Finding a new apartment can be exciting and stressful. Because you could be living there for years to come, it is crucial to find the perfect place to meet your needs. To make the best of the apartment-hunting experience, here are 10 tips for choosing a new apartment:
1. If you have or want pets, look for pet-friendly apartment buildings.
If you have or plan to get pets, it is important to find a place beforehand that allows them. For buildings that do allow pets such as cats and dogs, you may need to sign a pet agreement and be required to pay a pet deposit. Within the pet agreement, you may see that you will be required to have any carpeted surfaces professionally clean upon vacating or to spay and neuter your pets. Additionally, you will typically be required to keep your pets inside, and you may lose your damage deposit if your pets destroy any property.
2. Check if there are laundry rooms on-site.
To help make living easier, having laundry rooms on site is beneficial. Many buildings that have laundry rooms also provide their tenants with laundry cards to eliminate having to use actual money. However, you may have to pay a small fee to have the cards replaced if they are damaged or stolen. If there are no laundry rooms on site, you may want to choose a building that is very close to a laundromat.
3. Choose an apartment building for your personality type.
If you are a quiet individual, you may do better in a building with older or more mature tenants. By choosing such a building, you will be less likely to experience disturbances throughout the day. This would be especially important if you perform any work from home. If you are a partygoer, choosing a building inhabited by younger people may be more appealing. However, no matter where you choose to be, always be aware of and respect the quiet hours so that you do not disturb others.
4. Choose the location wisely.
Just like it is important to find a building that matches your personality, you must also choose the best location for your needs as well. If you have a job, choosing a place close to it may be the best choice. Consider this: choosing an apartment just 5 miles further from your job location than another rental site, can cost you a significant amount of money. Assuming you work 5 days per week, that’s an extra 50 miles of driving per week. Considering today’s current cost of gasoline and the extra wear and tear on your vehicle, that decision will likely cost you an additional $1,020 per year*! That could equate to one month of rent! So when it comes to two apartments with similar amenities, choosing the closer of the two can pay significant dividends. If you do not have a vehicle, choosing an apartment building that is close to public transportation will be the most beneficial.
5. Have a general idea about how long you intend to live in one location.
When signing for a new place, many companies will require you to sign for a year. However, after the year has passed, you may be eligible to do month-to-month renting. If you know that you will not be in a building for the first whole year, you may want to find companies that offer month-to-month living accommodations instead. You should however be prepared to pay a slight premium for the benefit of month-to-month arrangements.
6. Seriously consider obtaining Renter’s Insurance.
Many people have the misconception that the landlord’s insurance policy will cover any damage to both the building that you rent as well as your personal belongings. This is far from the truth. While the landlord’s policy will likely cover structural damage caused by a fire that started in an adjoining apartment, it will not cover damage or loss of your personal belongings. In addition, if you had caused the fire, you could then be liable for damage caused to the building as well as damage to other tenants’ property! Renter’s insurance can also protect you from liability if someone were to be injured while in your apartment. A little known fact is that renter’s insurance can even protect your personal belongings while traveling! If for example your laptop was stolen from your vehicle while on vacation, many renter insurance policies will cover the loss. For an extra $15 or so per month, you can help protect yourself and your family from these unnecessary risks.
7. Parking, Parking, and more Parking!
An often overlooked necessity is parking space. Many renters fail to ask about the parking situation. It may not seem to be an issue when visiting an apartment complex at 1:00 in the afternoon, but stop by at 6:30 in the evening and you just may be circling the complex for some time looking for a parking space! Some apartments will assign parking spaces, while others have open parking only. Furthermore, some apartments will only assign one space per apartment, so having two or more vehicles can be a real issue. Remember—always ask about parking!
8. Where’s Maintenance?
When things are going well you may care less if maintenance personnel lived on-site or 30 miles away. But if the heat goes out at 9:00 PM and you are frantically calling the apartment office for emergency service, you’ll suddenly realize just how important it is! Always ask about emergency maintenance and what constitutes such a call. Having maintenance personnel on-site and or on-call 24 hrs./day can be a huge plus. Having to wait until 10:00 AM the next morning to get hot water or heat can be a big headache!
9. Take a Walk on the Wild Side!
It may serve you well to just to take a walk around the apartment or rental house that you are considering renting. You would be surprised what you could learn. A simple stroll can help reveal the friendliness of the residents and/or their satisfaction with their own rental experience. This is something that a colorful rental brochure can never provide. Who knows, you may just find a potential new neighbor who can help make your move more welcoming.
10. Stay within Budget
Yes, it may be enticing to rent that big beautiful apartment with sunset views, but it’s also important to pay your car loan and fill the fridge. Don’t overspend. Many financial advisors recommend that your rental expenses NOT exceed 30 to 33% of gross income. This would include rent and utilities. Therefore, if your income was $50,000, your rental expenses should not exceed $16,500/year or $1,375 per month.
With these 10 tips for choosing a new apartment, the apartment-hunting experience should be much more rewarding. Just be sure that wherever you choose to live is safe, since that is the number one thing to consider. Once you have moved in, it’s time to enjoy your new home!
* Assumptions: 50 miles per week/52 weeks year. Vehicle averages 20 miles/gal @$3.85/gal. Vehicle wear/tear cost at $0.20/mile.