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The types of things to look for can vary between houses and apartments. Most of these questions are interchangeable for any kind of rental.
When you are apartment hunting, you should try to gather specific information for each apartment. It’s easy to go into a showing and focus on the good. You might see an updated kitchen, large closets, or a nice shower. All of those things are great, but a few months down the road you might realize there are some things you may have missed.
I like to refer to apartments or multi-family units as “shared-wall units.” If a person lives in a building with multiple tenants, then the odds are they share at least one wall with a neighbor.
Questions to ask when renting an apartment:
Do the neighbors have pets?
Why? This usually is not an issue, but sometimes living next to a person with a pet can be a pain. They might have a dog who barks uncontrollably or a cat who doesn’t like the litter box. Depending on the building, smells and noises can sometimes become a nuisance.
Do you allow pets? Have pets lived in this unit before?
Why? For starters, if you have a pet, you need to find an apartment that accepts pets. Most of the time this question is answered on the listing information, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
You might also ask this question if you are allergic to certain animals. Pet allergens can settle and stay in a place long after the pet leaves. If there was a pet living there before you, make sure the house was professionally cleaned before making any decisions.
Do the neighbors smoke?
Why? Similar to the pets. Nothing against smokers, but the habit isn’t great for the nose. If you are moving into a house, having a neighbor that smokes shouldn’t have any effect on you. If you share a wall with a smoker, you might quickly regret your decision. The smell and smoke can find a way into your apartment.
Here’s a horror story: I had some friends who lived next to a family of smokers. Against the policy of the complex, they liked to smoke inside. This smoke made its way through the vents into my friend’s closets. Their entire wardrobe smelled like smoke.
Like I mentioned, smoking is forbidden in almost all rental units. Even a smoker who only smokes outside can track that smell inside.
What is the street noise like?
Why? This one comes down to personal preference. Personally, I hate the sound of sirens and cars. Other than the noise of a busy street, I don’t mind some neighborhood noise. Talking with a realtor, he told me that some of his clients prefer to be on a busy road because they like the sounds of the cars.
What do the monthly utilities cost?
Why? As you’re creating a housing budget, make sure you include utilities in that cost. Rent might seem affordable, but if gas prices spike in the winter because of poor insulation, you might be pinching pennies. Ask them how old the HVAC unit is and ask for a general utility estimate. This is one of the most importatnt questions to ask when renting an apartment.
What is the tenant responsible for?
Why? Stemming from the utility question, sometimes a renter gets lucky and doesn’t have to pay for all of their own utilities. Make sure you ask about gas, electric, water, and trash.
On top of that, you’ll want to find out what maintenance is your responsibility. Lawn care, snow removal, and pest control all examples. If these tasks are the landlord’s responsibility, you might consider offering to do them yourself for a discount on the monthly rent. They might knock a hundred bucks off the rent if you take care of everything yourself.
Is there parking for guests?
Why? Some rentals have a lot of parking, some have little parking. If you like to entertain guests, you don’t want your company parking a block away.
Can stuff be hung on the wall?
Why? Most of the time it’s okay, but holes in the wall aren’t always welcome. If you plan on decorating your walls, ask about their policy on nails.
Is there extra storage?
Why? You don’t want to fill your closets with boxes of old papers and keepsakes. Ask if there are any storage closets or storage options. Most apartment complexes offer an extra storage closet for every unit.
What’s the crime like in this area?
Why? The area you live in will play a huge role in your decision. You want to be somewhere that is safe, convenient, and meets your needs. You can find out the crime rate in your area on a site like Neighborhood Scout. Even though you can find the answer you need online, it doesn’t hurt to ask the person showing you the rental.
What’s the nearest grocery store? What’s the nearest gas station?
Why? Most people go to the grocery store and fill up their car with gas at least once per week (if not more). You won’t want to travel a long way to do your regular errands.
Is there air conditioning? How old is the HVAC unit?
Why? If a home doesn’t have air conditioning, it becomes a miserable place during the warmer months. Air conditioning should be a must in every housing search. If it does have an HVAC unit, ask the owner how old it is. Older HVAC units are less efficient and more likely to have problems than newer units. An older HVAC shouldn’t be a deal breaker but should be taken into consideration.
