The Total Cost of Renting an Apartment

Author: Megan Bullock

Adding up the monthly bills

Along your apartment renting journey, you’ll discover your likes and dislikes of things such as floor plans, amenities, and community features. But most importantly, you’ll discover what the total cost of renting an apartment really is. This depends on the apartment you’re interested in, of course, because every rental and its adjoining community differs in price. But you’ll find that there is more to the cost than just paying rent once a month. If you’re interested in learning the price breakdown of renting an apartment, then I suggest you stay with me here!


What and How Much are Move-In Fees?

From the day you submit your rental application to the day you move-in, there are going to be fees associated with these actions. Move-in fees can include the following:

  • Application Fee
  • Administration Fee
  • Security Deposit
  • First (and Last) Month’s Rent
  • Keycard or Remote Fee
  • Pet Deposit/Fee

The application fee is the first fee that you’ll pay on the day you apply to rent a property. An application fee typically ranges anywhere from $25-$100, depending on the area and type of rental you are applying for. Take note that this fee is non-refundable.

If you’re dealing with a larger property management company rather than an individual landlord, you will most likely be paying an administration fee along with that application fee. The administration fee covers the background and credit check, and goes towards the effort that the members of the apartment community’s leasing office put in to approve (or deny) your rental application. This can range anywhere from $75-$350, depending on the area and type of management. An administration fee is usually refundable up to 48 hours of applying for the property if you choose to remove your application within that time frame. However, this wholly depends on management.

If your application is approved, you’ll be asked to put down a security deposit that can range anywhere from $100 to the cost of one month’s rent. A security deposit is refundable, but if you make any damages to the rental unit during your lease, that money will go towards fixing the damages. Whatever is left (if there is any), will be refunded to you within 30 days of your lease’s end date.

Depending on the apartment, you may have to either pay first month’s rent, first and last month’s rent, or a prorated rent on move-in day. How much you have to pay on move-in day typically depends on the apartment management’s policies along with your background and credit check. While first and last month’s rent seems steep, it assures the landlord or property manager that you have the money to pay your rent. First month’s rent is typical, but many apartment communities offer you a prorated rent, which covers the partial time (less than 30 days) that you, the tenant, will be living in the home for your first month.

If you live in a gated apartment community, then you may be charged a fee of anywhere from $20-$100 for a keycard to get into community areas such as the pool, fitness center, clubhouse, and laundry center, along with a remote that allows you access into the property. Some apartment communities lend these out to tenants at no cost (and only charge if the tenant loses the first copy), while others charge a fee for these items on move-in day, costing anywhere from $25-$100. Ask about this potential fee before signing your lease.


How Much Does Rent Cost Per Month?

The amount you pay for base rent each month completely depends on the apartment you are renting. What is base rent, you ask? Base rent only includes the cost of renting the apartment – no other fees, included utilities, or additional costs. Unfortunately, the base rent is just that – the base. On top of the base, you’ll be paying for any included fees (if the apartment includes any utilities in the rent), such as water, valet waste, sewer, etc. For instance, if your apartment’s base rent is $1,200, but they include water and sewer in your rent and charge a flat rate of $80 a month, then your rent per month will be $1,300, along with the other monthly charges.


How Much Do Utilities Cost?

The cost of utilities is completely dependent upon the apartment complex, your usage, and which company provides you with these utilities. Utilities include:

  • Water
  • Gas
  • Electricity
  • Sewer
  • Trash
  • Internet/Cable
  • Pest Control

Some apartment communities include some (or all) utilities in the rent. This is either charged to tenants at a flat rate or by usage based on the entire building, which is then divided up by the number of occupied units. Either way, many renters appreciate having utilities included in their rent! It can potentially lower costs. However, many apartment communities do not include any utilities, so the tenant must acquire these from outside providers; the apartment community typically gives tenants a list of providers they prefer or who offer services in the area. Just remember, when you sign up with these providers, they will each typically charge you a utility set up fee of anywhere from $15-$50!


Are There Any Additional Monthly Fees?

Depending on where you are moving, you may have to pay additional fees that include:

  • Pet Rent
  • Storage fee
  • (Garage) Parking Fee
  • Renters Insurance

If you have a pet coming with you to your new apartment, then you will have to pay pet rent each month – but only if the apartment community requires it in your lease. Pet rent typically ranges anywhere from $10-50 a month, depending on the apartment and the area it’s located in. Some apartment communities offer individual storage lockers or rooms that you can rent out on a monthly basis to store your extra belongings. If you think you’d make use of that, then add that fee into the mix, as well!

Maybe you like the idea of parking under a covered parking space or in a parking deck rather than out in the open. If the apartment community offers covered or garage parking (at a monthly rate), then add that to your budget as well. And don’t forget about renters insurance! Most apartment communities require this within the lease, so be sure to ask about this when you’re discussing your lease with the landlord or property manager. Renters insurance typically costs around $12 a month, or it can be paid in full for the lease term – that’s up to you!


How Do I Calculate the Total Cost?

In order to come up with the total cost of renting an apartment, simply add up your move-in fees, base rent, included utilities (if there are any), and additional monthly fees. You’ll know ahead of time what you’re paying and how much you’re paying for these items. In fact, if you use Apartment Finder’s cost calculator tool, found under “Lease Terms” on each apartment listing, you’ll be able to see the cost breakdown of moving into a specific rental unit (or floor plan).

You may choose your floor plan (based on availability), list your number of pets (either dog or cat), add in the number of applicants and vehicles, and voila! Your total cost will be calculated, including your one-time and monthly fees if you were to live in that specific unit. The only thing you’d be missing is utilities, both included and not. The cost of utilities depends on apartment size and use, but can range anywhere from $150-$400 a month for everything. So if you have a roommate, your utility costs will be split in half – that’s a relief!

Once you find your apartment, you can ask questions about what utilities are included, what additional monthly fees will be added, and how much everything will cost in total. But before that happens, it’s great to have a tool that helps you filter your apartment search based on a cost breakdown!