11 things you absolutely need to make sure before you choose an apartment
If you’re thinking of moving or currently searching for a new home to rent, here’s some mega important advice from a person who’s moved five times in the last six years.
1. Make sure you have enough money saved up for your moving expenses.
And not just moving expenses (a moving truck, weirdly expensive cardboard moving boxes, packing tape), but first month’s rent and a deposit (which is usually as much as first month’s rent). Sometimes, you’ll even have to pay double rent if the new lease requires you to move in right away and you still have a couple weeks left at your current apartment.
2. Research the neighborhoods you’re interested in.
Do they have some staple grocery stores and convenience stores around? If you’re planning on having kids, are the school districts decent? Is it easy to get to work? If you don’t have a car, do these areas have enough stuff around so you don’t have to take a bus every time you need laundry detergent or milk? Also, it’s always a good idea to check out a neighborhood during the day AND night to get a good feel for how safe it is.
3. Skim through Craigslist (and other rental sites) for an idea of how expensive neighborhoods are.
For the most part, landlords and apartment management companies want to make the most cash money they can get away with —but you really shouldn’t pay more than you have to. That’s why you should definitely do your research and get a good grasp of how much apartments are going for in certain areas. For instance, you know homes by the beach or a lake will usually be WAY more pricey than apartments in a less scenic area. Of course it all depends on the apartment and what it comes with and what shape it’s in, but looking around on Craigslist or Zillow or Trulia to compare neighborhood prices is important. Also? Don’t pay to use a rental site. Some sites you come across will ask you to sign for a subscription, DO NOT SUBSCRIBE. The listings on those sites will most likely be available for free elsewhere.
4. If you have a pet, make sure you find a pet-friendly home.
Don’t fall in love with a home that ends up not being pet-friendly! This is the worst kind of heartbreak!
5. Make sure parking (for you, your roommate(s), and your guests) works for you.
If you live on a street where street-parking is the norm for most apartments, that probably means finding a spot will be hard. Especially when you’re coming home from work between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. when EVERYONE is coming home from work. And if you like to have people over frequently, it’s no fun when they can’t find a spot, or spend an hour looking for one. However, if you don’t own a car (and your friends are willing to take public transportation) maybe this isn’t an issue for you. If you can, ask neighbors or current tenants what parking is like for them.
6. How much will utilities cost?
Sometimes utilities are rolled into the price, sometimes they’re not. Sometimes, your landlord will pay for just water (or just water and electricity, or just electricity, etc.) and will expect you to pay the rest. If your landlord or management company doesn’t know how much utilities cost, you can always call your city’s water/power/trash management companies and get an estimate.
7. Look up the management company.
If a company is running things at your apartment complex, Yelp them first (and watch out for the fake Yelp reviews —you can usually tell if the reviewer is super vague, has almost no friends, and hasn’t reviewed many businesses). Seriously. And then look them up on Google to make sure no major complaints have been made on apartment review sites or the BBB (Better Business Bureau) . Remember, if you sign a lease with a crappy management company, you are stuck with them until the bitter end.
8. Make sure if the landlord offers AC and heat, those things actually work.
You don’t want to find out that something important — like air conditioning and the heater — is broken when you actually need it. Test these out BEFORE you sign the lease.
9. Find out if rent increases every time you renew a lease.
Is your apartment rent-controlled? Or will rent increase each year? Will it increase substantially?
10. Who takes care of maintenance issues?
Find out who you’re gonna call (GHOSTBUSTERS! LOL JK, or am I?) when your toilet or dishwasher breaks, or you need to deal with a bug infestation, or if there are leaks coming from places that should not be leaking. Make sure you have their phone number AND their e-mail. Also, be aware that some landlords/management companies will *try* to make you pay for broken/malfunctioning utilities (this happened to me, I wasn’t having it), because of vague wording in the lease. You really shouldn’t be paying for utilities you didn’t break (I’m talking about a clogged toilet, or a wonky washing machine —not a fridge shelf you accidentally cracked), so make sure to read the lease very carefully.
11. What happens if you need to break the lease?
Let’s say your living situation is not very cool at all. Maybe you can’t deal with your roommate, or maybe your management company isn’t doing their job and you’ve had it *up to here*. Some leases makes it almost impossible to break a lease —endless charges and fees are a given, but a lease I once had instructed me that if I wanted to break my lease, I personally had to find a tenant to replace me. Awkward, much? Basically, know what you’re getting into and how hard it is to get out of it.