What to look for when renting an apartment:
Door and Window Locks
Safety should be the number one concern in every housing search. If you walk into an apartment and realize there are faulty locks, that should be a red flag. You can ask a landlord to fix the locks, but that doesn’t always happen instantly.
Take a look at the carpet and ask yourself if it looks clean. Carpets are often cleaned before a new tenant moves in, but stains don’t always come out. If the carpets are older than you are, then you might consider moving onto the next option.
Water spots on the ceiling
When you are scanning through the different rooms, don’t forget to pay attention to the ceilings. Brown water spots are clear indicators of a water leak. Although you wouldn’t be responsible for water leak repairs, you don’t want to risk any damage that would come along if the leak worsened. Another reason to look for this is mold. When there is moisture present, mold could also be present.
Insects and other unwanted inhabitants aren’t always easy to spot on a short tour. Keep an eye out for cobwebs, droppings, and apparent bugs. You should even consider asking the landlord if there has ever been a pest problem. You want to know about pests before moving in, so you don’t get accused of bringing them into the house.
It’s smart to ask the property owner if they have any knowledge of mold infestations. The practices for removing mold aren’t always 100% effective. If anyone in your family (or anyone who will be living with you) has breathing or allergy problems, keep a keen eye out for mold.
As you’re walking around the property, keep an eye out for mold. Pay particular attention to areas where there would be moisture. This includes bathrooms, underneath sinks, and basements. Other places to keep an eye on is around washing machines and vents. If the air is humid, mold can form around vents.
If you are moving to a new place, you won’t want to buy new furniture if yours doesn’t fit. A common mistake people make is forgetting to measure for fit. If you have a king-sized bed, it might not fit in an average sized bedroom.
Before you go to your viewing, measure your furniture and confirm whether or not it will fit in your prospective living arrangements.
Pantry/cupboard space in the kitchen
Your pantry should go hand in hand with your kitchen. If you don’t have a pantry, you will be reaching for space. You might end up using a coat closet to store food.
I never needed a lot of closet space until I got married, so that was never one of my concerns. If you have to account for more than one wardrobe, it’s important to know if you’ll have enough closet space.
The amount of windows/lighting
Unsurprisingly, I have learned that some apartment complexes cut some corners to save a few bucks. A standard budget cut is lighting. By limiting the amount of illumination, a property owner lowers their up-front costs and eliminates the replacement light bulb costs in the future. Tenants don’t often think of that before signing a lease, so they end up frustrated once they move in.
I know this from personal experience. Our current apartment doesn’t have a single light in the bedroom or living room areas. Instead, they have electrical sockets that are controlled by light switches. Since we viewed the apartment during the day, we overlooked this nuisance. We had to buy lamps to place all over our living room.
This one should be self-explanatory because you would typically assume that all of the appliances work. Open up both doors on the refrigerator and make sure they are cold. You wouldn’t believe how many people move to a new place only to find a broken refrigerator. Check the other appliances as well. On top of that, check to see if the appliances are updated. You can try to negotiate a lower rent if the appliances are outdated.
If you’re like me, you love a nice hot shower. An essential part of the shower is the water pressure. Personally, I like high water pressure. Although this can be adjusted, it’s a nice thing to take note of on your tour.
Five years ago, having a smart home still seemed like an impossibility that would never come true. Rapid technological advances have smart homes looking less like a luxury and more like the normal. Just ask Homebase. They specialize in smart apartment management and resident experience. Many apartment complexes have begun the process of integrating smart home technologies such as lock and security systems, lighting, thermostat, and even smart electrical plugs. Keep a lookout for smart apartments and ask the landlord about options.
In the majority of circumstances, the most significant factor in choosing a rental is the price. If you are looking for cheaper monthly rent, then most of the previously mentioned concerns won’t matter to you. I’ve overlooked dirty carpets, street noise, and air conditioning to save a few hundred bucks. Your rental search will depend on your individual circumstances. Make a budget, think about what you want, and never bite off more than you can pay.
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