Three Keys to Finding Your First Apartment

One of the biggest steps into adulthood is finding a place to call home when you are out on your own. It is often one of the first real steps into “adulting” too. Today, to kick off a new adulting series, I am sharing tips for finding your first apartment. Sponsored by Array at West Alex, these tips are all geared to helping you find an apartment that will fit your lifestyle and personal needs as you embark on your journey into adulthood.

Three Keys to Finding Your First Apartment - Apartment Hunting in Alexandria - Northern Virginia &
 DC Living -

Like all the tips and advice that I share, these tips are drawn from my personal experience. When I moved back to the Washington, D.C. area after college, I decided to save money by living with my parents for several months. As soon as I was ready, I dove straight into apartment hunting! I learned the hard way just how time consuming and daunting it can be to find your first place. The tips below are focused on helping you find your first apartment, because that first place can put you on the right path, if you find the best apartment for you. But with all that said, these tips will also help those of you looking for a second, third or fourth apartment.

Keys Finding Your First Apartment

Set a Budget

This step is important to do before you step foot in any prospective apartments! Consider your monthly income, how much you plan to put into savings and what your typical expenses will be for groceries, health, social things, etc. Also, keep in mind that many apartments will require a deposit.

With these numbers in mind, you can determine what the maximum amount is you are comfortable spending on rent.

Decide on Your Must-Haves

When I first started apartment hunting, I naively thought I’d find a place that checked off all my boxes. Boy, was I wrong! Creating a must-have list will help you determine what’s most important to you.

Three Keys to Finding Your First Apartment - Apartment Hunting in Alexandria - Northern Virginia &
 DC Living -

Do you have to move in by a certain date? Do you want to be within walking distance to your job? Do you want to live in a new apartment with security and nice amenities? Do you want to live alone or have roommates? Do you need a pet-friendly place for your dog or cat? Everyone’s answers to these questions will be different and your list of must-haves will be uniquely yours.

Write out a list of 3-5 must-haves in order of most to least important. These should be the things you have to have in an apartment in order to be comfortable and thrive. If there are “nice-to-haves,” (i.e. things you can live without) create a separate list for those. Take the list of must-haves with you as you look at places and you will have a much easier time staying focused and figuring out what place will be best for you.

Connect with People Living Nearby

Three Keys to Finding Your First Apartment - Apartment Hunting in Alexandria - Northern Virginia &
 DC Living -

Getting insight from friends and family who have recently moved to the area or live in the area you are looking at will be very valuable. Ask to stay over for a weekend and get a feel for that area. You can also ask your network how much they pay for utilities to ensure you are within your budget. Even though your friends and family members may have different opinions than you regarding must-haves, location and more, you can receive insight from them that will ease any anxiety or concerns you have about taking the leap into your first place!

For me, a place like Array at West Alex, located in Alexandria, checks all the boxes of a first apartment. It is a brand-new apartment complex near the I-395 interstate, with studio, one- and two-bedroom floor plans available to give you the best options according to your needs. For those of you searching for a place in Northern Virginia, here are a few of my favorite things about Array that I think you all will love too!

  • Fitness center with a yoga room
  • It’s dog friendly and they have a dog run!
  • Easy and fun conveniences including on-site Harris Teeter and Sushijin
  • Beautiful courtyard for sunbathing and grilling
  • Lounges and co-working spaces

When I came back to Northern Virginia after college, I was totally overwhelmed by all the options, even though I was pretty familiar with the area because I grew up here. I think if I had just focused on these three tips, I would have felt much less overwhelmed. So, if you’re feeling at all that way I hope these tips and photos of the new Array at West Alex are helpful in your search.


This post was created in partnership with Array at West Alex, but as always, all thoughts are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that allow me to pursue my blogging journey.

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