Key 7 Questions to Ask When Apartment Hunting in 2020

We know just how stressful the moving process is. From scoping out different neighborhoods, routing your new commute, packing and coordinating all of your belongings, scoping out different neighborhoods, and gathering up a moving crew, the process can be intimidating. That’s why we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of the best questions to ask both yourself and your prospective landlords before you sign the lease. 

What’s My Budget and What Am I Paying For?

Let’s start with one of the most practical questions. How much can you afford? Sit down and construct a budget that includes your new transportation expenses, rent, utilities, and more. You might have your heart set on a back porch and hardwood floors, but those are not a need. Something like a pet-friendly apartment is a must-have if you have a furry friend (don’t forget to check for a pet fee). 

Other costs that you’ll need to consider may include parking, storage, and utilities. If your new apartment doesn’t have a storage area like a basement, you may need to budget for a storage facility if you can’t scale down (this is especially true in large cities with limited space). 

Some apartments cover certain utilities like sewage and water, while others leave you footing the bill for all of them. Make sure you find out what’s included. If you haven’t paid an electric bill in the summer or gas bill in the winter in that area, you may want to ask other tenants for a rough estimate of their costs. 

Finally, don’t forget to ask about what sort of security deposit is required. Most require a security deposit equal to a month’s rent, but some require more. You should also question whether an application fee is required, and if so, how much.  

What Amenities are Included?

Luxury apartment communities often have conveniences like a gym or business center/café with free Wi-Fi that can help you cut your monthly costs. Monthly gym fees can easily top $50, and free coffee makes a big difference.  Even a swimming pool can save you those summer pool membership fees, so be sure to add those into your considerations when deciding between communities. Ask for a tour of all the amenities that interest you so you can ensure they’re well maintained and meet your needs. 

Does It Feel Safe?

To answer this question, you’ll need to ask a few questions of your landlord. What sort of security measures are in place? Is there a doorman or a locked main entrance? Do the apartments have electronic locks? Is the parking garage well-lit? Who has access to my apartment, and what type of notice is required? What is the neighborhood like? How many years do tenants tend to live here? Asking these questions, talking to tenants, and spending some time in the area before renting can help you make your decision before you’ve already signed on.

Will I Feel at Home?

This is a question that’s unique to every renter. For some, having a quiet apartment that allows pets is living the dream. For others, it means being allowed to paint the rooms. It may even mean being allowed to have a cousin from England stay with them for a few weeks each year. Before you start the interview, think about what being at home means to you, and plan to ask questions that let you be your true self. 

For instance, if there’s a limit of 1 week for guests, you’d be taking a risk by letting your cousin stay and may need to find a more flexible apartment.  If you love to walk to the convenience store, but it’s not a very walkable neighborhood, you might want to keep looking. If cooking is your passion but the kitchen space is limited, you may need to move on—otherwise, you’ll end up miserable halfway into your lease.  

What’s in the Lease?

A lease can be a relatively complicated document. Make sure that you’re provided with ample time to review your contract, ask questions, and get thorough answers. A lease may answer a few of the questions you have such as when rent is due, whether there is a late fee, and if you can pay online. Make sure you know if your lease is month to month or year to year.

The lease should also detail what happens if you break it and whether or not you can sublet your apartment. It should let you know if you can anticipate any increases in rent when the lease is renewed. Finally, it should outline the maintenance procedures for major and minor repairs, including if there are any aspects you are responsible for (such as cutting the grass or shoveling snow).  Be sure to check all the fine details of the lease, especially if you’re expecting to pay any pet fees.

What is Expected at Move-Out?

A security deposit is usually a considerable amount of money. With that in mind, you should know what’s expected of you to recoup those expenses at the end of the lease. For instance, many apartment complexes require you to have your carpet professionally cleaned before moving out. If you go this route, be sure to keep the receipt. 

You should request a move-out sheet (preferably a checklist) that goes into detail about what needs to be cleaned, checked, and replaced prior to moving out. Make sure to take pictures before moving in and after cleaning at the end of the lease to ensure you aren’t charged for damage that you didn’t cause. Remember, you can’t be charged for regular wear and tear like faded paint or carpets faded or worn thin from walking.

How are Emergency Repairs Handled?

You might know that there’s a maintenance man on duty, but how will your apartment community respond to a flooding bathroom at 2 a.m.? Make sure a landlord procedure is in place to ensure minimum damage to your apartment and belongings. 

These questions will not only help you find the ideal apartment but also protect you from losing a security deposit or voiding a lease unintentionally.