Whether it’s your first “new place” or you’ve been steadily “movin’ on up” for a while now, this list will help you conquer renting your next apartment.
1. Actually Read Your Rental Lease – Every Single Word of It
Since it’s a binding legal document, be sure you understand it before you sign it. And don’t feel afraid of asking questions about the complicated legal text. Learn the rules and know your rights as a tenant.
Also, a pro tip here: You can request changes to your lease before signing it. Your landlord doesn’t have to accept them but is likely to if the changes are reasonable.
2. You Have to Pay All of the Bills
Beyond rent every month, keep in mind all the extra fees and costs. Things like application fees, a security deposit, renter’s insurance, moving fees (or a freight elevator deposit), pet fees, on-site parking, and using shared laundry machines. On top of that, you’ll most definitely need to pay for your water usage (and maybe your sewage and trash), as well as getting your electricity, gas, Internet, TV, phone, and security system connected.
Ideally, your rent should make up less than 30% of your total income. And since your landlord may request that you pay 2 months of rent upfront, it’s a smart move to have at least 3 months’ worth of rent and living expenses saved up prior to moving into your new place.
3. Emerge from Paperwork Mountain
Upon going in to sign your lease, your landlord will request a decent pile of paperwork. And you’ll need to produce documents such as a driver’s license, proof of current employment, last year’s tax returns, and updated bank statements.
These prove that you are you, and that you have the ability to make rent every month.
4. You Can’t Pick Your Landlord or Your Neighbors
Odds are pretty good that you won’t jive with every single tenant in your building – and that’s completely normal. However, it does help if these folks are similar to you. So, try to find out how many of the apartments in the building are being rented by students, single professionals, families, etc. It’ll give you a better idea of whom you’ll be living near, dealing with, and hopefully befriending.
5. Remember, Seasons Change – and Your Apartment May Change with It
When the seasons change and the weather worsens, so may your once-wonderful apartment. Maybe the hot-water heater isn’t so hot in the winter. Maybe the rain drips in through the windows in spring. Maybe your air vents clog up with the fallen autumn leaves.
Weather can quickly change your opinion of a place, so be sure you ask ahead and prepare yourself for these potential problems.
6. Consult Moving Professionals
Let’s face it, moving is not fun. From the packing to the heavy lifting, everyone dreads move-in day, so why don’t you let the professionals handle it? Hiring a moving company will make your life easier because you won’t have to worry about getting hurt, you’ll have more time to focus on other important move-in tasks like setting up your cable and internet services, and your friends and family will appreciate not having to sacrifice their precious time to help out.
7. When Packing, Start Purging
Give away some stuff as thank-you gifts, try to sell some on Craigslist, donate some to Goodwill, and trash or recycle the unwanted remainder. Your move crew will be extra grateful for each box they don’t have to haul.
8. Furnish First – a Place to Sleep, a Place to Sit, and a Place to Eat
When it comes to furnishing your new place, your first concern should be acquiring 3 main pieces of furniture: a bed, a sofa, and a table. And as you’re on the hunt for these, remember that you’re phasing into your independence, so give your income a chance to catch up to your new lifestyle.
9. Get to Know Your New Neighborhood
As realtors always say, moving is all about “location, location, location.” Because you’re not living in just your unit or just your building, but in the entire area surrounding it as well. So be sure to get familiar with the neighbors, as well as the traffic, public transit, grocery stores, restaurants, schools, and more near you. Note the distance and difficulty of getting to each as well.
10. Take Your Apartment Seriously, Because This Is Your Home (at Least for a Little While)
Treat your apartment, and perhaps your whole building, like a home purchase. Ask the important questions – like when the last time the A/C unit was replaced. Investigate if the building has a history of mold problems or bug infestations. Especially for older units, poke around about lead paint, asbestos, and when the door locks were last changed.
And as you’re weighing all information before signing, ask one final question to yourself, your potential neighbors, and your landlord – “Why did the old renters end up leaving?” Whatever the answer is, it’ll be immensely informative.
About the author: Mickey DeChellis is the Senior Vice President of Utility Services over at Allconnect. Since 1998, Allconnect has simplified and expedited the purchase and setup of home utilities and services (like Internet, TV, and Electricity) for millions of movers relocating all across the United States.
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