If you are not ready or willing to buy a home, welcome to the club. A recent Chicago Tribune article reports that the number of renter households “could increase by 360,000 to 470,000 annually between 2010 and 2020” according to Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. No shock there.
Many look at owning a home as an investment, and not just a monetary one. There is a sense of pride that comes with owning a home. People want to be part of a community, control their environment, invest in their future, et cetera. You may stand to gain a lot more by purchasing a home, but I like to think that living in either a house or apartment is simply what you make of it.
There seems to be a great deal of soul-searching involved in the home selection
process. If a home is your sacred space no matter how long you live there, why should choosing an apartment be any different?
If you are in the market for a new place this summer, here are 9 savvy tips for landing the apartment of your dreams.
1. What do you like to do? Figure out which side of town might fit your lifestyle better. Do you like quiet, love kids, or will you party as much as possible? If you support local businesses, look at areas of town that have great shops and eateries you can visit.
An apartment is like a committed relationship, in that it is contractual. Relationships are simply a mirror of the one you have with yourself. Getting to know who you are and what you like is a good place to start.
2. Location, location, location. If you are new to an area, zero in on places within a 30-mile radius of your target destination. The target is what you want to live near: work, family, school, or civilization. Consider downloading an apartment finder app to your phone so you can search on the go.
3. Name your price and stick to it. What can you realistically afford? Create a budget to include rent and utilities. Don’t forget renters insurance!
4. Must love dogs. What do you need in your new place? If you are taking pets with you, make sure they are allowed. A washer/dryer combo is great, but could you live with laundry facilities instead? Consider the number of bedrooms and bathrooms you might want. Also look at parking options and proximity to public transportation.
5. Look for signs. Read newspaper listings, inquire about vacancies with your friends/employer/local librarian, search online services, and check the bulletin boards at coffee shops. Take a drive or stroll around the locations you are considering; you might just find an unadvertised rental sign.
6. Do work, Son! Don’t be swayed by remodeled kitchens or updated furnishings. Ask lots of questions. Where might guests park? Is water, sewer, or trash included in the rent? Is the apartment gas or electric? You get the picture.
Before making a selection, get a feel for the neighborhood(s) by scheduling a drive through the area after work. I highly recommend doing this on a weeknight and during the weekend before you hand over a non-refundable deposit.
Google or Bing the apartment complex name. I did this on a whim once while in the final steps of the application process for my second apartment. Not only did I find out there were random break-ins prevalent in the area, but gang-related shootings were a real problem all over the apartment complex. And yet, the landscaping was stunning (a must for me). If something doesn’t look or feel right, find out why. Learn to trust your intuition during the process.
7. Now leasing. Read your lease carefully and make certain you understand it. Get a receipt for any deposits.
8. Be a detective. On move-in day, complete the inspection thoroughly. Be on the lookout for any worn surfaces, holes, or damages that are beyond normal wear and tear. Doing this with a parent or friend is ideal and can be rather illuminating.
Make copies of the fully executed inspection and any other paperwork for your records. I also suggest creating a folder specifically for all paperwork received from the property management company pertaining to your residence. Can you tell I used to work for lawyers? Cover. Your. Ass.
9. Save your money, honey. Perhaps foreclosure crisis fallout stimulated the upward trend in renting. Better to save extra cash now, so you will be prepared for a rent increase at lease renewal.
Bottom line: you have to live with the decision you are about to make. So take your time, ask questions and most importantly, get help if you need it.