There are cases where apartment complexes allow you to choose from a color wheel of neutral hues before you move in. Some charge a fee for calling in a painter to do the walls, while others offer new paint as a benefit of moving in. If you're not a fan of neutral colors, consider looking for an apartment that allows you to paint the walls a more expressive tone. Otherwise you can invest in boldly colored furniture and posters.
Specify whether the contractor or you will supply the paint. Check Consumer Reports' paint ratings: In its tests, some relatively inexpensive paints performed better than more expensive paints and cost $10 to $20 less per gallon. But keep in mind that most paints will resist cracking, peeling, mold and mildew. Who does the painting — and how well they do it — is more important than what's in the bucket.