Signing a lease for an apartment is a lot less stressful than buying a house. Still, you shouldn’t go into the process lightly. It’s a long-term commitment, so you want to be happy while you’re living there.
In many cities, today’s tenants have more options than ever before. Apartment complex managers know it’s important to fill their vacancies. But it’s also a smart financial move to retain renters.
If you’re considering signing a lease on a “blah” apartment you’re not thrilled with, hold the pen for a minute! First, read these seven essential things to know before you rent an apartment. You might change your mind!
1. The Price Tag Isn’t Always What it Appears:
Many renters look at the monthly “rent” rate, then decide if they can afford to live there or not. But until you look into that number further, you don’t know exactly what it includes.
As a smart tenant, you are looking for a better overall deal, not just the cheaper rate.
For instance, consider these two vacancies. Both are in the same general area and are close to the same square foot, baths, and bedrooms.
Apartment 1 is $1200/month. It includes water, garbage, and a pool, and a fitness center. It’s closer to your job, so you will save about $10 per week on gas.
Apartment 2 is $1100/month, but you have to pay for your own utilities and garbage pickup. You also will keep your own gym membership.
Which one is the better deal? For the extra $100 every month, Apartment 1 will end up saving you money in the long run.
2. Always Look In-Person Before You Rent:
There are a lot of legitimate online rental sites out there. If you sign a lease sight unseen, you could be getting into a problematic apartment building, though.
We all know that pictures can be doctored to show a place’s best light. Make sure you visit an apartment yourself before you judge it. Cosmetic issues can be fixed. But a bug infestation, rodents, water damage, and other deep problems are going to be a big issue for the next year.
3. Meet the Landlord:
This person is going to be your go-to anytime you have an issue. If they’re not reputable, you could have more problems than just your apartment.
Unethical apartment managers have created trouble for tenants for centuries. From ignoring maintenance issues to increasing the rent illegally, a bad landlord can be a nightmare to deal with.
Check with current and previous tenants. Ask them about their experiences with the on-site manager. If most of them have horror stories, the “great deal” isn’t worth it!
4. Check the Outside Space, Too:
You know to look at the interior of the apartment, but the outside is important, too.
If you enjoy relaxing in your yard, having company over, and maybe barbecuing, outdoor access is a must. Some apartments offer balconies and small porches. But if you can find a place with your own backyard, it’s worth the extra cost.
This article explains the benefits of a backyard over a balcony.
5. Verify the Neighborhood’s Safety:
During the day, it’s easy to look at an apartment complex and its neighborhood as safe. What it’s like when the sun goes down might be totally different, though.
If you’re not familiar with the area, always look into the safety ratings of a neighborhood before signing a lease. There are a lot of apps and sites that put together crime statistics for you. Get detailed on the location and make sure you feel comfortable there, or move on.
6. Meet Your Neighbors:
It’s totally acceptable to ask your landlord if the neighbors around you will be there for a while. Some of their leases may be about up, and they plan on moving out. Others will be your wall buddies for a long time.
Don’t sign the lease until you’ve met your would-be neighbors. If there’s a definite conflict you foresee, ask the landlord if there are other apartments available. A bad neighbor can be as difficult to deal with as an unreputable apartment manager!
7. Read the Fine Print in Your Lease:
You can probably assume that a busy complex has a standard lease. However, reading the fine print helps you avoid surprises.
Check for pet clauses, the rent due date, any late fee penalties, and the maintenance process. Deposits are common but not always refundable. Ask about yours before you sign.
If you’re considering getting a roommate or subletting the apartment, there is most likely a section on that topic, too.
Save your lease so you can refer back to it if you have any issues later.
When you decide to rent an apartment, you have options. You don’t have to stick with the first place that approves you. These seven essential pieces of advice will help you find the right place for your next season of life, so you spend the next year or so in an apartment you enjoy.