You've walked the stage and cashed all of those checks your family wedged into graduation cards, now it is time to find a place to live. Unless you are moving in with grandma, your first decision is likely going to be what city, state or continent you want to call home. If you spent your college days in a dorm this may be the first apartment you are looking for and your options as well as the security deposit may be overwhelming! Hopefully the following primer to apartments can help you get your foot in the door to your lovely new one bedroom in the city of your dreams without suffering more regret than a one night stand.
When you start your search learning the lingo of apartments is important; your first step is to determine what kind of apartment you want. Maybe you looking for an efficiency or loft which typically consists of an open floor plan or something like a 2 bdrm with DW, WIC, W/D which nets you a dishwasher, walk in closet and a washer and dryer. The choices are sometimes daunting but after you look at a few units and assess your needs you'll quickly know what type of apartment you are looking for and can expand your search to location.
Just like real estate is about location, location, location; so is your apartment. You need to find an apartment that is in a neighborhood you feel comfortable in, both during the day and when you come in late at night. After you think you have nailed down a location before signing any paperwork, check out the location at night and see if it agrees with you, look for outdoor lighting and listen for trains, planes and noisy neighbors. After you sign a lease these issues will be much, much harder to deal with.
When you go in to sign the lease for your apartment you will most likely need proof of employment, references, and a security deposit. The need for any of these items will depend on the landlord or company you are leasing the apartment from. For our first apartment we had to pony up only half a month's rent for the security deposit. At our current place we could either put down a full month's rent as a deposit or pay a non refundable $79 charge to get bonded. In our case the $79 charge was a better financial decision than letting the leasing company have a month's rent, but this will depend on your situation.
If you have any other questions about apartment shopping, terms, lease items or finding the perfect place, ask away in the comments.