Knowing how to choose an apartment is an important skill whether you’re fresh out of college, starting a family, or ready to retire. There are many factors that go into the decision making process. Selecting the right apartment for your budget and needs will set you up for success. Before you jump into apartment hunting, create a list of everything you want and need. This might include particular neighborhoods, number of bedrooms, size of square footage, and certain amenities.
We put together a list of the most important questions you should ask yourself when choosing an apartment. This way you can feel confident when you get in contact with a real estate agent, leasing agent, or apartment complex.
What’s the best location to live in?
When you have a location in mind, you’ll save time in your search for a new apartment. If there are many areas you are interested in, that’s ok too. Just be prepared to sort through more options.
If you have children, do school districts matter to you? Do you like to eat out? Do you prefer the bustle and noise of a busy area, or do you prefer something a bit more private and secluded? Maybe you need to live close to work. Consider your commute, your neighborhood and how close you want to live to parks, grocery stores, retail shops, doctors offices, and entertainment.
It’s important to consider the area’s potential traffic during rush hour. A place only 10 minutes away might end up being more than an hour away during the mornings and evenings in rush hour. Apartment listings sometimes exaggerate how close an apartment is to important spots and don’t factor in traffic. Try turning on your GPS and track your commute yourself. With google maps, opt for a feature that allows you to map a journey with a specific time in mind. Try setting the time to 5 p.m. on Mondays, and Google will factor in the usual traffic for that area.
What’s the parking situation?
If you are a car owner, parking should be high on your priority list. Parking can be expensive and hard to find in a lot of neighborhoods. In these places, renting an apartment with a parking garage or parking lot might be necessary. Keep in mind that a personal parking pass or spot might cost you a lot. Ask the leasing office about any parking costs.
How secure is the property?
Ask the leasing agent or property manager about security features:
- Smoke detectors
- Fire sprinklers
- Security systems
- Fob entry
You might also want to ask about the neighborhood. Is it a safe area? Can I go on walks in the evenings? Can the kids play outside? Check crime statistics to get an idea for how safe the area is. The best thing you can do is check out the area yourself to get a feel for it. Even if the numbers seem good, you don’t want to live somewhere where you don’t feel safe.
What’s the layout of the apartment?
Having an idea of your ideal layout will help you decide how to choose an apartment. Be sure to think about what matters to you in an apartment in terms of space, storage, and layout.
Maybe you’re a top chef and want a great kitchen to hone your skills. Maybe you want to work from home and a second bedroom could be your next office. Will you have enough closet space for your shoe collection? Are there stairs or an elevator? Are the laundry facilities in my apartment or in the complex?
Some people prefer floor plans that are a bit more closed to give a cozy, intimate feeling. Other people prefer big, open spaces with lots of windows to let sunlight in. Will all your furniture fit, or will you have to downsize? What are the views like? An apartment complex with a website that displays floor plans can be very useful in visualizing the apartment layout.
What are the amenities?
Your apartment should be a place where you can relax, recharge, and spend time doing things that you love. Making sure your apartment has the amenities you need is important for creating a peaceful and relaxing home environment. There are things you want to consider about your unit, as well as the apartment complex in general.
See if your unit will have:
- Air conditioning and heating
- Trash removal
Sometimes an apartment complex can be a close-knit community and a great place to meet new friends. Apartment complexes might host social events and fitness classes. Some complexes offer community spaces that you might use every day. Be on the lookout for a:
- Community kitchen or room
- Social Calendar
- Dog Park
- Tennis, Basketball court etc.
Ask if there are fees associated with any of these amenities and consider if they’re worth it to you.
How much should I spend on rent?
By now, you’ve considered some of the most important things you’re looking for in an apartment. But can you afford it? According to most experts, the amount you spend on rent should be no more than 30% of your income. Be sure to use your net income, the amount after taxes.
When you’re looking for an apartment, don’t forget to factor in additional living expenses into your budget. This might include monthly expenses for:
- Utilities (gas, heat, electric)
- Building fees (water, trash maintenance)
- Pet fees
- Application or credit check fee
Also consider if the apartment complex requires the first and last month’s rent upfront as well as a security deposit.
What is the apartment management like?
If you’re not very handy around the house, it can be important to pick an apartment complex that is attentive to maintenance issues.
The property management or landlord should play an important role in your decision making. Leaks, creaks, breaks and other emergencies happen. The location of the landlord or manager also matters. Are they in the building, in the neighborhood, or out of town? Maybe it’s a large building with a national property management firm. This could affect how quickly things get fixed.
Also ask about non-emergency repairs. Some landlords and managers ask tenants to take care of maintenance requests themselves and subtract the cost from the month’s rent. Find out the process for submitting maintenance requests and make sure the complex has a good reputation for being responsive.
Is the apartment pet friendly?
Our pets can sometimes feel like members of the family. Making sure you find an apartment that welcomes your pet can be a major deciding factor in how to choose an apartment.
From the outset, pet owners usually limit their apartment search to pet-friendly rentals. But there are a number of apartment complexes that go above and beyond simply allowing pets. There are pet amenities such as onsite dog parks, grooming facilities, dog walking and pet sitting services which can provide a level of convenience that may be worth any additional costs that come with it, such as pet rent, or an amenity fee.
What do other residents say about the apartment?
Don’t waste your time by visiting apartment complexes that people hate living in. Check out online reviews to see if any of your potential apartments have good reviews by former and current residents. This will help you identify possible red flags like noise, bad management, or poor facility condition.
What is the rental agreement like?
The rental agreement or contract might be the most important part in how to choose an apartment. All of the other questions you ask should be answered in the rental agreement. It should state all of the amenities, lease term, price, and previous damage. Read the rental agreement and make sure you fully understand it before you sign it. Some questions you should consider while reading over your contract:
- What does it cost to break the lease?
- Can I sublet my apartment if I decide to travel?
- Will the rent increase after a certain period of time?
- How far in advance do I need to notify the landlord if I want to move?
- What can I do if there are problematic neighbors?
If there’s something important to you that isn’t in the rental agreement, it’s always possible to make amendments. Just make sure that any verbal agreements between you and your landlord are made in writing.
LA MAISON OF SARALAND CAN HELP YOU WITH “HOW TO CHOOSE AN APARTMENT”
If you’re still wondering “how to choose an apartment”, La Maison of Saraland in Saraland, Alabama would love to answer any questions you may have. Give us a call at 251-227-8654 for more information!