1. Expectation: Your broker will be a decent guy who doesn't scam or lie to you. He'll even be willing to negotiate the broker's fee.
Reality: You'll meet him outside of the apartment you found on Craigslist, rendering him totally useless, but he has the keys to the place so you'll still have to pay the 15% broker's fee.
2. Expectation: You'll have all of your necessary paperwork — letter of employment, pay stubs, bank statements, etc — organized and ready to give to the landlord at a moment's notice.
Reality: You turn in your paperwork at the very last minute — after you ran 10 blocks to the nearest Kinko's or Staples to print everything.
3. Expectation: You'll only need a weekend to see potential apartments and find your new home — and you'll find the place weeks before you have to move.
Reality: Remember that time you were almost homeless but luckily found a place the day before you had to move?
4. Expectation: You'll find a great place that's within your budget.
Reality: You'll probably go $100-$200 over budget. It's totally fine though, it's in such a great neighborhood and you can see yourself living there forever.
5. Expectation: Your average Craigslist ad: ***NO FEE***LUXURY***LAUNDRY***GYM***ELEVATOR***BALCONY***ROOF DECK
Reality: Better be ready to give up your first-born child for all those things.
6. Expectation: You'll put in an application for the apartment and have no trouble getting it accepted. You'll probably sign the lease that day.