By: Jo Montgomery
Apartment hunting? You’re not alone. Today, more than ever before, people are saying “so long” to the mortgage and maintenance of homeownership and “hello” to the freedom of apartment living. But how do you find the apartment community that fits your lifestyle and your budget? It’s not as daunting as you might think. It’s actually quite easy if you keep in mind these important things to consider before renting an apartment.
Keeping price in mind sounds like a no-brainer. But it’s very easy to fall in love with an apartment you can’t afford. For that reason, before seriously considering an apartment, consider your budget. First, do a bit of online research to see what the typical rental rates are in the neighborhood you’re looking in. And, if an apartment’s rent is uncommonly low compared to other rentals in the area, let that be a big red flag.
Different apartment communities employ different rules of thumb for their rent verification process. But usually, they’re looking to be sure your annual income is anywhere from 25 to 40 times your monthly rent. So, if they use 40 times, and you earn $70,000-a-year, then the maximum rent you can afford is $1,750 a month. Of course, if you need to, and are willing, to pay a higher price for your ideal location, then you can consider other ways to cut back on expenses, or find a roommate to help cover the costs.
Don’t Forget Utility Costs
Yes, there are bills above and beyond the cost of rent. Utilities are things like water, gas, air conditioning, sewer, garbage and electricity – among others. It should be quite clear on your lease exactly what utilities you are responsible for – some may be included in your rent. If you’re not sure who pays for what, just ask the owner or management company before signing the lease.
Don’t limit your apartment search to the bare necessities. Amenities change a simple apartment into an oasis. From resort-style pools, gyms and 24/7 doorman service to rooftop common areas and pet parks, amenities are the bomb! And they run the gamut, so be sure you get your “must-haves” when you choose an apartment.
Other amenities that are more important today than ever are business centers and conference rooms. They make working from home a pleasure.
Check Out the Neighborhood
Before you sign that lease, take a walk, or several, around the neighborhood. Show up at different times of the day. Mornings may have a much different vibe than the evenings. While you’re at it, get to know the area better on Nextdoor , or with an app like Citizen: The Future of Personal Safety – Apps on Google Play. Another good one is AreaVibes. It gives towns and communities an overall “Livability Score.”
Quality is King…or Queen
You can’t trust those pretty pictures you see online. So never rent an apartment sight unseen. Make time to go there in-person, or if you’d be more comfortable, many apartments offer virtual tours and self-guided tours. As you view the apartment, take your time and don’t get distracted by the paint colors or the current tenant’s taste in decor. The tenant will take all of their things with them, and walls will be painted by the management company. Do pay attention to signs of bigger problems. Like any indication, the apartment hasn’t been properly taken care of. Look for traces of bug or rodent problems, water damage, and anything in disrepair.
If you’re gaining a roommate, make sure you know them reasonably well, or get to know them. No doubt, they’ll want to get to know you better as well. Of course, you don’t have to be BFFs with your roommate, but you do need to respect one another. In addition, be sure that you can coexist comfortably. For instance, if you’re a neat freak and your roommate has never washed a dish, or you go to bed by 10:00 pm and your roommate parties until the sun comes up, you’re not a good match. Keep looking!
Meet the Neighbors
Good neighbors are right up there with a good roommate. When you visit your potential apartment, chat with neighbors. If they complain about the management company or other neighbors, that’s not a good sign. Your home is your sanctuary; you don’t want to deal with inconsiderate neighbors.
Know your Management Company
Get to know your management company and make sure they’re a good fit. They can make or break your renting experience. Look for pride in the property, ethics and proper boundaries. If you’re moving in with a roommate that was in the apartment before you, talk to them about their overall experience. And while you’re at it, read reviews.
Understand the Lease
Leases can be confusing and tricky. Before you sign one, have a local realtor or lawyer look it over. They can read all the unclear jargon and make sure it’s a legitimate standard lease, with no surprises. Even if you have a realtor or lawyer review it, read the lease yourself as well. Leases are a two-way street and it needs to fit your needs as well. Make sure you’re crystal clear on important details like the date the rent is due each month; if roommates are allowed; who is responsible for maintenance; and if your deposit is refundable.
Know the Pet Policy
If you have a four-legged family member, or plan on getting one, this policy is very important. Be sure you completely understand your community’s pet policy . Look for things like a possible pet deposit; whether the deposit is refundable; the types of pets allowed; and weight limitations. For instance, some communities only allow pets under 20 pounds or specific breeds.
Just a Few More Questions to Ask
With so much surrounding your apartment hunt and move, you may not think to ask some key questions. Here’s a quick list of additional questions to ask when renting an apartment.
- How often will the rent increase and by approximately how much?
- How do I pay the rent? What’s the grace period, if any?
- How much notice is required before moving out?
- Can I end the lease early? What happens if I do?
- When can I expect the security deposit to be returned once I vacate the apartment?
- How do I report issues and get things fixed, and what qualifies?
- How is garbage collection and recycling managed for the property?
- What’s prohibited? For example, may I paint the walls?
- What’s your policy on guests?
- Is parking available? If it is, what’s the fee? Guest parking?
- What’s the policy for management entering the apartment while I live here?
- What’s the process for moving in and out? Are there assigned days of the week or times of day?
- Would you live here?
Now that you know the things to consider when renting, and the questions to ask, you’re ready to find your dream apartment. Once you sign that lease, you only need to move in and enjoy! That’s the beauty of apartment living.