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Apartment Hunting Checklist: Everything to Look Out For

May 22, 2020

You’ve found yourself in need of a new place to call home. Now, you’re ready to embark on the ultimate apartment-hunting adventure.

As with any great quest, preparation is key. First, you’ll have to consider all of the essential renting details. Those range from how much you can afford to pay in rent to parking availability (if any!).

Fair warning, finding an apartment that ‘checks all the boxes’ can be a lofty task. However, there are millions of apartment units in the U.S. You’ll have a plethora of viable options available to you regardless of where you’re looking.

Ready to get started? Here are seven tips for navigating the apartment hunt and finding the apartment of your dreams!

1. Know Your Budget

We know, talking numbers may be a bit boring. However, it’s vital to come up with a budget and stick to it.

Luckily, there are many methods to choose from. They’ll help you create the perfect budget for your new apartment.

One method to use is a rent calculator. That’ll help you determine how much you can afford to pay in rent based on where you want to live, how many bedrooms you need, and your monthly income before taxes.

One of the most commonly-used rules is the 50-30-20. This rule has budgeters allocate their income to three categories: needs, wants, and savings.

When using the 50-30-20 rule, rent payments would fall under the needs category. Your rent should be no more than 30% of your monthly or yearly income before taxes.

Also, don't forget to factor in moving costs. Moving companies, truck rentals, and moving supplies can eat into your budget faster than you think.

2. Calculate Initial Moving Fees

Once you’ve come up with a solid budget, you’ll need to determine how much you can expect to pay in initial moving fees. These fees will likely vary with each apartment you’re considering.

Application fees and processing fees are paid when applying to live in a particular apartment property. A typical cost is $30-$50.

Once you're approved for the apartment, a security deposit comes next. Security deposits will vary apartment to apartment, but are typically between 1-3 month's rent, with one month being the most common. Depending on where you live, this could be a sizeable deposit, so make sure to ask about it!

Credit and background check fees might also come into play, but these are less common and depend on your situation and the apartment property.

Keep in mind, it’s important to know whether a landlord uses a service that runs a hard or soft credit history pull. A soft pull won’t affect your credit. However, a hard credit pull can decrease your credit score.

Additionally, be sure to give your lease agreement a thorough read before signing. It contains important details. Those include when you can expect to get your security deposit back once your lease term ends and what might cause you to lose it.

3. Ask About Parking

If you have a car, you’ll want a safe and accessible space to park it when you’re home. Don’t assume parking is included in your rent. Depending on where you live, parking can cost a pretty penny. Ask any prospective landlords about parking upfront.

Here are some questions to ask about the parking situation:

  • Is there assigned parking?
  • Is there a secure garage?
  • What's the street parking situation?
  • Is there guest parking?
  • How many parking spaces can you have?

4. Ask About the Pet Policy

Most pet owners consider their pets to be family. They’d never consider leaving them behind when moving to a new apartment.

If you want to bring your pup or thinking about getting a pet in the near future, be sure to learn about each apartment’s pet policies. Make sure you understand the following:

  • The pet policy stated online or in the lease. Make sure to hash out any details with the landlord.
  • The costs associated with renting with your pet at this specific property. Apartments will usually have some form of pet rent and pet deposits.
  • If the property has any restricted breeds or weight.
  • If your landlord requires meeting your pet prior to move-in. Pet interviews and pet resumes are becoming increasingly popular!

5. Ask About Apartment Security

No one wants to feel unsafe in their home. That’s why it’s important to bring up security concerns before even signing a lease.

Tenants may also be able to handle some apartment security issues. They may choose to install a security doorbell or upgrade the deadbolts on their front door. Make sure to check your lease or ask your landlord to see if you’re allowed to make those modifications to the property.

However, landlords and property managers also handle apartment security. Here are some details to ask about when pursuing an apartment:

  • What's the guest policy?
  • Any security features? (doormen, keypad or key fob system, security cameras, deadbolt locks, etc.)
  • Any crimes within the last three years? (break-ins, assault, theft, etc.)

Additionally, make sure to look up crime statistics for the neighborhood you are considering moving to, especially if you're moving to a new city.

6. Consider the Amenities

Let's face it, amenities can make or break your apartment experience. If you are early in the apartment hunt, make sure to have a full understanding of what amenities are included in each apartment you're considering.

For example, you may be considering an apartment that's $100 over your budget. However, this complex has a full gym and pool, which then allows you to cancel your monthly gym membership. In this situation, paying a bit extra may end up saving you money in the long run.

Amenities vary across apartment buildings. Here are some highly sought-after amenities to keep an eye out for:

  • Gym
  • Pool
  • Dog park and dog washing stations
  • In-unit laundry
  • Energy-efficient appliances
  • Balcony or patio
  • Barbecues
  • Additional storage space

7. Read Through the Lease Terms

Speaking of the lease agreement, knowing exactly what you’re agreeing to before you sign your lease can help you avoid major issues in the future.

Lease agreements include the terms and conditions of your rental situation. So, it’s essential to know what the landlord will expect of you and what you can expect from your landlord.

Before signing, make sure to have a full understanding of the lease terms. Here are a few key details to look out for:

  • The current rent rate
  • Which utilities are included in the rent
  • If the unit is furnished, what's included?
  • Late rent payment policy (grace period and late fees)
  • Lease duration
  • Lease break policies

Find out about these seven things, and your apartment hunting checklist will be complete. The apartment hunt may feel a bit overwhelming, but moving into a new home that checks all your boxes will be more than worth it!

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Davina Ward is a contributing author at Apartment List and freelance writer specializing in real estate and digital marketing. She received her B. Read More
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