Whether you’re an experienced apartment hunter or looking at your first rental, it can be easy to lose track of the many important details involved in selected the right place. Apartments aren’t like college dorms or a house; there’s more responsibility for the renter, the question of roommate relationships, and being aware of the responsibilities of your property manager. Sometimes we just flip through the lease agreements and can get tripped up later. So keep these questions in mind:

What’s Your Budget?

How much can you afford to pay each month? This can especially be a problem for inexperienced renters–you need to be absolutely certain what your average income will be. Don’t forget to think about taxes taken out of your check. How much do you spend on entertainment, food, gas, and other expenses? Do you know how much utilities will cost? Your property manager should be able to give you an idea of those costs, and if not, there are websites that can help you estimate them. Many utility companies will also help you estimate costs in advance–if the utilities’ website doesn’t have the information, you can call and ask.

If you’re going to have roommates, makes sure they all go through the same calculations. One of the fastest ways to sour a roommate situation is to not be able to pay your share.

Did You Look at the Place in Person?

Every city and most towns has online resources to help you get a sense of what the place looks like. Even Craigslist ads can come with pictures. But keep in mind that the property managers have an interest in making their places look as spacious, clean, and neat to live in as possible. There’s no substitute for showing up in person to look around. If you can’t easily attend a showing, see if someone you know can take a look for you. Some managers will even take video of a walk-through, which is better than nothing.

When doing a walkthrough, pay attention to the small details. Is there rust near the sinks? Do the tiles need to be fixed? Are there small scratches and broken things that need to be addressed. If you’re walking through an occupied place, see if you can talk to the residents about problems you can’t see. Especially pay attention to what they say about ongoing issues, the neighborhood, and how noisy the place is. Also, make sure you turn on faucets, flip light switches, and open doors. A sticky door might not seem like an issue at first, but think how you’ll feel after having to fight with it for six months to a year.

What Do You Know About the Property Management?

This is a great place to go online and find not only reviews on the property management site, but maybe on community forums. Get a sense of how quick they are to respond to maintenance requests, or handle other problems, or how personable they are. Try to meet the managers if you can and talk to them. Do they seem like they care about their residents?

What Do You Know About Your Roommates?

Sometimes we just have to move in with strangers. This can be a great opportunity; many fast friendships can start this way. But it can also be a nightmare if you aren’t compatible with them. Before signing anything, see if you can get together with your potential roommates. Hang out with them for more than a few minutes. You don’t all have to be best buddies, but you should know whether you can respect and like each other.

Even if you’re moving in with friends, living together is a different situation than seeing each other once in a while. How well do you resolve disputes? When you make agreements, do you all hold up your end of the bargain? How neat and tidy are you in comparison to each other? Anyone got a personal habit that annoys you? And most especially–can you all pay your bills on time?

What’s the Area Like?

This starts right out your door. What are the neighbors like? Do they keep to themselves, or are they practicing speed metal riffs at two in the morning? What’s parking going to be like? Where’s the best places to eat, relax, and do your laundry? What’s transportation like? Do you know how to find the nearest urgent care?

How Well Did You Read the Lease?

The lease is a binding contract between you, your roommates, and the property managers. It’s important that you understand what’s in the lease. Unfortunately, most leases are written in boring legalese and can be hard to wade through, especially if you don’t know what you’re looking for. When reading, make little notes to yourself so you don’t get surprised later. Things to pay attention to especially:

  • Pets–can you have them? How much do they cost to keep? What happens if they cause damage?
  • Damages–speaking of damage, who is responsible of something breaks or goes wrong? If you accidentally overfill a sink or knock a hole in the wall when a shelf falls over, do you pay for it, does the landlord, or what?
  • Insurance–tied into this is whether you need to have renter’s insurance, and how much that will cost.
  • Pests–if your place gets invaded by bugs or rodents, who pays for the exterminators? What time frame does your property manager have to deal with the situation?
  • Maintenance–also, who is responsible for ordinary maintenance, like checking air filters, fixing the heater, or replacing light bulbs? Who pays for it?
  • Guests–can you have guests? Are there constraints on times, or where they can park, or how long they can stay?

Keep track of these details, and your next apartment hunt should go like a breeze. And when it’s time to move in, remember that Gerber Moving & Storage is here to help.