about scams. 

Prepare Documents

When applying for your first apartment, there are a couple of pieces of paperwork that you should gather and have ready to go. A reputable landlord or rental company will ask their potential tenants for things such as proof of identification, proof of income (last three paystubs are a good go-to), references, and proof of renters insurance. 

You may also need to provide a credit report or give permission to the landlord or property management to pull a credit check on your behalf. Be cautious, as this would be considered a 'hard inquiry' and might negatively affect your credit score. In Canada, there are two credit unions they could pull from: Equifax or TransUnion.

Renting with Boardwalk

Apartment hunting can be a daunting task, especially for first-time renters. However, with this comprehensive first apartment checklist, you can easily navigate the process and find the perfect place to call home. By following these tips, you'll be well on your way to finding your dream apartment!

Here at Boardwalk, we are more than just a property management company, and our residents are more than that to us. We are family, and our residents are respected members of the Bwalk community. Whether you're new to Canada, a student, a young professional, or an independent senior, we have somewhere for you to call home and love always. Let us help bring you home!

Find your home with the Boardwalk community today by browsing our site and checking out all of our rentals across Canada. We can also help you determine what building might best suit you, your family, and your budget. Get in touch and secure a viewing with one of our associates today.

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