How You Might Get Screwed Over When Renting An Apartment | The Financial Diet
How to Choose an Apartment Complex
Living in an apartment complex can have several benefits over other alternatives, such as renting a home, a section of someone else's home, or an apartment in a multi-family home. However, if you don't choose a complex wisely, you could forgo any benefits and end up trapped in an undesirable situation.
Sort through your priorities before you go apartment shopping.Consider the following factors, and determine which are the most important to you:
- Low up-front costs
- Good neighborhood
- Flexibility to relocate
- Low monthly rent
- Good management and maintenance
- Amenities (swimming pool, sauna, laundry hook-ups or utilities)
- Square footage
- Appearance, interior and exterior
- Proximity to work, public transportation, shopping, highways, etc.
Make a list of apartment complexes that you're interested in.Record the name of the complex, the full address, and the phone number. Leave room for notes. You can do this on paper or in a spreadsheet program. It's important to start off organized because if you're exploring several complexes at once, it's easy to get confused ("Which one had the double sinks in the bathroom? Which one was right by the highway? Did I visit this one already?"). There are many ways to find apartment complexes you might like to live in:
- Drive around the area you're interested in. If driving slowly, put on your hazard lights, as speeding along and then making a sudden turn into a complex that just came into sight can be dangerous. Stop and look for a phone number, or if it's convenient, go directly to the rental or leasing office if they're open.
- Pick up a local rental guide.
- Visit websites which advertise apartment complexes and listings.
Call each apartment complex with a set of questions.These questions should cross out several of the complexes on your list. In the notes section of your paper or spreadsheet, write the date that you called. If the apartment is not what you're looking for, jot down why (e.g. "no pets" or "no apartments available").
- Give the person the information they need: When you want to move (e.g. "between March 1st and 15th"), what you're looking for (how many bedrooms?), and your price range (e.g. less than 0). If you have a pet, include this information early on.
- If they have anything available that meets your needs, ask if you can make an appointment to visit and see the apartments they have available. Sometimes, the unit that meets your needs will not be available for showing until close to your move-in date. If this is inconvenient, ask if they can show you an apartment like it, and request a floor plan of the unit in question. You can also ask to see the outside of the unit, which will give you an idea of the kind of view you'll have and what your neighbors might be like.
- Try to schedule apartments that are in the same area at around the same time. If you're not careful when planning this, you might end up going back and forth from one end of town to the other between appointments.
Show up for your appointment on time.Get driving directions in advance and give yourself enough time to find the complex (especially if you're in an unfamiliar area). Dress to impress, preferably in an outfit that screams "I am responsible and trustworthy". Be courteous and friendly. If the manager of the property thinks highly of you, they might go the extra mile to get you the unit you want or facilitate the application process.
Observe the exterior of the complex.
- Is the landscaping neat? Are the lawns and hedges trimmed? Or are there weeds growing out of the cracks in concrete?
- Do the neighbors take good care of their apartments? People who don't are more likely to be inconsiderate. Some red flags:
- junk on the balconies or front door
- blankets on the windows instead of curtains
- loud barking
- non-handicapped vehicle in a handicapped spot
- Where would you be parking? Does the lot look crowded? Will you have a hard time finding a space? Is the parking well-lit at night?
Be vigilant when you enter the apartment.
- Does it smell funny?
- Doors work?
Visit at night if you can.If the community is gated, you can still see how well-lit and crowded the parking lot is, and whether people are throwing parties or being loud.
Ask if there are any specials or promotions.
Inquire about deposits and fees.
Ask for an application.
QuestionShould I pack first or find an apartment?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerFind an apartment first. Why should you pack before knowing when and where you're going? Packing after you find the right place will be more exciting as well!Thanks!
QuestionHow can I choose the right apartment when all the reviews are mixed? Even the supposedly top-notch places have negative reviews.Rachael ShanerCommunity AnswerNot everyone is going to have the same opinion. Depending on the reviews, you can make your decision. Look at the apartment before you make your decision. Almost everything will have at least one bad review.Thanks!
- The best time to shop for apartments is about two weeks before your earliest possible move-in date, preferably in the middle of the month, when tenants have vacated the apartment by the beginning of the month and the management has had a chance to clean up the unit in preparation for showing.
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