If you’ve ever been a renter, you know this to be true – you can’t be too careful when it comes to choosing an apartment. I’m dangerous. I’m easily sold by shiny countertops and fluffy carpet. I try to put on my best poker face, but as my husband says, I’m just a “WE’LL TAKE IT!” kind of shopper. I’ve seen a lot of apartments. I want to share a few of the things I’ve learned about apartment hunting.
1) Consider your price range.
Not all apartments are created equal. If you want to live in the city but your price range will only get you a musty loft with little furry roommates, consider a place in the nearby suburbs. Rent decreases dramatically as you increase your distance from the city. I know it may not be as fun, but imagine all the cool things you could buy at Target with that extra money! Or you could save it, I guess… Either way, that’s money in your pocket! Another thing to consider are safety deposits, application fees, administrative fees, and pet fees. These dollar signs might not be on your mind until you’re signing the application and they drop a $1,500 fee on you. If you’re not prepared to pay that upfront, it’s time to walk. There’s plenty of other places out there for you! Lastly, ALWAYS ask what, if any, utilities are included. I’ve noticed some listings and leasing agents can be kind of cryptic when it comes to explaining what’s ACTUALLY included. Special tip: If you’re partial to a certain internet/phone/cable provider, check to see if the landlord has a preferred or required list of providers.
2) Don’t let the display sell you.
This is my BIGGEST weakness. Display apartments are always elaborately decorated in a way that perfectly utilizes the space. Unless you work at Ikea, you probably don’t have the furniture necessary to replicate this masterpiece. And here’s the kicker, displays are typically in mint condition. That means the carpet is fluffy, the walls are unscathed, the appliances are immaculate, and the whole place smells like a Yankee Candle store. Ask the leasing agent if you can see an empty apartment that is ready to move into. It may not be the exact layout you are looking for, but it will give you a better idea of what it will actually look like (and smell like!) when you move in.
3) Look up.
When my husband and I moved into our current apartment, we thought, “Hey… it seems kind of dark in here.” There were so many lamps and decor in the display that we never noticed that the apartments don’t have overhead lighting. Great. (Another reason you should always see an empty apartment!)
4) Water, water, water.
You don’t know the disappointment of a low-pressure water until you go to take your first shower in your new place and the water squirts out like dollar store water gun. When you’re touring your potential apartment, always check the water. Turn the sink on and off. See how quickly the water gets hot. Flush the toilet a few times to check the water pressure.
5) Which floor is best?
When I think about moving into a multi-level apartment building, I immediately think “I need the first floor. I don’t want to climb steps all the time.” (Yes, it’s good exercise, but when you come home on a rainy day with arms full of grocery bags, you don’t wanna to be climbin’ no steps. Two trips? No. Always one trip. I have a problem, but I’ll save that story for another day :-).) The first floor has it’s benefits: no steps, easy move-in, and you’ll save money on air conditioning in the summer… But after living on the top floor like we currently do, I’ve noticed some really awesome perks: no stepping or vacuuming noises, you save money on heat in the winter, you might have a balcony, and some top floor apartments have higher ceilings or lofts… Think about all of these things when deciding which floor would best suit your lifestyle.
6) Visit at busy hours.
And I’m not talking about when all the other apartment-hunters visit, I mean when all the residents are actually home. I would recommend 6:00 pm or so on weekdays or on a Friday/Saturday night. Take a look at the condition of the cars parked in the lot. Is it loud, are there a lot of children around, is it pretty calm? Think about the age demographic of the complex and what you’re looking for, whether that be college students, young families, or borderline retirement community. Keep in mind, you can’t control everything… if you’re lucky like us, you may just end up with a young, aspiring DJ with a powerful sub-woofer next door. But really, who doesn’t love pounding bass on a Sunday morning?? Ugh.
Now go forth on the search for your new home with confidence! I’ll leave you with my favorite quote (that is actually incredibly relevant in this instance), “Like a good neighbor, stay over there.” -Grumpy Cat.