Apartment hunting? What to know before you go.

  |     |   Helpful Tips

Taking the plunge to rent your first apartment can be an exciting, life-changing step. How do you make sure you choose the right apartment or townhome for you?

These tips will help get you started.

1. Decide on your priorities—and the order of those priorities

There are many (many!) options when it comes to apartment homes, so it’s worth taking the time to decide up front what are your “must-haves” vs. your “nice to haves.” To start your hunt off right, create a list of every consideration before you hit the listings, and prioritize it for YOU. Here’s a typical order of importance of apartment features, but your mileage may vary!

  • Location/Proximity to work or school
  • Cost of Rent
  • Lease Types (one-year, month-to-month, etc.)
  • Size of Apartment/no. of bedrooms
  • Neighborhood features
  • Parking availability
  • Apartment features (Is there a washer/dryer? A balcony? A nice view?)
  • Apartment community amenities (Is there a pool? Fitness center? Community center?)
  • Pet-friendly? If yes, is there a dog park nearby?
  • Cost of utilities

2. Budget for unexpected rental costs (or savings)

You may feel like you have a handle on apartment costs such as monthly rent and basic utilities, but you should be ready for unexpected (or higher-than-expected) costs, particularly as you move in. Moving costs, the need for one (or more) months’ rent up-front, additional pet costs or pet rent, and monthly costs for items like parking spots, storage units, internet fees, etc. can add up. Pro Tip: Sometimes apartment communities run seasonal specials on rent, especially during the Christmas holidays. Definitely ask about rental specials if you’re apartment hunting at this time of year!

3. Prepare for the application process

Unless you are renting a room from a family friend, your apartment management company will almost certainly require an application—and will run a credit check to determine if you can afford the monthly rent. If you have any negative assessments on your credit, take care of those before you apply for your dream apartment. In many cases, all it takes is a simple phone call (or paying that small bill you have long since forgotten about) to improve your credit score. Some management companies also run a background check, so be prepared for that.

Other application requirements typically include a state ID/driver’s license, proof of income (such as pay stubs or similar), vet records if you have a pet, and even personal or professional references. Create a folder of all these items so you have them with you when you are ready to apply.

Also, bear in mind that many apartment management companies require a non-refundable application fee, so before you start applying, narrow down your choices to your top picks in the area of your choice.

4. Be prepared to ask questions

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a beautiful apartment with great views in the perfect neighborhood—but the application and tour process is your best time to ask critical questions. An apartment community’s pet policies, parking situation, amenities, renters’ insurance requirements, application fees, past rental renewal increases, construction plans, and even noise policies can be deal-breakers (or deal-makers) for you. Write out your questions in advance so you don’t forget any when you arrive onsite.

5. Take the time to review your lease

Congratulations! You’ve found your perfect home, and you’re ready to sign on the dotted line. Now’s not the time to cut corners. Your rental agreement or lease not only includes important information such as rent amount, rent due date, late fees, the amount of your security deposit (if any), and lease expiration date, it also usually includes apartment policies and maintenance procedures that you will want to thoroughly understand before you sign. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification—again, BEFORE you sign.

Searching for your new apartment can feel daunting, but with a little preparation, you’ve totally got this. Happy hunting!

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