Apartment Hunting? 10 Important Things to Consider When Renting
Whether it’s your first rental experience or your last, finding the perfect apartment that fits both your lifestyle and budget isn’t going to be easy. Thankfully, we’re here to help. Before you sign that lease, keep these 10 very important considerations in mind while apartment hunting.
First and foremost, can you reasonably afford to live here? Before seriously considering an apartment, you need toseriously consideryour budget. Conduct a bit of online research to get a sense for the typical rental rates in the neighborhood. If you’re willing to pay a high price for a certain location, then you’ll need to find other ways to cut back on expenses. Or you may need to find roommates to help cover the costs. Also, keep in mind that if an apartment’s rent is unusually low (read: too good to be true) compared to other rentals in the area, then this may be a big red flag. Bottomline: make sure you know the market before looking at apartments and negotiating a price.
Don’t trust those pretty pictures you see online. Before you rent an apartment, you should arrange to see the place in-person. Keep in mind that cosmetic issues, such as broken blinds or scratches on the wall, can be fixed – possibly by your landlord. But deeper problems may be an indication that the apartment hasn’t been properly taken care of. As you peruse the apartment, look for health and safety issues, such as bug problems, rodents, leaky faucets, water damage, lead paint, asbestos, dirty air filters, mold, broken heat and air conditioning systems, rust, broken windows, and electrical problems.
Your landlord can make or break your renting experience. If you have a bad landlord – one with a bad ethics or a lack of boundaries – you may end up in your own rental nightmare (or worse – a courtroom). To prevent this from happening, try to meet with your landlord or (at the very least) chat with him or her on the phone. If you’re moving into an apartment with roommates already, then make sure to ask them about their overall experience with their landlord.
Before moving into an apartment with total strangers, I suggest getting to know them beforehand. Chances are, they’ll want to screen you as well. Keep in mind that you don’t have to be best friends with your roommates, but you do have to respect one another. Make sure that, for the most part, your lifestyles are a good match. If you prefer a 9 p.m. bedtime and they prefer to party late into the night, then your living situation could quickly spiral downhill.
In addition to your roommates, carefully consider the potential neighbors. If meeting potential roommates, ask them about their experience with their neighbors. If the roommates start to complain about various neighbors, my suggestion is RUN. No one wants to deal with inconsiderate neighbors.
Before signing a lease, walk around the neighborhood to get a sense of the community.
In addition to demographics and safety, look into whether the community has any specific rules. If you’re moving to a rental with an HOA, you’ll need to have a clear understanding of their expectations and rules before signing a lease. You should also look into any specific traffic or parking regulations in the area.
Before signing a lease, I strongly recommend having a local Realtor or lawyer look over the lease to make sure it’s a) a standard lease with no surprises and b) legitimate. Read over the lease to make sure it fits your needs as well. For instance, if you plan on subletting your apartment in the future, does this lease allow you to do this? Be sure to also check: whether the lease is a 6-month, one year or month-to-month type of lease; what date the rent is due each month; whether roommates are allowed; who is responsible for the maintenance; any parking rules; and whether your deposit is refundable.
The Pet Policy
Included in the lease should be your landlord’s pet policy. If you have a pet or plan on getting a pet, this small detail is very important. Make sure to check: whether the landlord charges a pet deposit; if the deposit is refundable; type of pets allowed; and weight limitations on the pet. For instance, if you live in an apartment or condo building, you may only be allowed to have a dog or cat up to 20 pounds.
The Utility Costs
Don’t forget about utility costs! In addition to the monthly rent, you’ll most likely have to pay for various utilities throughout the time you live there. These utilities include water, gas, air conditioning, sewer, garbage and electricity – among others. Your lease should clearly lay out what utilities you are responsible for covering. Some utilities may be included in the rent. If you have any questions about who pays for what, make sure to double-check with your landlord before signing the lease.
When choosing a rental apartment, make sure to consider the area’s amenities. If you’re renting in an apartment building, you’ll need to make sure the amenities fit with your lifestyle. Examples include: do you need a doorman or extra security? Do you need an elevator? Does your building have a gym or is there an affordable gym located nearby? Does the apartment have a dishwasher? Is there a washing machine and dryer in your apartment building? How is the commute? Is there a laundromat nearby? Are there restaurants or shops in the neighborhood? Chances are, if you’re on a tight budget you’ll have to make a few compromises, such as walking to a laundromat, or enduring a longer work commute. Whatever the compromise, make sure you can live with the situation before signing a lease.
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