Hunting for an apartment and moving in can be a really exciting experience especially if it’s your first. Choosing a new home is a huge decision. Think about it—where you live, sleep and spend your down-time is a pretty important factor when it comes to your overall happiness; so that decision deserves all the most careful consideration you can give it. Here are our top 5 tips for making sure you choose an apartment that will make you happy and serve as a livable and loveable home base from which to conduct your life.
1. Don’t jump without looking. With all the online information available at the click of a mouse, there’s no excuse to rent the first apartment that you find. Chances are good that there are many options out there that fit your wants and needs for affordability, location, proximity, amenities and more. Make the effort to explore them all—first online and then in person, if you see something that you like—and compare pros and cons before taking the leap. Ask friends where they live, what they love about it and what they don’t. There’s no better decision than an educated one.
2. When it comes to money, keep it real. While renting an apartment home is almost always the most cost-effective choice, you still have to be considerate of the cost commitment. Make sure that you’re entering into a relationship that won’t cost more than you can afford, rent, any utilities that you’ll be responsible for, other monthly expenses, and a little for unforeseen emergencies. If you don’t already maintain a budget spreadsheet, this is a perfect time to make one, listing every single monthly expense you can think of and a realistic allocation for each. The typical recommended percentage of monthly income to spend on housing is around 30% and aim for that target if your local market allows—even if it means starting small, driving a little farther to work or getting a reliable roommate. Keeping it real when it comes to money will help you sleep better at night, without worries that an unforeseen expense will keep you from making the rent.
3. Know the commitment. Before signing your apartment lease, read it carefully from start to finish. Make sure you understand every word and every obligation; and don’t be afraid to ask! If there are terms that you don’t understand or can’t get a clear answer to, ask a legal professional or at least an experienced renter to help you better understand the relationship you’re entering into. Realize that your apartment will probably be your biggest monthly expense; so this is an important financial commitment to understand.
4. Ask the right questions. You’ll want to be crystal clear about things like penalties for late rent; what happens if you have to break your lease for any reason including job transfer, military deployment or a medical emergency; the start and end date of your lease term and the policy regarding renewal; any utilities or other fees you’re obligated to pay; the actual rental rate that’s due every month and on what date; where rent gets delivered and if an online option is available free or at a fee; how to request maintenance when needed and if there are special processes or provisions for emergencies; and more. Walk in armed with a list of questions—even to things you think you know the answer to already—and don’t be afraid to ask.
5. Build real relationships. Renting an apartment isn’t just a financial arrangement. The nature of apartment living means that it comes with someone (or in the case of a community management team, several someones) who are professionally responsible for how happy you are with life in your apartment and your community. You should make these people your friends. Knowing who they are and making sure they know who you are—in a good way, of course—will go a long way to getting great customer service when you need it. Set yourself up for a positive experience, throughout the term of your apartment lease by establishing positive relationships with the property staff from management all the way to maintenance and with your neighbors; and set yourself on the path to having a great life in your new apartment home!