Apartment searching is all fun and games until you realize you've moved into a unit that really doesn't gel with your lifestyle.
Now, we all know the rental market isn't perfect. Finding the perfect rental unit for you is even harder. However, there are many points people forget to consider when searching for a rental apartment. They can help a lot when it comes to your rental apartment hunt.
1. Read online reviews of the property
For the most part, the majority of rental buildings nowadays have some sort of online review. Make good use of Google reviews, Reddit, and other websites to get the inside scoop on prospective rental buildings.
It'll help make or break your decision on whether it's worth it to live in the complex. Yes, the unit itself might be lovely. But, if the building's management or landlord is terrible, it could completely ruin your renting experience.
This valuable insight will go a long way. It's just like buying any other product. Why wouldn't you want to make sure other past tenants had positive experiences living there?
You should also pay close attention to the negative reviews. It'll give you even better insight into where the flaws and weaknesses of the building or management lie.
2. Don't forget that expensive doesn't mean better
Rental homes aren't like the latest tech gadget. Sometimes, being more expensive doesn't mean better. We advise all renters out there to watch out for landlords that overprice their units.
Before you say anything- we recognize that most rental markets across the US are innately overpriced. However, a quick Google search will tell you what price you should expect to see when renting.
I've had the pleasure of coming across some landlords that try to overcharge the rent. It'll always be under the pretense that their apartment offers something more than the next. Yet, the reality is that their rent is just plain ol' expensive.
3. Be vigilant of rental red flags
Unfortunately, it's very common for people to fall victim to common rental scams. When you're in a rush to find a place, you can sometimes get tunnel vision and ignore those red flags.
Be sure to keep an eye out for these alarming signs. They include:
▪️ Rental apartments ads that have spelling errors, missing information, or get your alarm bells ringing.
▪️ The rent price is too affordable when compared to other rent prices in the area.
▪️ The landlord claims they can't give you a unit tour because they're on vacation, out of the country, etc.
▪️ The landlord is asking for too much of your personal information, such as your social security number, current home address, etc.
▪️ They're urgently asking you to pay a security deposit or the first month of rent even though you haven't signed a lease.
▪️ Their identity is hidden, or you're having trouble finding any information about them or the management company.
▪️ They're withholding information about the unit, building address, price, or any other rent-related details.
Always proceed with caution and double-check everything as you proceed with your apartment hunt. These small precautionary steps could save you from losing out a couple of hundred dollars.
4. View apartments during weather-extreme days
This one may sound confusing and may not be feasible for everyone. However, you can get a good feel for how the apartment fares on temperature-extreme days.
I failed to realize with one of my rental units that living on the top floor meant I really felt the heat during hot summer days. Unbeknownst to me, the airflow on the sixth floor didn't flow all that much. That meant that my small apartment acted more as a space heater than an apartment during the summer and made the days very uncomfortable.
I would've considered looking for a different unit had I known this. But, since I viewed the apartment on a breezy spring day, I never picked up on this detail.
This whole rant is just to advise you to pay attention to how a unit fares during these crazy weather days. Additionally, make a note of whether the apartment has heating or AC. Having the following will solve all your problems!
5. Prepare questions
We know- the last thing you want to hear is to do homework for your apartment searching. Yet, many people tend to remember important questions only after they've viewed the prospective rental unit or spoken to the landlord.
So, bottom line- come prepared with a set of questions. Don't stop there. Write down their answers or record the conversation. I've made the mistake of asking all the right questions but then forgetting what the landlord's answers were. 😝
6. Speak to other tenants
There's nothing like the power of communication, especially when it comes to renting! Landlords are business people after all. They're going to try and "sell" their unit.
However, down in the lobby, you can find tenants that have nothing to gain other than tell you the truth. It's always good to chat with some tenants. Get their opinion on what it's like to live in the building or deal with the landlord regularly!
7. Factor in ALL your rental expenses
If you're really crunching the numbers on your budget, be sure to factor in every expense you'll have to pay when renting.
Yes- you'll have to pay for rent. That's a given. Yet, don't forget to add utilities, apartment fees, additional fees (such as pet or amenity costs) to your budget.
If electricity, heating, and water are included in your rent, then you've hit the jackpot! However, many renters have to pay at least one of those utilities. Depending on where you live, this expense racks up at the end of the month.
Some common expenses renters pay are:
▪️ Rent price
▪️ Utilities (electrical, water, gas, heating, AC)
▪️ Parking spaces
▪️ Wifi or Cable
▪️ Additional fees like storage or locker unit renting
▪️ Pet rent or monthly fees
▪️ Transportation (paying for ridesharing or public transportation fares to get to work or school)
Finding a unit that offers most utilities and even wifi will save you some big bucks at the end of every month.
Additionally, factoring in your location will give you a realistic idea of how much you'll spend on transportation every month. If you drive, you can take parking fees and gas into account. If you're a public transportation kind of person, you can calculate how much you'll spend on bus passes or fares. And if you're really lucky, your location will allow you to be within walking distance from where you need to go!
8. Find out what type of lease is being offered
This point mostly affects those that are unsure of their future plans. When looking for rental apartments, check to see what type of lease is being offered.
Most lease agreements are offered in 1-year terms. However, after that year is up, you'll encounter one of two options:
▪️ Your lease gets renewed for another 1-year term
▪️ Your lease turns into a month-to-month agreement
If you know exactly when you're planning to move, you may not need a month-to-month lease agreement. However, if you were once like me and didn't know what the future held, you would benefit from a month-to-month lease.
This type of lease usually starts by getting you to sign a yearly agreement. Once that's up, you rent month-to-month. Meaning- your lease agreement shifts from a yearly lease to a monthly one.
It allows you to not be tied down to your apartment for another year. Whenever you decide it's time to go, you can get out of your lease hassle-free!
I hope I shed some light on some items you may have forgotten about during your apartment search!
If you're currently in the market for an apartment, head over to Lighthouse. We give our renters cash back on their leases and provide the ultimate guiding experience during your search. Our Lightkeepers (apartment search experts) help you find a home that's just right for you. Check us out here.