There is so much to keep track of when you're about to move! Though they average around 14 minutes, tours are arguably the most important part of your search – that's when you're making a decision! We want to help you make sure you dot your i's and cross your t's.
A familiar scenario: You’ve just started your apartment hunt and found one that has an appointment today. Nice job! You make your way over. The sun is shining, the building is sparkling – it looks great! You get to the unit and you think it fits the bill, but is electricity included? Do you have to pay extra for Noodles (your mini dachshund) every year, or is the fee one-time? Is there anything else you’re missing?!
There are several things to keep your eye out for on the tour and understand before you take the leap, especially if you end up seeing a unit you hadn’t planned on!
Pricing & Costs
Gross vs. Net Rent
If the apartment is offering a month(s), make sure that you understand the amount you’ll be paying monthly this lease term – and what the rent would be if you would renew. Some properties offer a month free (so you pay nothing for one month) and the rent price is the gross amount the following months. Others offer a discounted monthly rate that adds up to a month’s rent. These may or may not work for you depending on the monthly price, so it’s important to be clear! It’s also good to ask if the property offers renewal concessions.
Security deposit replacements have become widely used across the country. A few things to understand: 1. What is the security deposit? They typically range from 1-3 months of rent. 2. Do they accept security deposit replacements? 3. Do they require alternative coverage? (ie. are you required to purchase security deposit replacement coverage?). It also doesn’t hurt to ask if they’d be willing to offer a move-in special, with a waived or discounted security deposit. This usually requires a commitment to signing and moving in within a certain time frame, but each property is unique!
Be sure to clarify which utilities the building covers and which you will be responsible for paying. If you are responsible for paying them and want to estimate your expected costs, ask the property manager what tenants in similar units pay, or find out the service providers and reach out for an estimate.
Renters insurance is always a good idea, even if it’s not required. However, be sure to ask if it is a requirement to get the best sense of your monthly expenses.
Ask what the standard renewal increase is so there are no surprises. If you plan to stay at the property for the foreseeable future, it often is beneficial to ask for a longer lease term (12 is standard, but many properties are open to 18 or 24 months) with the same terms.
If you’re moving with a pet, be sure to ask if the building is pet-friendly and clarify which pets are allowed. Property rules vary, but can often include dog breed restrictions or weight limits, a limit on the number of pets, and a restriction on the type of pet.
Second, make sure you understand the pet fees, if any. Also, clarify if this is a one-time fee, or if you will have to pay again upon renewal.
Lots of properties offer amazing amenities, but some may come with an additional fee. Ask for a breakdown of amenity fees and information about any reservation system they have. You don’t want to show up to the rooftop grill with a whole BBQ ready to go only to find out you don’t have it reserved. It’s important to know what you might have to adjust in terms of expectations about access before deciding.
Some properties pull out all of the stops with maid, dry cleaning, tailoring, etc. services. Ask for details, as well as the fee structures.
Quality of Life
If you see work being done on the building, don’t be afraid to ask the timeline – when did it start, when is it scheduled to finish? Also, ask if there is any work on or around the property planned for the near future and if not, how do they alert residents when planning work?
If you think you’d like to make modifications, ask ahead. What are the rules around painting, adding temporary walls, changing fixtures? Some may be prohibited, others may require a certain vendor or a fee.
If you’re ready to apply, ask about the application fee, whether it includes the credit check (or if that’s a separate fee) and what’s the typical turnaround time.
Income & credit requirements
It’s important to know the property’s income and credit requirements as soon as you can. That way, if you want to make a move but don’t quite meet them, you’ll have your ducks in a row and know you might need a guarantor. Requirements can vary by property, but landlords typically want to see a gross monthly income that is 3-4x the monthly rent.
Ultimately, make sure to ask the questions that give you the best picture of what is going to be required of you (cost, policies, etc.) to live there, and what the benefits are going to be. Finding a new home should be fun and efficient, so enjoy yourself while checking all of the boxes!