Do your research before signing a lease on your first apartment.

If you're about to leave home and lease your first apartment, you should be doing a lot of research before diving into a new living situation. It's important to ask the tough questions so you can find the apartment that fits your needs, budget and lifestyle. Remember that once you've signed a lease, you're pretty much stuck with it, so take your time and give yourself options. Here are three tips for helping you find the right first apartment:

1. Pay attention to the details 
When you view a nice living space, it's easy to fall in love at first sight. However, an apartment may not actually be as great as it seems upon first glance. If possible, check the light fixtures and water pressure to ensure that everything is in working order. Ask questions about the appliances such as dishwashers, refrigerators and washing machines. Make a quick phone call or send a text to make sure you have adequate cellphone service. It's also a good idea to check that the windows open and close properly, especially if you live in seasonal climate. Take note of the building facilities as well. 

2. Take pictures before moving in 
It's best practice to take pictures of every inch of your apartment before moving in, plain and simple. Make sure to get detailed images of any issues that is already present when you move in. Otherwise, some landlords may try to charge you for the damage when you move out. These pictures will also give you a point of reference for when you are moving out so that you can leave the apartment in the condition it was rented to you. In case of a dispute, you'll have picture evidence to back up your claims. 

3. Budget for extras 
Don't throw the entirety of your budget into rent. When viewing an apartment, make sure to take note of what utilities are included. If you live in a cold basement apartment and have a heating bill, those chilly winter months could prove rather costly. Some apartment complexes include utilities in the rent payment, which often drives up the price overall. However, create a budget to compare the two systems and you may find that you are actually saving money if you don't have to pay monthly utilities. Consider other costs such as parking spaces, pet fees and laundry as well.