We have all been there; the apartment that is too good to be true. For months, you’ve scoured the internet with no reward and finally you stumble upon it in all of its beauty—causing you to drop your jaw and softly mutter to yourself, “I think I’ve found it.”
After the sweet embrace of your significant other, or the little number you jig in solitude (don’t be embarrassed), you promptly set up a viewing. As you walk through the halls admiring the newly refurbished kitchen, shiny new appliances, hardwood floors, and freshly painted walls, you allow yourself to indulge in the wonderful fantasy of what your life would look like if you found yourself dwelling in this thrifty steal of an abode.
Not so fast cowboys and girls, before you sign the dotted line that indicates the terms and conditions of your lease agreement, you’ll want to make sure that the things you’re so excited about are as real as they appear. Here are five key pieces of knowledge you’ll want the deets on before you pull the trigger.
1. What is the Maintenance Situation?
Before you even think about the lease terms and rent, I would strongly advise you to confirm the functionality of the apartment. This is especially true the apartment is seemingly underpriced, or if you know the building is an older one. You’ve heard the cliche, “there’s always a catch.” So peel the covers off and stop judging the book by its cover.
Ask how the previous tenant treated the place and whether or not there are any potential issues they left behind. Ask if there has been any pipe or gas leaks, drain clogging, or HVAC malfunctions. Ask if there are any plans to remodel in the future and what that may do to your rent. After all of this checks out, you’ll want to be clear on the process of maintenance requests. The last thing you want in the face of a disaster is cluelessness.
2. What are the Terms of Lease?
After you have established that faulty plumbing, structural problems, and fire hazards won’t be plaguing you, inquire about the lease terms. If you are planning on inhabiting a place for an extended amount of time, it pays to know what will be required of you. Make sure you know the duration of the lease and whether there will be any penalties for breaching that term. Remember, this is a contract, so being over prepared is better than being underprepared.
Make sure you also inquire about issues such as subletting, guest protocols, Air BnB, and other potential lifestyle issues. Chances are, one leaser’s terms will be different from another’s. You don’t want to get in trouble for something that you had no idea was against the rules.
3. What is the Total Cost?
Once you’re confident your future property management company is comprised of honest individuals, you’ll want to get down to brass tacks. Making sure that you can afford the final cost of rent is important, so ask whether there are any utility fees or late charges associated with rent. Another often overlooked expense is transportation. Parking can drive the cost of living through the roof if there are strict regulations, and commuting can do the same if you’re spending a ton on gas.
Your awareness of not only the cost that is associated with rent, but any other unwanted fees will make your transition smoother. Having fees pop up out of nowhere is one of the most frustrating aspects of moving, so do your homework.
4. Who are your Neighbors?
We have all seen the 2014 movie Neighbors with Seth Rogen and Zach Effort. We know the types of conflict that arise when sticking two groups of totally different people together in a close living situation. If you haven’t seen it, spoiler alert: it gets ugly. Know who you’re going to be living next to. Ask questions about how many people are in the units around you, how soundproof your walls are, if there have been any noise complaints etc… It may seem intrusive to you at first but you have a right to be curious (to a certain degree). After all, if you don’t discover whatever tomfoolery goes on in an apartment building while viewing it, you surely will once you’re living there. And by then, it will be too late to make any changes.
You should also inquire about the rules of the apartment building. If you’re a night owl like me, you’ll want some freedom. Make sure you won’t feel like you’re at summer camp the entire time. The last thing you want is to get off work late, come home, and be required to shut your TV off by 10 like it’s a school night.
5. What is the Location Like?
You may not know what a given neighborhood has to offer, so ask. It isn’t just about the size and amenities of the place. That being said, prime location isn’t all about what’s trending, it’s also about safety and what fits your lifestyle. Questioning your tour guide about public transportation, neighborhood crime rates, and local culture is extremely important.
Often times the information we get on the internet about specific locations is incomplete. While the internet might declaim that certain areas or neighborhoods are unsafe, they often generalize and do not qualify their statements. That being said, don’t trust your property manager blindly. Do some fact checking, but make sure to gather the property manager’s perspective on the area. Chances are, they have the most firsthand experience.
As a final note, I want to stress that once you’ve settled on an apartment and it comes time to sign the lease, make sure you read all of it before signing. Then, read it again. Make sure you are absolutely clear about anything that seems worded differently than what your property manager you and your property manager spoke about. If it remains unclear, make sure to get what’s important to you in writing. Again, the lease is a contract, once you have signed it, there is no turning back.
Finding an apartment is similar to looking for a job—it’s a major life decision and you’re going to have to look for a while to find your bliss. Don’t jump the gun out of frustration. Cover these 5 areas of questioning and there will be no doubt in your mind that you’ve come to the right place.