From the ole inbox: A friend (or two) of mine and I wanna get our own place. Aside from cost (rent is TOO DAMN HIGH), what do we need to look out for or know?
An excellent question! Here we go:
Before you are ready to move: Make sure to keep an updated document of your current and past addresses, landlord phone numbers and other info you’ll be asked on a lease application, including first and last names of other residents, current employment information and so on. Bonus: lots of these things are also useful on job applications! Also, start saving for deposits. Beyond the one on the apartment, you may have to put down deposits on your utilities.
When you are ready to move: Figure out your price range — a good rule of thumb is no more than one-third of your income. Also, clean out your car — lots of landlords notice the small details, and how you take care of your other expensive habitat.
If you’re in a tight market, don’t send a flurry of questions to the landlord ahead of time; briefly introduce yourself, dropping in a detail or two that makes you sound put-together and responsible. Ask for the first viewing possible.
When looking at an apartment: Be sure to be on-time, looking tidy and presentable, then check the following:
1. Hot Water: Go turn on the shower and make sure there is sufficient water pressure and it’s nice and strong and not, as my mom once memorably said of my shower, like having an 83-year-old man pee on you. Also, does the water get hot? Is it the either scalding or frigid kind of shower? That’s nice to know.
2. Safety: Come back by the area at night, during the day, on the weekend and so on. Make sure you feel reasonably safe at all these times.
3. Volume: Consider whether there is something very loud nearby, like a fire station or train tracks or a high school with a sub-standard but enthusiastic marching band. Will this make you crazy?
4. Management: Does the landlord seem at least semi-reasonable? Landlords are tightly-wound people, generally speaking, so you have to give them a little leniency. But, real talk: chances are, if you are in a conflict with them, they will win. They have money and lawyers. They’re business people. Make sure they’re the kind you want to be in business with.
5. Electricity: Be sure to check all the light switches and, if you can, the electrical outlets, perhaps by taking along your cell phone charger. Otherwise, you could end up like my friend who had 14 decorative outlets and two that actually powered things. It’s also useful to check on how many and how well-placed they are. If you like to blow-dry your hair, look for an outlet in the bathroom. It’s nice to have several in your bedroom so you’re not constantly tripping over your bedside lamp’s cord that must stretch taut through the air. And so on.
6. Closets and Storage: Do they exist? Some old houses had bedrooms without closets. Having at least one big non-bedroom closet is a lifesaver, so long as you do not follow my example and allow it to become a dangerous and unstable mess, like a tiny DMZ right there in your apartment.
7. Appliances: Is there a dishwasher, or a washer-dryer? These things are luxurious, but if there is nothing you hate in the world more than hand-washing dishes, then you might make that a condition of your search.
8. Accessibility: Can your furniture logically get up the stairs and into the apartment? It’s a good plan, if you have really large and/or awkwardly shaped things, to measure them in advance, then take a tape measure along with you.
9. Pets: If you have a pet, can they live here with you? The lure of a nice apartment is not justification for dropping your pet off at the shelter. Also, some apartments that say “no pets” can be coaxed into a quiet, well-behaved, neutered cat, particularly if you can provide a reference from a landlord as to your cat’s goodness.
10. Paint: Can you paint the walls? What if you agree to paint them back to the original, sanitarium white when you leave?
11. Parking: Is it extra? Lot v. garage? Remote for the garage? Assigned spots? Street parking at reasonable times? Where can guests park? (thanks, lexingtoncherry!)
12: Additional costs: Which utilities do you pay? Power, water/sewer, garbage, cable, internet …? Be sure to factor these into your cost calculation. (thanks, anserini!)
After seeing an apartment: If you know it’s the right place for you, express that when you see it and then send an email as soon as possible. Thank them for taking the time to meet with you, say that you are very interested, have the deposit money ready and would like to sign a lease ASAP.
Good luck! Anything I’m missing?