Things to Consider While Apartment Hunting

Finding the perfect house or apartment to rent is a daunting task for anyone, no matter how many times you have done it before. Between finding the perfect location, price and roommates, it’s easy to forget to check the fine print or to leave important questions unasked. Here are some things to consider while you’re on the hunt for a new home.

1. Rent increases

Finding an affordable apartment to rent is exciting, but remember that the price isn’t necessarily fixed forever.

Find out if your lease allows rent increases, both during the term of the contract and when it ends, and by how much. Make sure to check local ordinances or legislation that might have an effect on the price of rent. Some cities protect rent from increasing. Others have specific increases to rent. You can find this information by checking with the local government, known as a municipality, that you plan on moving into.

If you’re moving into an income-based apartment complex, find out if and when management plans on conducting income reassessment. Unexpected events such as an illness, job loss or even a pay increase may affect your eligibility to re-qualify to live in the same apartment.

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2. Utilities

Ask your potential landlord which utilities are included in the price of rent. Utilities might include gas, water, electricity, internet service, trash removal, or cable/satellite TV. If the price of rent is in your budget, but doesn't include any utilities, you might not be able to afford it after all. Also consider these costs when comparing apartments to one another. If one apartment appears more expensive at face value, it might not be after you add in extra costs.

The Rent is Too Damn High

3. Inspection

If you lived in a dorm room, remember those annoying room condition reports your resident assistant would make you fill out before moving into a college dorm? They aren’t a bad idea. Inspecting your new apartment means doing more than simply checking the shower's water pressure. It’s important that you document your apartment so that after you move out, you have proof of the condition of your apartment when you moved in.

Check underneath sinks for insects or rodent droppings. Make sure to also take photos of the walls, carpets and bathrooms when you move in. Note any existing damage, and even consider submitting the photos to your landlord so that there is no misunderstanding about prior stains or scratches when the time comes to move out.

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Do some research online before you decide to move in. Have people complained or posted more realistic photos of the property? Also take a look at crime in the area. Look for everything from violent crimes and robberies to car and home break-ins. If you have a child or young family member, search the neighborhood for registered sex offenders.

The moment when you realize the landlord already leased the apartment you thought was yours

4. Talk to your neighbors

Technology is great for finding hard facts, but nothing is better for assessing the environment and feel of a place than simply asking the people who live. Knock on a neighbor’s door and introduce yourself. Explain that you’re new to the area and are considering moving in. Not only will you get a more honest representation of the property, it’s an easy ice-breaker in the community if you do decide to move in.

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5. You can’t always remove a co-signer

When you’re living with a friend or significant other, sometimes things go awry, and one of you wants to move out. But just because the relationship is over doesn’t mean that the lease is, too. If you joint-applied or co-signed the lease together, then you might have a very difficult time breaking it. Consider putting one person’s name on the lease or talking to your landlord about what the penalty is for removing a co-signer.