Beginning an apartment search is exciting, but it also can be daunting. Finding an apartment that fits your lifestyle and budget isn’t always easy. From location to lease terms, there are many factors to consider while looking for the perfect place.
As you embark on your search, use this apartment checklist to ensure you have the information you need before signing a lease.
Where you live affects how well you live.1 Drive or walk around the neighborhood at different times of day and night to get a sense of the community. An area that is quiet and has lots of street parking during the day might be loud and crowded at night. Trulia’s Neighborhood Map can help you explore the restaurants, nightlife, shopping, schools and safety of an area, and WalkScore can help you find amenities that are within walking distance.
2. Type of rental
Depending on your budget, desired location and living situation, you’ll need to decide which type of rental to live in. Rentals come in all shapes and sizes: studio, garden, walk-up, high-rise, duplex, condo, townhome, house and everything in between.2 Some rentals have additional costs, such as homeowners association dues or pet fees.
3. Parking and transportation
When deciding where to live, map out all the places you need to be over the course of a week. Are you a short drive away, within walking distance or close to public transportation? If you have a car, check if there’s parking available nearby, and ask the landlord if the area has any permit or license requirements.
Make a list of your must-haves, nice-to-haves (but can do without) and dream apartment features. Consider features that match the way you want to live, including:
- Utilities, internet and cable services
Keep in mind, if you’re on a tight budget, you might have to make compromises, such as walking to a laundromat or washing your dishes by hand.
Your budget is a critical factor in the apartment search. Research typical rates in the neighborhood to determine if the rental price is fair by using a tool such as RentData.org. If it is, can you comfortably afford it? Most experts suggest spending no more than 30 percent of your monthly before-tax income on rent.3 If the rent is unusually low, it’s probably too good to be true. If it’s slightly more expensive, decide if the amenities make it worthwhile.
6. Rental terms
Carefully review the leasing agreement details, including:
- What’s included in rent
- Length of the lease
- Security deposit and other upfront payments
- Renters insurance requirements
Make sure you understand options for lease renewal, how far in advance you need to give notice before moving out, if you can sublet the apartment and what it would cost to break the lease. Before signing, point out any concerns you might have.
When you start your apartment search, be prepared to move fast. The least expensive, safest and most desirable properties in the hottest neighborhoods come and go quickly. Have everything you might need – from references to security deposit – ready to go.