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Like entering a new relationship, finding the right apartment requires being a little level-headed. You wouldn’t just run off and elope with the first attractive person you see, right? No — you’d want to spend some time making sure your values, interests, and goals are a good fit.
The same is true for apartment hunting: There are a few important things you should know before signing a lease agreement, even if you already love the way the place looks.
The great news is that we’ve put together a list of 10 questions to ask while visiting apartments to make sure you find the right place for you. Bring these questions with you while apartment hunting:
1. What Are the Lease Terms?
Ideally you should already be aware of when the lease begins and ends before you even look at a place. But if you aren’t, make sure you know when you’ll be able to move in and how many months the lease is for.
You should also know exactly how much the unit costs per month and what the manager’s late rent policy is– is there a grace period? Finally, ask if there are any other common lease terms you need to know about, like quiet hours or restrictions on painting.
2. Can You Go Over Any Move-In Fees?
Each property handles moves completely differently, so make sure you know what moving in will look like for you financially while visiting apartments.
For instance, do they require first and last months’ rent up front? Do they need a security deposit? How about any moving or elevator fees? If the move-in expenses are too costly, you may have to find a different apartment.
3. What’s Your Pet Policy?
Whether you own a pet or just think you might want to adopt one within the next year (or however long the lease term extends), you should absolutely ask about the pet policy. Most importantly, are pets allowed?
If not, it’s best to move on. Trying to hide a dog or cat could be very costly for you down the road. If they do allow pets, what are the deposits and fees? Pet policies vary widely, but most properties will charge at least a non-refundable pet deposit (this covers deep cleaning after you move out and any damage your pet may cause), if not monthly pet rent.
4. How About Your Guest Policy?
Most leases will mention a guest policy, but some are stricter than others.
For instance, in some places, having a visitor for longer than two weeks is not technically allowed (which means allowing your friend to stay with you for a month this summer may not be an option).
5. Do You Require Renters Insurance?
Renters insurance is another thing to think about while apartment hunting. Renters insurance provides coverage for all of your property in the event of things like a fire, flood, and often even theft.
It may also cover injuries that happen within your apartment. This type of coverage tends to cost very little per month, so it’s a good idea to get it anyway. However, some apartments actually require renters insurance, so it’s important to ask while making visits.
6. What’s Included in the Rent? What Isn’t?
Rent is almost never the only expense you’ll have when living in an apartment, but many property managers roll some utilities and other amenities into the cost of rent. Often, things like water, gas, heat, and cooling are included in rent, for instance.
It’s best to know exactly what is and isn’t included in order to determine the total monthly cost of living there. If an apartment’s rent is cheap, but covers no utilities, cable, Internet, or anything else, it still may be a bit above your budget.
7. How Are Emergency Repairs Taken Care Of?
Even if everything in the apartment appears to be in good working order, make sure you check how emergency repairs are handled. You definitely don’t want to be stuck in an apartment with a broken heater in January for any longer than you have to.
Is maintenance available 24/7? How quickly do they typically respond? Also, ask about non-emergency repairs. Sometimes landlords and property managers will ask tenants to take care of those themselves and subtract the cost from the month’s rent.
8. How Secure Is the Property?
Ask the property manager to cover what security features the apartment has, including a doorman, a buzzer system, and anything else.
You may also want to ask about the neighborhood: is it a relatively safe area? Make sure you walk around and scope out the area before you put down a deposit.
9. How Often Does Rent Go Up? By How Much?
Many apartments go up in rent upon a renewal of the lease. These types of charges aren’t always spelled out in the lease, so make sure you know going in how much you can expect to pay if you decide you want to live in the same apartment after your lease term is over.
If you’re looking for a long-term apartment, but the rent goes up by quite a bit each year, this may not be the apartment for you.
10. What Is the Parking Situation?
If you own a car, parking should be high on your priority list. In many neighborhoods — especially in larger cities — street parking can be hard to find and expensive, so finding an apartment with a parking garage or lot may be necessary.
However, a personal parking spot or pass is often an added charge, so ask about the cost as well.